March used to be a hateful month.
It's true, there's March 19, the day when Italians, at least in theory, traditionally do a St. Joseph Day Table. That's cool. Cook like blazes, set the results out on a huge table and open your home or business to all comers.
Since March 19 is only one day away from the Spring Equinox, one would think given my predominant genes and our penchant for having large gatherings during Equinox and Solstice that it would be the perfect time for a party.
Minnesota is renowned for those ten or twelve perfect days during the year that make the rest of the waiting worthwhile, regardless of the fact there's some pretty miserable stuff happening in between. Picture if you will, thirty-one continuous days of Minnesota perfect. AND without mosquitoes.
That's March in these parts.
This year the idyllic conditions were interrupted by three days of unprecedented and incredibly heavy rains accompanied by chilly temps which caught some of the unsuspecting shorts wearing tourists wondering why they had shelled out big bucks to suffer the same crummy weather they had left behind.
The unexpected downpour and cold might have been a major pain in the butt to those traveling through the area but a real blessing to residents who hate to see huge swaths of Michoacán's remaining forests going up in flames every year during the dry season.
Perhaps the reason March is appreciated so much is that it stands out very favorably from the rest of the year. It's not that weather here is a study in the extremes so common in other parts of the world or even in other areas of Michoacán. It's just that dealing with that other weather can play havoc with your mind.
The four winter months are really not all that cold except that there is an almost universal lack of central or any other kind of heating. This means that it's hard to ever feel like you are warm. This can get to be a real drag.
The rainy season means an end to the blistering heat of May and of late, April, but after five months of clammy skin, clothes that refuse to dry and mold growing as you watch, it tends to get a bit on ones nerves. Intellectually, one is grateful that rain is falling with such frequency and abundance. This accounts for all the green for which the state is known but by the end of October, I begin to think I have been beamed into Garcia Márquez's Cien Años de Soledad and have become a resident of Macondo in its last wet days.
The rainy season has become our traveling season as we boogey off to other drier locales.
However, in March we plump ourselves in place and enjoy one month plus of perfection. It used to be we could count on April as well but now, due to the expanding hole in the ozone layer, that month is becoming almost as hot as May.
So March is THE time. It's when all the flowers we've carefully guarded from the wandering cows and horses go bonkers. There are hibiscus, iris, azaleas, snapdragons that grow to bush size, birds of paradise, the ever-present but nevertheless appreciated bougainvillea and geraniums and a slew of flowers whose names I only know in Spanish since I've never seen them in my English-speaking world.
It's the month of the jacarandas, the huge trees with their impressive display of purple flowers.
Nights are still chilly enough for great sleeping and there is something deliciously decadent about snuggling under the comforter on a cool morning playing hooky from the day's responsibilities for an extra half-hour or more listening to the bird song that surrounds the house. The normal chirping and twittering are sometimes interspersed with a truly melodious warble. Then there's my favorite the one I call the HaHa Bird who starts out on a high note and laughs his/her way down the scale.
It is indeed a time to feel rebirth and renewal of the spirit. On March 20th and even on the 21st, one can choose to visit any one of the hundreds of pyramids or ceremonial spots in Mexico to absorb directly the energy of the sun. In 1999 the San Diego News reported a half million people visited the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacán on March 20. This year some TV reports claimed over a million at the same site so if crowds aren't your thing, you probably should opt for a different kind of celebration.
It's hard not to feel rejuvenated on these outings as I watch our Solovino forge ahead on the path.
This is one dog that personifies the idea of rebirth. And whether one is in Mexico or Minnesota, I guess that's what spring is really all about.