A pink band of colour quietly stretches itself out across the horizon. The bright yellows of the day time sun soften into rose and purple as the day eases into night.
I am standing at the edge of the pool looking out at the ocean, breathing deeply into la magia del atardecer en Huatulco (the magic of sunset in Huatulco)
It is a phrase I have just learned from one of the staff here at Villas FaSol. They are all very helpful in providing me Spanish words and phrases. Patient. Kind.
It is the way of the people.
To help. To be patient. To laugh with you when you say or do something that does not quite make sense. To encourage you to try again. Slowly. Slowly. Lentamente. Lentamente.
Like the group that gathered around yesterday as I learned to make tortillas a manos on the outside wood burning stove at the school where I am spending my second morning learning to cook the food of the Huatulco area.
Martine, the gardener, has loaded up the wood into the body of the oven and set it alight. It is just right, he says.
I have rolled and pressed my first tortilla and to the encouraging calls of the group of five or six people who have gathered to watch, I am about to place my tortilla on the tray that covers the opening to the fire.
I carefully watch my teacher, Rosie, place hers with grace and ease. The tortilla lays flat and round on the surface.
I step up.
I am not sure if the sweat running down my spine is from the heat of the day mixed with the heat of the oven beside which I am standing or the pressure of the crowd watching.
I place the tortilla on the grill. Quickly. I do not want to burn myself.
The crowd gasps. And laughs.
No. No. Rosie says. You cannot throw it down. She is laughing so hard she has trouble finding her words.
Gentle. Like you are laying a flower on a bed.
I have never laid a flower on a bed so I am not quite sure what that is like. But I get the picture. I am too quick. Too… Americano, she tells me.
Lentamente. Lentamente. “No flip. Lay flat. Like this.” And she demonstrates. Her hand flows along the surface of the pan, her knuckles skimming the surface but not touching it. “You must be careful not to burn your fingers,” she cautions me.
One of the spectators, an older man with a toothy smile and weathered face, demonstrates too. In rapid Spanish he tells me to (what sounds like, “assissez. Assissez.” I repeat his words though I do not really know what he is saying. We are both laughing and smiling. I hold my hand the way he demonstrates and move it in concert with his. Si! Si! he says.
I get another tortilla ready to cook.
As I approach the oven, the crowd moves closer. I watch Rosie lay another tortilla on the grill. I see my mistake. I have held the tortilla in the flat of my hand and tried to flip it onto the grill.
I step closer. Now I know the sweat is in response to the pressure of getting it right!
Success! I lay the tortilla in a perfect round circle on the grill! The crowd cheers. Rosie gives me a high five. The man with the toothie grin motions for me to do it again.
I spent the morning learning how to cook Tortillas, Tacos al Pastor, Mole Rojo and Salsa Verde yesterday.
It was pure delight.
And when I returned to Villas FaSol, I lay in the welcoming waters of the ocean and let the waves wash over my body. I looked up at the sun and gave thanks to the sky above for the divine beauty of this place and the people who make it so special.
I did not know I was lost. Yet here, I feel like I am finding myself again. Finding the source of my peace of mind. My joy.
At one point yesterday, Javier, one of the young students in the class asked me, “Why you do this?”
“I love to cook,” I told him. “And I love to learn. When I go home, I can share with my family and friends what I have learned and bring a little bit of the magic of this place home to them.” (Okay. So it wasn’t quite so straightforward an answer as we both had to navigate the language gap and find the words to express what I was trying to say. But that is the gist of it!)
Over a beautiful dinner at L’Eschalote last night, C.C. and I spoke of what brings purpose to our lives. What gives us joy.
I love to create, I told him. When I am creating, I feel content. Whole. Complete. I do not do it for the ‘finished product’. I do it because the process of being immersed in the doing fills my heart with joy.
When I create, I let go of expectations and surrender to that place where I am one with being present in whatever I am doing, creating that which is flowing through me, calling out to be created.
I made tortillas yesterday on a wood fire stove. They were not perfect but they created a perfect place for me to practice being present to the beauty and wonder all around me. There was no space for judging my process or what I made. There was only joy that I was willing to let go of expectations to immerse myself in the joy of being open to learning and creating.
In the process, I was reminded of the truth of what brings me joy. The act of creating.
I am grateful.