An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of August 10, 2007
Issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve Headquarters in
Jalpan, Querétaro, MÉXICO

    A RAIN IN MEXICO CITY

Late last Saturday afternoon I was killing time before my 9:30 PM bus back to Jalpen left by wandering backstreets in Mexico City's Central zone. As it should during the rainy season, around 5 PM dark clouds gathered on the horizon in preparation for the afternoon storm.

First the wind came, not real strong, but strong enough to blow yellow cottonwood leaves (probably the much-planted Fremont Cottonwood, Populus fremontii) down streets along with swirls of dust, discarded napkins, Styrofoam junk-food boxes, etc. Here in mid summer with no hint of autumn in the air, why should yellow cottonwood leaves so conspicuously blow down Mexico City's backstreets? My main association with windblown, yellow cottonwood leaves is with the time when I was camping in backcountry Paria Canyon in arid southern Utah and a wind came driving yellow cottonwood leaves across the red-rock landscape.

I savored the juxtaposition of memories of Paria's yellow cottonwood leaves in such profound isolation, with these so very urban yellow cottonwood leaves. This kind of savoring, associating events and things in one place with those in another of long ago is a kind of mental exercise I do more and more as I grow older. Maybe that's what really old folks are doing when you see them just sitting, surprisingly contentedly, long, long hours.

When the cold rain began I joined a mumbling old street-man who'd taken his bagged belongings into a corner the rain couldn't reach. Over his shoulders he wore a plastic garbage bag with a hole in the bottom for his head, like a poncho. But wind usually changes direction during a storm's latter half, and when it did it began drenching us. Mumbling to the sky the old man moved into an alley a bit too seedy looking for me, and I went to beneath a closed taco-stand's overhanging shade-roof.

From there I saw lots of things, all kinds of people doing everything from cringing in corners as if the rain were killing them, to those putting on a show ignoring the rain, getting absolutely drenched, like two guys washing their own portable taco stand. A car hit a pothole full of rainwater splashing four women dressed for Saturday night on the town, and they all laughed uproariously.

I saw lovers making the most of intimate moments in the rain, dogs grinning as rain dripped from their tails, taxi drivers suddenly aware of their importance with heroic looks on their faces, a fat old woman in a purple dress watching everything through a coffee shop's window, half smiling, indulging the pleasure of such a special moment.

I can see how city people would love their city's moods and complex manners of beings, and how they might even claim that in a city one can learn all the lessons, see all the paradigms, and experience all the feelings that I, for instance, go into Nature to find. The city is an ecosystem, too, with its unfathomably complex web of interconnecting, interdependent parts, fast-evolving feedback mechanisms, and transcendent, soul-nourishing, driving dynamism.

But, there is one thing Nature has that no city does, and that is a proven record for sustainability. Even if a city has all the elements that can inspire and engage a healthy human soul, those elements are never present in the proper proportion for sustainability. For example, cities recycle resources, but not as single mindedly and efficiently as nature. Cities have their music, but the themes and rhythms can change almost overnight. They're not at all eternal, like Nature's music of wind-in-trees, rain-in-the-forest, morning bird-chorus, and the exquisite music of life-evolving-forward.

In a way, urban structures and institutions parody Nature's. The parody can be entertaining and informative but, for the long haul and to inform one's spirituality, one must summon the more profound wisdoms of Nature. Facebook Icon.