There is so much ordinary beauty in the universe that we are in constant danger of becoming inured to it, much in the way we lose consciousness of the ticking of a clock or the chant of crickets in the night. We are like an old man I once knew who when asked by an excited youth to look at the sunset over the lake, grunted “I’ve seen it before.” It is a good thing to have our senses stretched and awed now and again by a spectacle so entirely new, so penetrating, that we suddenly feel we have left the old world behind and stumbled into a wondrous new one.
I had agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to spend the night with Esteban and Juana in Los Pinos, for I was eager to get on to Verano. But my reluctance was short lived. As the rain slackened and the view slowly opened again, I witnessed a spectacle such as never before: the transformation of the Sierra Madre! It was as breathtaking as that of any northern mountain range the morning after the first heavy snowstorm. Yet here the mountains were not cloaked with snow, but with white billowing and streaming clouds. The cloud-cloaks opened and closed and opened again like dancers in slow motion, and with every shift they revealed what seemed a new and strikingly different range of mountains. Like the multiple curtains on a modern stage—but how much grander in scale! One misty veil after another rose and descended. The effect was Japonesque. Jagged, green-fringed monuments of stone lunged silently out of the mist in random yet emphatic harmonies. One instant they would stand out harsh and dark against the clouds, the next be muted by a diaphanous veil, or engulfed by an opaque billow of white or pewter-grey. This was indeed like leafing through an album of mountain scenes by the great sumi masters, only here the album was four dimensional; the medium was earth, air, water and lightning; and the master… well… who knows? I stood, rooted, for one hour… two… under the thatch overhang of the hut looking out at the moving mist in the mountains, while the dipping fringe of grass blades formed the upper frame of my vision. The silver-bellied droplets forming on the overhanging grass tips would swell little by little like mosquitoes feeding, until they vanished downward. Generations passed in seconds. Now in the mood to see, to me the dried and dripping grass blades seemed fully as beautiful and astounding as the kaleidoscope of cloud and mountain.
So this was the Sierra Madre! I looked and looked and looked. And the more I looked the more I seemed to see. New peaks, new pinnacles, new canyons and new crags. Silhouettes against the fleeting fog. I could not cease to wonder that the mountains I now saw were the same I had so often seen—but never really seen before. Where, then, I asked myself, lay the transformation? Here or there?
Suddenly, perceptibly, night began to fall. The contrast of white mist against dark mountain became less sharp. The green of the ridges and of the large higuerilla (castor) leaves close to the but began to soften into grey. The drizzle had stopped. now, but more rain was moving in from the high sierra. With increasing frequency lightening lit the panorama, returning for instants the full color of the countryside. Thunder grumbled. Ground crickets began to chirp, and were accompanied by the high, drone-like calls of their tree-dwelling cousins. Between the sudden flashes of lightning, occasional fireflies flicked on and off their tiny tail-lights as if competing. With a whirr a large longhorn beetle, his fore-wings hoisted in a “V” over his head, his heavy abdomen dipping at an angle, and his long antennae sweeping up and back, flew close by through the descending night.
“Ya esta la comida,” announced Juana, and realizing my hunger I went in to eat.