The "winter" of our discontent

San Miguel, and particularly our mini-ranch, enjoys a nearly perfect climate. Warm summers, but nothing like the steam heat of Houston or Miami, and “winters” so mild that around here the word should be used in quotation marks, followed by a knowing chuckle, as in a private joke.

But still.  Instead of lighting thanksgiving candles to St. Alberto de Roker, patron of favorable weather, shortly after Christmas expats begin grousing about the oncoming cold weather and planning their migrations to the beach, usually on Mexico’s Pacific Coast.

“On to the beach!,” Gladys barked. 
Stew and I join in. Two weeks ago we loaded Gladys, our dowager and ever-plumper mutt in the car and drove seven hours to a modest beachfront bungalow Stew had found in Barra de Potosí, a spectacular and secluded beach near Zihuatanejo. Gladys seemed excited and for the first few hours sat up on the back seat intently inspecting the countryside as if she owned it.
Before leaving, though, and apparently under the influence of a case of Schadenfreude—a five-dollar word that means delighting in the misery of others—Stew set the weather app on our smart phone to report periodically on weather conditions in Chicago, our former home. Shame on you Stew for not channeling more charitable thoughts to our dear, dear friends [poor bastards] still living [stuck] in Chicago. 
Winters in Chicago. It’s hard for me to forget the five-block trudge, from our house to the el stop, on sidewalks covered with snow and assorted urban detritus including frozen dog poop, to join other commuters at the station huddled under overhead heaters, glowing like chickens in a rotisserie and counting the nanoseconds until the goddamn train showed up.

And so to work and back. It’s hard to imagine that, for the past two years, Bostonians and other Northeasterners have suffered through winters just as bad, if not worse, as Chicago’s. Our condolences.
When arrived at Barra de Potosí, early in the evening, it was beautiful: coconut trees swayed gently to the tune of salty, ocean breezes. Our bungalow faced a small gazebo by the pool. Waves, some four or five feet high, constantly pounded the fine sand on the beach.

Next morning Gladys excitedly ran around on the beach—until the temperatures began to climb. By by noon they’d reached the mid-nineties and her enthusiasm had vanished. With her ears drooping and her tongue hanging out a couple of inches, she flashed Stew a pitiful look that said: “¡Mucho calor!”

“¡Hmm, mucho calor!,” Gladys said, looking out from the porch.

Indeed, Stew was having his own problems with the heat and tiny “no see ums” that found his white Norwegian legs irresistible, and on which a red polka-dot pattern of bug bites developed. Gladys got bit on the tip of her nose too, and scratched it by rubbing it in the sand. For some reason, the bugs didn’t bother me.
After that first afternoon, a pattern developed. Back from the beach, a quick lunch, perhaps fried shrimp at a beachfront palapa, followed by seclusion for two or three hours in the cabin’s bedroom, cooled by a cantankerous air conditioner that sounded like a Cuisinart filled of nuts and bolts. Gladys often struck her four-legs-in-the-air pose for added drama.

About five o’clock, there would be a walk on the beach for the three of us, a dip in the pool followed by lounging on the porch where by now the temperatures had dipped to a pleasant seventy-five or eighty degrees, with a steady ocean breeze. After that, dinner.

“Not so bad after it cools off,” Gladys noted. 

By that time a blazing sunset flickered through the fronds of the coconut trees and Barra de Potosí was a beautiful treat indeed but not a place where I would want to live year-round, particularly in summer when double whammies of high-nineties temperatures and matching humidity just about paralyze all living organisms.
During the drive home temperatures gradually dropped and when we arrived it was in the low seventies and breezy. Félix reported with some alarm—did a meteorite crash behind the garage?—that the night before it’d been so cold  that a thin sheet of ice had formed on the birdbath. Imagine. He was wearing double sweatshirts and a hoodie, and looked as if he might go home on a dogsled.

The landscape around the ranch did look “wintry,” brown and withered like an old shoe. In San Miguel it stops raining for six months or more, beginning in November. Strong late afternoon winds stir up the dust, and occasional brush fires light up the night.

But by now—in mid-February—the huizache and jarrilla bushes, long before the rains start in July, are already exploding with tiny yellow flowers that in turn cue the bees to get buzzing. Buds have appeared on the magnolia tree too. Trays of flower and vegetable seedlings have been popping up in trays under fluorescent lights in the garage since January. Don Vicente, the farmer downhill from us, has started plowing his fields. Last year we had about thirty inches of rain that gave him bumper crops.

This is also the time of year when my guardian angel taps me on the shoulder and whispers, “Winter? You call this winter? What are you complaining about?”


9 thoughts on “The "winter" of our discontent

  1. Born in Chicago and I left at the age of 10, BUT I remember blizzards where we had to walk down the middle of the street because the snow was too high on the sidewalks! YUKI especially remember an Easter where I was so disappointed to not get to wear my new Easter dress, coat and new shoes, but instead had on galoshes and some kind of outfit that was thermal, warm and had a big zipper. I too can not imagine EVER living in that weather again, yet I still have a ton or relatives doing just that.


  2. Here in Ohio, thanks to El Niño, we have had an unseasonably mild winter. While I spent 5 weeks that I spent in Mexico, there was hardly any snow at all in Ohio, and there were days where the temperature reached 50. As luck would have it, when I returned in early February, we had the first week of real winter weather with measurable snow and the temperature plummeting down to zero Fahrenheit. But this weekend it once again rose to 50 degrees, the snow is all gone, and the sun is shining.Enjoy your Mexican “winter”!


  3. We've been to Malaque but unfortunately didn't have a great time because we were trapped at a lousy hotel filled with gringos. But we're open to giving it a try. A friendly pat on the head to your dogs. Did you ever fix the Sync screen on your Escape? Stew has read some Consumer Reports and complaints about th Sync system are very common.


  4. OUr “winter” continues: It's about 85 right now and dipping only to 55 or so at night. I just wish we had a good rain, but that's not coming for another three months. The folks who've gotten clobbered are those in New England, particularly Boston. al


  5. OUr “winter” continues: It's about 85 right now and dipping only to 55 or so at night. I just wish we had a good rain, but that's not coming for another three months. The folks who've gotten clobbered are those in New England, particularly Boston. al


  6. Indeed. What I loved was ice skating as a little girl. We lived near Higgins, which at the time was the country! They were building a new subdivision across the road and then it rained and froze. I got to feel like Hans Brinker skating every day after school for weeks. Good memory! For kids, it can be fun!


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