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Day’s End

Miguel Jesus Rodriguez slowed his pace and stopped walking just where an unpaved lane ran uphill from Anche de San Juan. He was carrying the folding wooden framework on which he hung the necklaces, crosses and bangles he tried to sell each day on the pavement of the Jardine in San Miguel de Allende. His wife, young son and two daughters, who often sat or stood with him on the pavement, had already left carrying the bags holding the unsold merchandise. It had been a good day. The new arrivals – the North American holiday-makers – had liked the Mexican craftwork he offered. So Miguel felt satisfied with the day, and was in no hurry. Standing for hours each day on the pavement in the sun and occasional rain, had taught him patience. Besides which, the lane ascending to his left exuded quietness. It seemed to absorb the noise of the taxis and buses struggling up the slope of Hidalgo.

Without being conscious of it, Miguel Jesus took a few steps up the lane. Then he became aware of what he was doing and stopped. He knew where the lane led. As a boy he had run through all the alleys and blind turnings of the town. This one led to the edge of the houses, up on the hill where the desert began, and the cacti flourished in the dry dust. He remembered this and tried to recall how many years it had been since he climbed the lane and left the traffic rumble and the claims of work behind. He couldn’t remember just when, but the attempt did produce a feeling in him of a divide, a threshold, on one side of which was the open opportunities and sensitivities of childhood; and on the other, the invisible but tangible demands of family and work.

Miguel was not a deep thinking man, but this divide, and the different world of experience on each side, was suddenly clear to him. He sensed the lane as a threshold, and perhaps if he walked up the hill, he might cross over the divide. He found a crumbling stone wall to hide his wooden frame behind, and walked on. He walked slowly, even nervously, because the feeling of shifting and change was very real. And while the far side of the divide was natural to him in childhood, he was a man now. The passions and pain of childhood felt too raw for him to experience.

But the lane was not in fact threatening him. The feeling he met was more akin to having looked at a big stone wall for a long time, then having somebody point out a pattern lost in the stones. The wall suddenly reveals images previously unrealised.

So things were flashing into Miguel’s awareness as he slowly walked away from Hidalgo. It led him to feel he was walking away from a world. It was not a world made up of houses, people, hills and desert, but of ideas, feelings and convictions of what was important, and what consequences were linked with actions in the world of adulthood.

Looking ahead up the hill, and then looking back toward San Miguel, the world of objects remained the same. Yet Miguel could feel the relationship with the road, the houses, and himself, shifting. He stopped walking again to look back. There below him, almost as real as a tree, or the scraggy dog licking water from between the rugged stones of the road, he could see the whole world in which his energy had been immersed. There was the concern about feeding and supporting his family; the struggle to keep a roof over their head; the difficult feeling about what status or recognition he had with and from those around him. He could see his immersion in how, through trading, he might claim a share of the world’s wealth, and beyond that, the humiliation of seeing other apparently ordinary men and women manage to amass extraordinary properties and goods, thereby becoming masters and mistresses of him.

Then there were the minutiae of his concerns, such as whether the rain would last, and keep away custom, pushing his family to hunger, and whether his mother’s poor health meant she was dying.

As he looked back he wept quiet tears, seeing how lost he had been in that world. It had all seemed so real, and surviving in that world was important, as was his mother’s health. But his tears swelled because he was on the threshold of another world, one that promised something more. So with some inner pain he turned and walked up the hill.

His cries became louder, like a poor beast in pain. But he didn’t know why, only that something was trying to emerge from within him, and was tearing through whatever was in the way of its progress toward birth. It thrust up into his chest and throat, ripping through constrictions and hesitations.

At one point he stumbled as if drunk, and cried out involuntarily. “I can’t do this! I can’t do this!” But even as the cry left his lips he staggered to his feet again and reached the desert.

And there it was, the doorway to this new world of experience. And he walked through into an immersion in love such as he had never known. It was a love that knew every tiny part of Miguel, and drew him to itself. He sensed it as a being so vast, so huge, he failed to comprehend it and fell on his knees before it, only managing to say, “My God! My God!” over and over.

Then the being appeared to touch him, and he was no longer Miguel Jesus Rodriguez who had been born in San Miguel de Allende, and lived a few years in its streets and houses. In an instant he was a river of life that flowed through all time, touching life in a body again and again, leaving shells in its passing. Shells on the seashore of a timeless ocean. A small part of Miguel’s mind that still clung to his life in time and the body, saw how insignificant his concerns in that world were. He knew, as if he had always known, that the being he was now knowing himself as, permeated all living things, and no one could die, because they were all held and loved in this ocean of life beyond time. Miguel knew that all tribulation was a way of trying to get reluctant humanity to cross the threshold he had walked through.

Then the being touched Miguel again, and light burst out of him in a final tearing of barriers.

Miguel realised he was on his knees at the edge of a dirt track. Nearby was a huge cactus, at the base of which the wind had piled empty coke cans and torn plastic bags. It was the world he had walked away from, yet all was changed. The same scarred old cactus, the cluttered rubbish of cans and car parts were there, but Miguel was aware of a shimmering dancing incandescence that he was part of, but yet was forever unknowable, all in the same instant. Miguel saw it, yet nowhere on the dusty desert could he point to it. But everything he looked at was IT. And because he was also himself the illusive shimmering he saw in everything, he felt at the centre of things. Gradually he stood up and reached out to nowhere in particular, took hold of his mother, and she was healed. There was no distance here, and everything that could ever be, already existed in the shimmering. So he had opened to his mother what was already hers to have.

Then, suddenly it was gone. The cactus and the coke cans were no longer moments in a timeless, space-less world. They were no longer part of the essence that was also Miguel Jesus Rodriguez. There was distance now between himself and the houses down the hill. He was no longer the river flowing through time. He was alone in the desert.

When he had walked home and opened the door to his small house, the children were all in the patio standing around Ignatz, his wife, as she cooked the tortillas. They all looked at him as he walked in carrying the wooden frame. He could see a hint of anxiety in their expressions, and watched it melt away as they gazed at him questioningly.

Then Ignatz smiled and the children moved to him slowly, still gazing at him and wanting to touch him.

He stood still, allowing them to approach him in their own manner. Little Maria held out a kitten she was carrying. Miguel picked her up in one arm with the kitten, reflecting the love she was radiating to him. Then Chico and Francesca moved to his other arm. He looked up to see Ignatz with a tear rolling down one cheek. He smiled at her, and no words were necessary.

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