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Every Time They Play that Um-pah-pah

by Dr. David, Editor / Publisher

Weekends have always been problematic for me. Maybe it's the time off; the lack of something that I have to do. Saturday is lovely until that evening sun goes down.

Last Saturday afternoon, after my siesta, I got the blues. There was nothing to blame it on. Everything is going ok, in fact, better than ever, but it just didn't seem that way.

I am aware that I am blue. I can step aside and observe myself being sad. I know that the mood will pass. This awareness prevents me from making decisions or taking action in my altered state, but it doesn't lift me out of the funk.

Sunday, I came up with a plan. Strange creatures that we are, we human beings don't need an actual solution, just a plan. Some possible remedy makes us feel better. I would take the dog to the country.

T.S Eliot wrote, "April is the cruelest month." Here in San Miguel, it is the hottest, except maybe for May. Canela and I would have to wait for the worst heat to pass before venturing out of the house.

At 4:00, when we set off, the sun was still blazing. Driving with all the windows down along the carretera, then on a back road we arrived at my favorite spot in 20 minutes. We parked and walked in, uphill.

After five minutes in the merciless sun, I judiciously decided against ascending farther. Following a cow path, we began skirting the incline, along more or less level ground. After another five minutes along this trajectory we came across a full, if short, shady tree, beneath which we encamped. Canela lay down, strongly panting. I sat down, perspiring in a more human way.

There was mariachi music coming from the last house up the hill back the way we came; a very lively celebration. But this was quite the band, the musicians and arrangements were excellent. Over the music someone hooped two quick yips followed by a sustained, triumphant note, perfectly executed.

Two or three songs played while we cooled off in the shade, including a bit of a melody from one my father used to sing while my brother and I sat on his lap:

"There's a garden, what a garden.
All the pretty maidens bloom there.
And there's never any room there,
for a cry or a sigh...
Every time they play that um-pa-pa
All the people come from near and far.."

I suspect those words were tacked on to what was originally a European beer hall melody. On this side of the border, mariachi music was influenced by Polish immigrants. That's where they got the tuba.

Life is something that science struggles to define. We know it by its absence. The cockroach is very different from what it was before I stepped on it. But it's hard to say exactly what is missing now.

Life carries on. It is an inheritance. Life has the ability to reproduce itself. To replicate. That um-pa-pa musical ditty is, in this sense, alive. There it was, one hundred years after its creation, sounding out over the Mexican countryside. My father is still alive in my memory and my being.

Veronica has been visiting her folks in Chile for the last two weeks. She messaged me the other day, saying, that she's been feeling sad about her upcoming departure. I wrote and sent her this poem:

Time passes.
The old ones grow older
and so do we.
Already we are old enough to know that everything passes.
And so we have an unusual nostalgia
for things that are still in front of us,
mourning what is not yet lost.

There, in the shade of that mezquite tree, with the music playing my father's song, I could have cried. If you too are old enough, then I don't have to tell you why.

Then the band stopped playing. In the silence the subtle sounds of the country: a fly buzzing, a cow lowing, a horse's neigh... made themselves heard. There was no party. The mariachis and even the fellow hooping were on the grooves of some disc, and now the stereo was off.

The day started to cool off. A few clouds came in. In the shadow of one, Canela and I ventured out, deeper into the rocky pasture, taking refuge in the shade of another tree.

Regular immersion in nature is one of three things proven to result in healthier, longer lives. The other two are a sense of belonging and a belief in an intelligent universe (synchronicity, karma, Universal Mind, God...).

Nature Cure is a movement that started in the mid to late 1800s, when the inhabitants of the recently industrialized cities went out into nature to "take the cure." If you got tuberculosis in smoggy old Berlin, you were going to die. If you went to the mountain-side spa, you might live. It worked for me last Sunday afternoon. I returned from the country without my blues.

Looking around me, here writing this in Veronica's spare bedroom, I note three points of life: me, the cat, stretched out upon the bed, and two plants on the shelf. There are a lot of other, pretty things, but none of them are breathing.

It seems to me that we living things ought to stick together, ought to be kinder to ourselves and others. With that we'd have covered the second in the list of life-extending factors, a sense of belonging.

That's all from me for now. I'm going to go take Canela to the park.


Dr. David presents Lokkal, the social network, the prettiest, most-efficient way to see San Miguel online. It is our Digital Town Square; like Instagram meets the Yellow Pages. Join and add your point of view.


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