by C. Jeanette Tyson
It’s one thing to have a marriage go south, to realize it’s not
that’s going to do you in but lawyers, but those pictures of everlasting
love, the ones that featured, for instance, matching rocking chairs on the
porch, were not so hard to let go of -- truthfully they’d never really
come into focus, not even from the beginning.
The pictures, for me, that have been hard to surrender, in the
every-other-one child possession compromise, are of the holidays. Those
pictures, forged in the innocence of childhood, have always been clear
even if the details weren’t. Mind you, I come from a family that has
celebrated Christmas Eve with the same characters and same meal for
forty years. I knew someday I’d establish a tradition that would give
rhythm and rhyme to the passing of my own children’s years, that in my
golden years would pull them back to me from their far-flung
adventures; I just didn’t know what it would be.
But that’s not exactly how it’s turning out. Now I’m looking at
expanded and fluctuating casts of characters, asking if rhythm and
rhyme can be established every other year. I don’t know the answer. I
don’t even know if it’s a good question. Certainly love doesn’t have
be proved by the endless repetition of dry turkey. The issue could be
debated long after the last string of lights comes down from the last
trailer in the park.
So what does happen when the calendar says it’s time for celebration
and jubilation and no one you love happens to be around and the house
is just too damn quiet? Today I report in from Mom’s side…
Although I was fully determined to use my “off” time to do taxes, start
a business, write a novel, scrub the carport, something, I found
myself, under strict orders from someone who seems to know me better
than I know myself, hopping a Southwest Airlines flight in search of
The trip from San Diego Airport to the Mexican border takes about 45
minutes. Then you cross the border, ride through the town of Tecate and
a few minutes later arrive worlds away at Rancho La Puerta.
The ranch, established in 1940 and operated for many years as an
organic “fat farm”, has evolved into a mecca for those looking for both
physical and spiritual overhauls, or at least a few days in a lush
atmosphere outside the nine dots.
People who visit The Ranch tend to come back, at least some of them do:
the anesthesiologist with five children, a woman with cancer, members
of a dance troupe, sisters from Canada, a mother from the left coast
and her daughter from the right. Singles and couples come, and busy
professionals who turn off their cell phones and find it easy enough to
ignore the internet room on their way to energy balance massages or
Feldenkrais or aqua fitness or cardio boxing or, for that matter, to
the dining hall.
The meal bell rings three times a day and everyone eats. In fact,
everyone eats while talking about never eating three full meals a day
and in spite of the declaration, after every one of those meals, that
they will never need to eat again.
But funny how, without the chemicals and fats and carbs, and with
walking instead of driving and working out instead of sitting at a
desk, nothing sticks. Or rather, all the fuel is used and when the
dinner bell rings, you’re hungry again.
I woke up the first day, clearly out of my routine, in time for a 6:00am
breakfast hike to the organic farm. Rancho La Puerta lies in the shadow
of Mt. Kuchumaa, one of the top ten sacred peaks in North America. I
would begin every morning there with a hike, because it felt so good,
but this one was the easiest. It ended at the farmhouse where we were
greeted by Anita, a round-faced woman with long gray hair, bulky
sweater and glittering gold scarf. The farmhouse was decorated with
garlands of chili peppers and filled with the smell of baking.
The breakfast spread included oatmeal with raisins and granola, banana
bread with bits of chocolate, fruit, a marvelous frittata and a choice
of hibiscus tea or good, strong coffee. It was the kind of breakfast
that would set you up nicely for a morning of ranch work or, in my
case, a couple of hours of yoga with one of L.A.’s top yoga
After breakfast Salvatore gave us a tour of the farm, whipping out his
machete and hacking off bits of eggplant, peppers, gorgeous Napa
cabbage and fennel for people to taste. He spoke of each plant
lovingly, with a sparkle in his eyes, as a new mother talks of her
child. His obvious joy was enough to make you rethink your whole career
path and seriously consider tending vegetables in Mexico for the rest
of your life.
Back in the dining hall, we saw these ingredients again: eggplant pizza
and salad with olives, fennel, tomatoes and croutons. There were other
things: yellow pea soup which I enjoyed in the moment but knew I would
never come to love; green salad with golden beets, cauliflower soup,
exotic towers of vegetables, enchiladas. One of my favorite dishes was
a sweet potato soufflé with kiwi, mango, papaya; I’d trade it for pecan
pie any day.
But the food, as good as it was for you, was not as carefully prepared
as it could have been. Several returning guests opined that the former
chef was better. Still, you’ll note they returned.
And that’s probably because the gift of the season was not lost on them
either. Within the space of a few quiet days, away from all expectations
and traditions, having rung out most of the toxins from my
body, I gained some perspective on the past year and clarity and
resolve for the future one. I won’t tell you what the spirits of Mt.
Kuchumaa said to me but they spoke. What they said offered me rhythm
and rhyme. And if I missed a meal or two with my children, I still get
to share this with them every day. And there’s nothing “off” about
Happy New Year.
C. Jeanette Tyson is mama to Jackson and Maddy and AustinMama.com's