Winter in the Jalisco highlands arrives the second half of October, but this year the fall air didn’t turn chill and crystalline blue until a few weeks after Dia de los Muertos. In the wake of November’s Day of the Dead, along the flanks of Cerro Viejo, which backs into the western crescent of Lake Chapala, one’s breath plumed the air like shreds of pale fabric caught in the morning breeze. The fields of corn had already turned ocher, and now those plots of maiz quilting the lower foothills and the valley below seemed to catch fire as fingers of dawn light reached them. The western slopes of the mountain, facing away from the day’s beginning, remained in the last chill, purple grasp of night.
Dropping down a dusty, washboard road through lavender-shaded arroyos, I headed past dry-stalked milpas toward the Morelia-Guadalajara highway.
Overnight, the air — the feel of it and the light, the way it made things look — had shifted. This swift early Sunday morning drive to Guadalajara was a brusque awakening — once more — to how the season’s great sea change transforms the most familiar things of the world: stalks of corn, the humped ribs of mountains, the damson slashes of often-walked arroyos. There was suddenly so much to see in this world of revelations that it seemed to go on forever — both abrupt and in slow-motion — each turn of the head, every glance filled with fresh declarations of change.
You could taste the alteration. Breathing had a tonic flavor: A tang made nostrils flare, crispness pricked the tongue. And the chill light of the morning made one’s eyes water happily.