San Miguel de Allende, Writings

Look through any window

Very few people — children, mostly — know that all around San Miguel de Allende there are portals that can transport you to unimaginable places.

No, sorry. That’s not right.

You have to imagine a place before you can be transported to it.

That’s why children — who still possess great imaginations — are most-aware of these magical conveyances.

Some portals are as simple as looking out a window and setting your mind free.

Others are trickier.

Like a hallowed out spot in an ancient tree. Or a stack of bricks where a door once was. A word of caution, brick door portals can be tricky. Be very sure it is a portal before rushing through.

Nobody will believe you if you later say, “Oh? This? I ran into a brick wall.”

My favorites are the places that look like doors but are random pieces of wood held precariously together by rusted hardware. A patchwork quilt of a portal. Like this one:

The first impulse of the unimaginative man is to think, “Why that thing is about to fall apart.” and also “You can’t possibly open that door!”

This special kind of door only comes together when the person standing in front of it needs it most. Then, it looks quite like any other door, through which you can step into a magical world.

Lately, I’ve begun noticing portals like the one at the top of this page. It looks enormous, I know. But it is barely 7.7 inches wide by 5.3 inches tall. Very few human heads could stick through an opening that small. Most of us would get quite stuck. And embarrassed.

These are impossibly small openings which require the best faculties of your mind to imagine yourself very small. But once you have made that connection, entering is quite simple.

Here’s another. Look closely. The Cheshire cat is peering back at you:

Alas, I am old and my imagination fails me sometimes.

I would have loved to cross the threshold you see at the top of this page (Go ahead, look at it again. I’ll wait.) but I had a to-do list in one hand and a dog on a leash in the other.

I did force myself to stop and take a peek. The jungle on the other side seems Amazonian in size and quite tropical. Perhaps it is a forest of unicorns, narwhals, penguins and macaws.

I thought I heard the flapping wings of tree fairies — the ones who maintain the portals and live in the city’s most ancient trees. It would be lovely if they were on holiday. Nobody in San Miguel works as hard as tree fairies.

If you go hunting for portals, I have a few tips that can help you. (For reasons known only to tree fairies, they are all listed as No. 1):

  1. A faint drawing on a wall is often a sign leading to a portal. I’m not talking about full-blown wall-size murals. These are delicate, little drawings. Although, fun fact, occasionally in their enthusiasm for intricate drawings and bright colors, muralists have been known to accidentally open a portal through their artwork. (These quickly close up when the paint dries.)
  1. If you see a feral cat sitting like a sentinel on a crumbling wall, it may very well be guarding a portal. Cats are very supportive of magic portals and take a personal interest in their maintenance and protection.
  1. Ancient trees offer some of the most interesting portals. I don’t know why. This is just what I’ve been told. Perhaps because they have been around longer than most of us.

Well, I can go on and on but there is nothing quite like experiencing a portal all on your own. Keep your eyes and hearts open. Freshen up your imagination. If it has grown old and withered like mine, borrow one from a child for a little while until yours can stand on its own.

Should you take a trip through one of San Miguel’s magic portals any time soon, write to me and tell me all about it.

And don’t leave out a single detail.


13 thoughts on “Look through any window

  1. Pingback: Look through any window « Bound for Belize

    • Thank you for that! Didn’t Kilgore Trout call mirrors “leaks”? Ah, yes, holes in the universe! A wise man.

      Are you a fan of Kurt Vonnegut’s books? His writing has meant so much to me over the years. Like a high-powered beacon when I was in search of a style and a reason to write for a living. Thanks for bringing him and Kilgore Trout into the conversation!

      May I introduce another bit of fishy surrealism? Richard Brautigan’s ‘Trout Fishing in America.” I have no idea if there is overlap, but I warm to the juxtaposition.


  2. athea marcos amir says:

    What a lovely piece of writing! I savored the entire thing — well, except for the cats. Are you living here in San Miguel, Mr. Hawkins? As a writer, you must enjoy as much as I and a few others do all the bad writing we encounter. The most hilarious are the Google Translations, which make me laugh until I ache and am out of control. I can never forget some of the things I’ve read traveling, such as the sandwich board in Bilbao that read “Smoked hand sandwich,” or the menu somewhere in Greece that offered “Sandwiches with your choice of feelings.” When I taught English I’d often ask a student, “Did you read this before you turned it in?” Invariably the kid would look at me as if I’d suggested barbecuing his mother. And the things people write before they push the SEND button! I’m always thrilled to find a good writer, and you are definitely one. Thank you.


    • Thank you, Athea. Yes, San Miguel is home for two years now. We spent nearly five years on a tropical island off the coast of Belize prior to moving here. The experience was wonderful but so dramatically different from life in San Miguel (pre-COVID). Are you here, also? Regardless, I hope you are managing well in these odd times.

      I confess that as a newspaper writer and editor for 40 years, I contributed my share of bad writing to the universe. I’m sure I made more than one copyeditor cry in anguish. On deadline, I would often write the name of some well-known actor and tell myself I’d go back and double-check the spelling when I was done. The editor who ALMOST ALWAYS caught my errors is still a friend though I gave him so many reasons to be otherwise.

      Google Translations can be a hoot (and occasionally a godsend). Where do you stand on Grammarly? I feel like it hovers over me, trying its best to make writing as uninteresting as possible. Grammarly needs to go out and get very drunk and come into work hungover someday, just so it can let a few broken rules (deliberately) slide …

      Again, thank you for your kind message and for reading. Now I’m off to look for a “smoked hand sandwich”!


      • Athea (uh-TAY-uh) Marcos Amir says:

        Thanks, Robert. I’ve been in SMA 22 years. I came for four days in 1960 with my two small boys, who are now old farts, but never came back till 1997, when I decided to move here, which I did the following year.

        I’m an obsessive compulsive Nazi grammarian, with a Master’s in English, a writer, former teacher, and Super Bitch when I hear people say tumour-ik instead of tur-mer-ic, mis-chee-vee-us, instead of mis-chuh-vus, and air instead of urr (err). When the latter happens, the offender is forced to hear my rendition of the song “A Hundred Easy Ways to Lose a Man,” from “Wonderful Town,” with Rosalind Russell.

        Just show him where his grammar errs/
        Then mark your towels “hers” and “hers”/
        Oh, there’s a hundred easy ways to lose a man!

        I think Spell Check, Grammarly, and so-called “‘help” of that nature have contributed to the disintegration of our language. Google Dogs actually corrected me when I wrote “all right,” suggesting that I make it “alright” instead. I believe in capital punishment for people who spell it that way or make one word of “a lot.”

        Hope to meet you some day if I can ever go out again. What’s keeping me home isn’t the virus but the dogs in my neighborhood. I have the most extreme case of cynophobia on the planet, starting around four years old, when my dad made the huge blunder of buying a dog for a child who loved keeping clean. Best regards, Athea


      • Betty Comden and Adolph Green, you know how to pick your musicals! “Wonderful Town” joins our list for tonight. Thank you!

        Yes, someday when this all makes sense, we should meet. I have a brand new grandson in San Diego and the barriers and logistics surrounding a visit are rational, reasonable, frustrating, sincere, and heartbreaking. He may be a teenager before we meet in person.

        Thanks for writing. What a joy to read your posts! (And now I must run to edit “Grammerly” — twice! — in my previous post ….)



      • Athea (uh-TAY-uh) Marcos Amir says:

        So sorry you must wait to see your grandson. That must be devastatingly difficult. I love babies the way I don’t love animals. I always tell people, “If my kid had acted like your dog does, I’d have given him up for adoption…or at least foster care.” I do hope you get to see the little tyke sooner rather than later.


  3. Pingback: These are a few of my favorite things, Part II: Finishing off 2020 with dignity and grace | Musings, Magic, San Miguel and More

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