The early hours of the morning, when it is still dark and the only cars on the roads are taxis and collectivos, is my favorite time to start a journey, when it feels like the entire world is asleep and anything is possible. In this quiet and dark time of the day, as we were on our way to the airport last week, the taxi stopped at a red light, and I looked over and saw a Peloton – a group of cyclists stopped in the dark, flanked in front and back by pickup trucks carrying shrines lit up in the night with bright green light. I had no idea what it was, but it was beautiful and felt important.
I asked our driver, Ivan, “Sabe que es esto con la luz verde?” Do you know what that is with the green light?”Ah, si. Son los peregrinos de Juquila. Oh yes, it’s the pilgrims of Juquila. They ride bicycles for 2 days, and many others walk for days, or even a week or more, to show their devotion to the Virgin of Juquila. The Virgin is famous for granting you one wish in your life, and people travel from all over Oaxaca, & Mexico, to visit her shrine and show their devotion and gratitude.”
Over the years, Kyle and I have visited other pilgrimage sites around the world, and we have even walked part of the route to Chimayo in New Mexico, which is the most popular pilgrimage site in the United States. While we’re not religious, I remember the deeply spiritual feeling that making that pilgrimage gave me. The sense of community and people coming together to make a sacrifice and share their faith in God, in life, in community, and in each other.
The rest of the way to the airport, I thought about that sort of faith and devotion to something. While we love our life here, and it is better and easier in so many ways compared to our old one, life here in southern Mexico has its challenges. Many times over the years, Oaxaca has tested our resolve to be a part of this town, this community, and this life. Protests, roadblocks, cultural differences, language issues, water shortages, garbage strikes, lost jobs, social circles that are at times both welcoming and exclusive, and most recently, earthquakes. Each one of these has knocked us back in different ways (& sometimes even knocked us down). But we’ve come back stronger each time, our love for this place driving our faith that this is the right choice for us, in spite of – or maybe because of – all the challenges and difficulties.
While the nervous system damage, and the phantom quakes that the earthquakes caused, shook me to my core in many ways, Oaxaca showed her faith in me, waiting patiently with me, quietly reminding me every day in ways both new and familiar of the specialness of this place and the blessing it is to live here. Every day, I’ve been rediscovering my footing and becoming more and more grounded in this place. Seeing the pilgrims on their bicycles lit up in the night felt like a sign to me, that all will be okay, and that we have just one chance to make this big beautiful life what we want it to be. For us, that often means we choose the more difficult or less popular choice. Life has always returned that faith in kind.
My earthquake hangover is slowly wearing off, and the ground we’re on feels more stable than it has in months. In typical Kyle and Kat fashion, we often do something to mark our commitment to a big decision. To that end, the week before Thanksgiving we bought ourselves a television. It won’t fit in a backpack, but it is kind of a symbolic recommitment to our life here. Plus, Netflix is so much better on a big screen.
Find life experiences and swallow them whole. Travel. Meet many people. Go down some dead ends and explore dark alleys. Try everything. Exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life. –Lawrence K. Fish