‘Nothing I understand haunts me. Only the things I do not  understand have that power over me.’ – Mary Ruefle


THERE WAS ONE STREET AND ONE KIND OF CAR CRUISED DOWN IT. Pick-up trucks with full-tint windows, norteña music blaring behind their sealed blackness. Everywhere, men we could not see were scoping us, and at the same slow float, as though making sure we knew: nobody wanted us in Batopilas.

A poet from Mexico City and a gringa writing a travel story: in no way did we belong. I was tackling my first big assignment, to report on the thirteen-hour rail journey through the canyons of northern Mexico, a wild backcountry of red rock gorges that rendered the Grand Canyon a shorty. I’d scanned the map for towns to decamp and spend the night along the Copper Canyon rail route, but got easily distracted by a lone dot of a town, off in the mountains, a full day’s journey from the train tracks.

Reaching Batopilas required a true detour, horizontal and vertical, cutting through four of the Sierra Madre’s major canyons, and plunging, in the process, some 6000 feet.

We could do it, I argued – which was true only if everything that could go wrong went perfectly right. 

Everything: if we caught the crack-of-dawn van in Creel; if the van made the five-hour plunge without popping a tire or hitting a cow or dead-ending at a fallen tree. If we had all that luck – and then repeated it, climbing punctually out of the canyon’s depths – we could catch the train in Creel in time to make our flight home from Chihuahua.

The poet, my travel-mate, said yes, knowing better than to get in the way of me and forward motion. He’d stood next to me on the train’s gangway for hours, watching me stick my head out the window like a dog, pull it back in, fuzzy-haired and beaming. ‘You’re so hap-py,’ Jose Luis kept telling me in English, like he was reading me for the first time, saying happy like ‘hoppy,’ making me think, bunnies. All his friends were ‘suicidal poets,’ he kept adding – I was refreshing. 

A refreshing bunny: that’s how I felt, as the train careened west, pausing ever so briefly at Divisadero, an overlook where the earth cracks right open, glowing every shade of autumn in the late-day light. I’m not that sim-ple, I wanted to crow back, claiming a place among moody poets, but I knew what Jose Luis was seeing on my face: the effects of constant motion.

Aboard the train, there was endless change and beauty ever more remote, snatches of woods and ravines we’d never otherwise see. We sliced through forests, twigs smacking our cheeks, and tunnels that came so fast we flinched as we shot into them, only to go drowsy in the pitch darkness. We bought just-wrapped bean burritos from the hands of Indian women who sold them tippy-toed, track-side; we ate standing up, on clanging platforms, hogging the gangway for ten hours straight. Of course I was dog-wag happy. 

The price was straw-hair and sailor legs as we climbed down to sleep the night in Creel, a town perched at about 7500 feet, nearly the apex of the train journey. We made our wobbly way into town to find that Mexico had changed on us completely. There was an alpine nip in the air, the smell of burning wood – or were those leathering chiles? – wrapped around us. Never have I longed harder for hot chocolate between bare hands. By the time we found a hotel, I was so delirious with chill that I bee-lined straight to the lobby’s fireplace and knelt down by the crackling fire, ready to crawl in there for a nap. Jose Luis tugged me to my feet, suggested we try the sauna.

Our tangent to Batopilas the next day meant a return to desert heat. All morning, as our van carved down the deep ochre canyons, we watched cacti take back the land. The deeper we went, the more outrageous the saguaro grew, suctioning hungrily up cliff-sides, each lumpy-armed plant a diva, wanting her own lean slice of sun. We peeled off sweaters and regretted socks, feeling back in Mexico, the air we knew. The descent took half a day, our path the epitome of switchback. I kept looking behind us at the ribboning road, confirming what I felt: this was a journey to the bottom of the earth.

Batopilas could hardly have looked quainter, sidling against a shallow river. It was a town of another era; it showed in the height of homes, the distress of porches, bougainvillea crushing through wrought-iron gates. A silver outpost, Batopilas had seen its prime back when ore was paraded out of mountain tunnels, loaded onto donkeys, sent up through these canyons and off to Spain. But though it was covered in dust now, Batopilas was not exactly sleepy.

Men in clean white sombreros looked all too on guard, holding us in long, glassy stares. We walked nowhere without a pick-up truck nudging us off the road, slow as a car set to neutral for a gas station wash. One after another, trucks teased us with the mystery of who was behind the opaque windows and how they afforded a gleaming car in a town where the last silver boom predated WWI.

I could feel Jose Luis’s question even before he asked it. All through our train journey, he’d been plying strangers on the gangway to find out, ‘De que viven?’ – what do people live from? The deeper we traveled, the more mysterious it grew, the question of how people earned enough to eat, given the remoteness and steepness, the bygone-ness of this region tucked so far north into Mexico and still such a ways from the border. We asked anyone who would talk to us, keeping another question private: Why didn’t this feel like Mexico? 

Warm like Mexico. Generous like Mexico. Not stone-faced, but sunny as we knew Mexico to be. That Jose Luis, a Mexico City native, was baffled by the total change in tone gave me permission to chime in. You could smile right at people in the Sierra and get nothing back, pose a question and watch a stranger ignore it. We kept track of all the differences in canyon country, as though if we added up all the Mexican things missing here – tortillas of corn, tamale baskets, zocalos in the hearts of towns – it might somehow explain how the mood temperature of Mexico had dropped thirty degrees.

But it didn’t explain it, and Batopilas only intensified the cold front. I could count on two hands the women moving through town. Quiet cowboys stood idly outside the town’s few stores, trying to expel us with their eyes. 

Understanding nothing, we went wading across the river, pants hiked up, carrying our shoes like kids. A little boy, a little girl: a platonic adventure with unspoken questions of its own. Was there anything between us? And would we ever? And was ours just the charge of two writers who acted on a whim to travel as deep as they could into Mexico? 

Jose Luis fit a type for me – a kind of friend I made in foreign countries: the Knowing Man. Abroad, I was ever hungry to talk culture, to burrow into nuances, to hear it all hashed out, exampled, explained. At a party, I’d find the guy who’d rather profile his country’s political parties than spin a girl to salsa music. I had searching eyes, a way of nodding, a way that said, keep talking.

Jose Luis was a poet who made his living selling jewelry. I liked that he was self-made, the son of modest people. So many of my Mexico City friends were pretty boys – impeccable English speakers, Harvard-degreed men who looked nothing like the moon-faced, back-bent laborers in a Rivera mural, and instead like the tall conquistadores at their backs. I’d met Jose Luis on my way out of Mexico, the luster of my year-long journey all but gone. The future was pure blank, and it stirred in me a near-greedy hunger to pull from the people around me all I could about life. Jose Luis was both ready to oblige, and, right as I geared up for one last adventure in Mexico, hungry for one himself. 

Ouching across the bed of stones, we forded the Batopilas River, finding on the other bank a stone wall, cascading with the roots of two trees: one the creamiest yellow, the other smoke-grey. The trees knit their tips together in a way so consummate and deliberate and tender it was impossible not to lend them personas. Old lovers had slipped into the tendrils of these riverfront trees, choosing the near-eternity of wood over gravestone marble. I knew Jose Luis was seeing the same thing – anyone would, certainly a poet – and I wished, not for the last time, that I was making this journey with someone I loved. 

Had there been any physical gravity between this Knowing Man and his hungry pupil, I’m sure we would have flirted right through the faint friendship line. And it had crossed my mind in Los Mochis, our departure point, where the motel’s rules read like a bordello’s, prohibiting ‘visits,’ and again in chilly Creel, where we met in the sauna, our train-sore bodies melting in lazily held towels. But Jose Luis was shorter than me, his confidence more professorial than physical. He liked to poke fun at his looks. ‘I look like a gorilla!’ he’d say, face scrunched up. Jose Luis didn’t look like a gorilla; he looked made for a woman who looked not at all like me.

I followed my travel mate up the banks of the river, past the lover trees, to where an old man sat in the dust, shirt off, hunched over a pile of crushed Tecate beer cans. He was sewing together their scraps to make the garland we’d seen all through town, glinting between roof tips and tree branches. I could almost hear the question in Jose Luis’s mind forming – de que viven? – but both the man’s posture and scrap work gave away the answer. He was a squatter, living off the past, on the edge of a hacienda that once belonged to Alexander Shepherd. 

The last Governor of Washington, DC, Shepherd was an antebellum hero. He fixed the muddy mess that was America’s capital, just after the Civil War, commissioning roads and sewers, earning the nickname ‘The Boss.’ Shepherd might have remained a hero, had he not gotten carried away and spent over ten million dollars more than Congress okayed, prettying up too many of the zones he’d invested in personally. Dismissed, disgraced, Shepherd moved his entire family to Batopilas, and started over, with silver.

Over 350 mines had been plumbed by the time Shepherd reached Batopilas. The Spanish had a two-century head start on The Boss. In 1632, they’d discovered pure silver in the riverit glinted curiously white, polished by the river’s stream. White silver in the deepest canyon of a New World: it was the kind of story that inspires men to cross oceans, and this one did. When prospectors declared Batopilas a hotbed of silver, emigration from Spain surged.

There was ebb and there was flow. The flows were called bonanzas, and they called for immediate donkeys. When miners hit upon such a block, they worked like raiders; they attacked it, wrested masses of raw mineral from the walls. Silver in Batopilas grew in the form of crystals and wires and blocks weighing as much as 440 pounds. The bonanzas made overnight fortunes that barons by the name of Pastrana and Bustamante and Esparza struggled to spend. Pastrana failed hardest, laying a pure silver sidewalk in Batopilas to impress a visiting bishop. The bishop, finding the path from his door plated in precious metal, was horrified, and said so. 

When Alexander Shepherd unspooled a map in 1880, what he looked down on was a matrix of worked mines. But drawing on lessons from America’s Reconstruction, Shepherd surveyed the canyon not like a baron, but a city planner. Rather than focus on one silver pocket, Shepherd bought up hundreds of mining claims; he built the longest tunnel in Mexico; he brought electricity, making Batopilas – one of the most remote towns in Mexico – the second community in the entire country to glow with artificial light. 

With electrical power, silver ore could be processed on site, turned to pure bars that mules carried, two at a time, up the gorges and all the way to the train in Chihuahua. The mines were worked at night, illuminated by train headlights that drew townswomen who gaped in wonder, until dynamite blasts shooed them away.

When Shepherd passed away in 1902, he’d overseen underground tunnels of more than 75 miles, a virtual subterranean town deep in the bowels of Mexico. The population of Batopilas had multiplied by a factor of ten. His sons tried to keep the industry alive, but revolution was spreading across Mexico, and Pancho Villa would soon steal $38,000 worth of silver from the Shepherd mines, burying the bars under his patio in Chihuahua, trusting Batopilas silver over Mexican pesos. Still, war meant constant flux in the price of silver.

‘It wasn’t all beer and skittles,’ sighed Shepherd’s son Grant in a memoir of the silver days. The turn of the century marked the demise of the Shepherd bonanza. By 1920, Grant and his brother had given up for good. There were a few more attempts to mine but none lucrative enough. The veins weren’t tapped completely, but it no longer made sense in a place this remote to keep working them. The population of Batopilas, which had ballooned from 400 to 5000 people, began to shrink back down. There was little left to do at the bottom of the canyons.

De que viven? Hungry for answers, and now food, we brought our questions back across the river to a restaurant called Hanging Bridge, figuring a waiter would have to speak to us. 

Only one of us, it turned out. 

‘Does she want a beer?’ the waiter, short as a dwarf, asked Jose Luis. 

‘One drink and she’ll be drunk!’ my travel-mate joked back, so desperate for a connection with a local that he threw me under the bus, quickening his Spanish in the hope that I might not catch the ella, hear borracha. I sent him a smoldering look, like a fed-up girlfriend, tiring of our trip dynamic. 

The gravity between Jose Luis and me was about knowledge: my lust for it, his urge to transmit. All through the canyons, Jose Luis had held forth, the train’s gangway lending the perfect forum. Class divide was a favorite topic of his – the chasm between Mexico’s wealthy and poor – and one my mind was constantly mulling. I was leaving Mexico for many reasons: I was tired of goodbye parties for expat friends – a social calendar of constant farewells; tired of dating men who handled me too preciously, maneuvering me always to the sidewalk’s outer edge; tired of living in a flat that, lovely as it was, felt flimsy like a tent – a youthful project I’d someday fold up. But my deepest unease was tied up in class – a chasm that no one seemed to question, rich or poor. My most educated friends treated their waiters like lowly boys – waiters twice their age. Mexico felt like a country of masters and servants, a place where I’d always get royal treatment, without a trace of resentment, and for no better reason than I was white and tall. 

Jose Luis had the opposite social experience: he got blocked by bouncers at the door of literary parties, and mistaken for the waiter in upper-crust crowds. He wanted to make sure I knew, before leaving his country, that these weren’t class divisions; we were talking about a system of caste, divides as deep as the canyons we’d straddled by train all across northern Mexico. 

But by the time we got deep into Batopilas, I was tired of being schooled. Jose Luis and I only seemed to talk if I posed questions, and once I noticed that pattern, the pattern pissed me off. So did his insistence on English. His second language was just as sloppy as mine; he just didn’t hear the mess. I began jotting down the English words he botched, like I was keeping a secret score. 

Service was farcically slow at Hanging Bridge, where no one but us was dining. The waiter brought limes on a plate. He brought water in glasses. He brought a bowl of chipotle salsa. Nothing felt more un-Mexican about the Sierra Madre than its tendency to keep us hungry. Jose Luis wondered whether the waiter was tipsy. Later, I wondered whether he was trying to delay us there, whether the whole point was to keep outsiders from doing what guidebooks suggested: wandering around, hiking the old mines.

By the time the waiter brought dinner, he was drunk and the story of how people lived in Batopilas finally came out. Back in the canyons, in the crevasses and slopes veining all around this lone town, were fields of marijuana, crops of heroine, airfields just long enough for the planes that ran drugs. 

Everything snapped into sense: the ink-black car windows, trucks running back and forth, glassy eyes, unmarked runways we’d found motorcycling through the woodsy surrounds of Creel, public ads urging kids to say no, the sense that we’d crossed some invisible border – changed countries within Mexico. I’d prepped for our journey by reading about the towns along the train tracks, never looking into the state of Chihuahua as a whole, where 30 percent of all drug-related violence was concentrated. 

We had arranged to leave in the early morning van and dawn now felt a long way off. I voiced a predictable urge – my usual – to go further, to push ahead. It was the urge that had got us down here in the first place, deep in a wrinkle on the map of Mexico where narcotrafficantes had what now felt like total control. 

There was a ‘lost church’ mentioned in all the guidebooks – a mission that was unaccounted for in history’s record, a place that just appeared on the map, without any record of its being built. We could reach it, I claimed, before the light faded. 

We couldn’t – Jose Luis knew it, and kept saying so as we set out on a zigzagging gravel path, passed by fewer and fewer trucks, the moon showing, lost church eluding. The tension between us was finding new ways to play out, all passive-aggressive. When I spoke Spanish, he replied in English, to which I shot back Spanish, only to hear my own language, bumpily given back. 

Traveling with a new friend – alone – means signing up for the full arc of a relationship. One more day together and Jose Luis and I would be chewing with tight jaws. I’d go surly on him, withholding both questions and nods. And as we rounded the canyon’s bends, into more darkness and no church, and I heard my travel-mate claim anyone could teach themselves to read French, something in me snapped. I seized on what sounded like self-congratulation and called it that, tired of all this autodidact claimed to know. 

Where were his blanks? What was he still figuring out? How could a person our age not be figuring things out? How could a person any age be as certain as this man? Everything in my life was in question, and under the roof of that night sky canopied so high above us in the canyon, I felt my doubt rising up against his certainty. 

Suddenly, I wanted to say everything: that I had no idea what my life would become, how to make writing work; that I yearned for a real home soon, friends who lasted; that I was tired of being so politely served by Mexicans who looked nothing like the Mexicans on billboard ads and on television shows and in the bars where I drank. A decade of living in the mode of a student, keeping quiet and absorbent, was coming to an end. I was done with lecture. I’d lived in many more places than most of my teachers. I had no idea where this left me, other than needing to go. 

When Jose Luis began telling me what authors I must read – Camus, more Marquez – I revolted. Every couple of steps, I sabotaged his lecture by pointing out the beautiful cacti.

They were stunning – the saguaros – spiky black beasts against the now navy sky. The light was retreating, pulling away everything with it but these lumpen silhouettes. 

That,’ I’d plant my feet, making Jose Luis both stop talking and halt, ‘is the most beautiful cactus I have ever seen.’ A few steps later, I’d give the title away to another saguaro, whose arms reached higher, just to ruin a sentence of this Knowing Man. Besides, the saguaros deserved it, coming alive in the dark, growing into people, suggestive ghosts, just like the trees stitched at the river’s edge. 

We never did reach the church, and the only things that saved our journey from catastrophe were the stars beading the navy sky. When we turned back, the ground was hardly visible; we needed the glow of dippers and comets to get us to Batopilas. Jose Luis went quiet, but I wasn’t done. The cacti gone, inked out by the night, I picked one last battle, pitting English against Spanish, my language against his. For days, I’d been thinking about how the verb ‘to wonder’ had no good equivalent in Spanish. I’d missed it, all through this journey.

Wondering what, and wondering how, and wondering whether: I didn’t know how to travel without these constructions, certainly not at train-speed, through a place as tight-lipped as the Sierra. I was at a loss, groping for its equal, a word that could send the mind pinwheeling off, looking for truth but honoring mystery. 

I’d missed it most motorcycling around Creel, clutching at Jose Luis’s shoulders as close as a non-lover can. It was late in the day, our gas running low as the light went buttery, and I tried to wonder aloud to him about the magic hour – the slanted sun photographers chase, what makes canyons a mural of the warmest earth tones, aglow in a way that stills you, holds you down deep in one moment.

‘If the magic hour were an age,’ I mused to his helmet, ‘what would it be?’ 

I was wondering: airing a question, not needing an answer. I’d noticed how beauty blooms – arrestingly – right before it vanishes, and something like that was happening on our journey, on mine. I wanted to ask my travel-mate to help me think through the glow – and whether there’s a parallel in life, just before something long ends. 


Jose Luis hadn’t heard me, so later, I brought my lost verb back up in the dark.

‘What about parecer?’ Jose Luis tried.

‘Nope. Not the same.’ I was ready for parecer. Parecer alleged, asserted something. Parecer didn’t wonder. No word Jose Luis came up with left room for fruitful doubt.

The next morning, as we carved back up the cliffs, I spent the ride turtling back into my mind, wondering to myself. The radio was on, and what leaked out for hours was news of a policeman’s murder, very nearby. I knew the story; I’d been hearing a version of it all year. I couldn’t walk by a newsstand in Mexico City without flinching at what looked like cheap Polaroids taken in a morgue. Daily, bodies appeared with the marks of torture and the tags of drug lords. 2009 was coming to a close: the bloodiest year of narco-violence yet. There was no escaping this fact in Mexico, but no comprehending it either. The terminology itself was still getting worked out: if the drug leaders were ex-military, did that make this a civil war?

No answers were to be found, certainly not in the leafy Mexico City barrio where I lived, where baristas cheek-kissed me good morning. It wasn’t until Jose Luis and I left Batopilas, crammed into this van where no one said a peep and the latest murder story played on loop, that I felt, finally, like I was listening to local news.

The train snatched us back up in Creel, and as soon as we boarded, I left Jose Luis and wandered off to the dining car. No gangway this time, no happy bunny face out the open window. The homestretch of the Sierra Madre journey is farmland – a flat jaunt. I spent it willfully absorbed in a Xerox copy of a mining history of Batopilas that I’d bought in town. I had just days left in Mexico – a farewell party that night, hasty packing the next morning – and I wanted to spend it tunneling into the canyons at my back. To find something about Mexico that Jose Luis did not know.

I read about mines called Mesquite and Martinez, Todos Santos and Roncesvalles, Descrubridora and Balthazar. I read that men could carry as much as 150 pounds up 500 feet, men whom the sons of DC’s fugitive governor called ‘peons.’ I read about a bonanza pocket that lasted for fourteen years, another vein that collapsed and buried miners alive. I learned that silver grows as coils, in balls, in the shape of ferns. I schooled myself in just how mysterious mining is, how little prospectors actually know when they plunge deep into the earth. I stared at mineral charts and labyrinthine tunnel maps and hardest of all at a sketch of a herringbone crystal that looked exactly like a leafy burst of marijuana. It was all just kindling for wondering, like everything I’d seen from the train. Trains rocket you through the foreign, snatching away street names and strangers on porches as soon as your eyes catch a flash. Trains won’t let your gaze settle; they keep your mind chasing; they make the brain a tumbler for questions, ever adding, never resolving.

What do sixty mules look like, saddled with silver, trudging up the sides of the Sierra’s deepest canyon? And how about the twinkling floor of a canyon at night, to a person who’s never before seen electric light? How many years can a man shoulder silver bullion up ladders, in sweltering mines, before his shoulders ache? Once the mines closed, once all the Shepherds vanished, how did the people of Batopilas live with the knowledge that silver remained, threading under their mountains? Who kept panning for silver in the stream, and who started whispering about another way? What does secrecy do to the pride of men? What happens to a town – its fabric – when the only livelihood left can’t be named? Was there shame behind those tinted truck windows, or just men high on the local crop? 

I wondered, hardest of all, how to read Mexico’s past to decode the present. Why did it feel like this uncanny violence was the upwelling of centuries of repression? Was this the country’s poor – the people who’d been carrying silver bullion and serving the rich for centuries – rising up against a status quo? Was there a link between the savagery spreading across this country and the longstanding servility of its majority? Had a sense of injustice – anger I’d heard expressed by no one but Jose Luis – finally, after centuries, erupted? Isn’t this how it works, when oppression finds no other release? 

Questions I’d never answer, this was the crescendo of a full year’s wondering.

The web offered no answers when I later typed in the word ‘Batopilas.’ There were no news articles exposing the heroine fields. A few travel blogs alluded to the pick-up trucks, the silent stares, but most called the silver town ‘charming.’ No one seemed to stay long.

I eventually wrote my travel story, and it was published. There was no mention of heroine fields, no ode to the interlocking trees, no poet who knew too much. There were two paragraphs – max – devoted to Batopilas. I remember sitting in my childhood home, before I had a next home, with a bulging folder of notes, that faint photocopy of the history of mining in Batopilas in my tensed hands. I was writing my first real feature story – and already, I felt defeated. This was not the container for what I cared about. There was hardly room to capture the mood of the place, and none whatsoever for wondering.

Months after the story was published, I heard from my editor. She’d gotten an email from a reader and wanted me to address it. A man was upset about a mistake in my article. In describing the descent to Batopilas, I said the temperature plummeted. I went straight to the offending sentence and knew what had happened: I’d gotten carried away, narrating the plunge to Batopilas. In my mind, all was drop.

I felt a flush of shame, like I’d been caught – in my sloppiness, but also in posing as a travel writer. When the flush passed, I was annoyed that simple facts were the measure of whether I’d done my job. It took me years to admit this wasn’t the job I wanted. All that mattered to me was everything I didn’t say about Batopilas. Traveling, I was lost without the power to wonder. The same held true, it turned out, in writing.

To wonder: to observe with ellipses, to imagine from clues, to beckon another mind into your question, to crawl into the blanks of history, to start a file you can never close.

I’ve carried the ‘History of Mining’ printout with me to a few cities; it’s lived in many a folder. I’ve decided against throwing it away many times. The space Batopilas takes up in memory is wildly out of proportion to how many hours I spent there. When I ride down memory’s chute into that lone speck on Mexico’s map, I go – every time – into the same room.

Over the shallow river, just behind those interlocking trees, Jose Luis and I came upon a hacienda, long abandoned. We could see its orange walls through the fig trees but once we reached the clearing, its height and clay-colored majesty was a shock. There it stood, a castle of terracotta, nothing blocking our entrance through a rusted gate, then the smooth mouth of the hacienda’s missing door.

We stood there, made tiny by towering walls. High above us, keyhole windows gaped open, the afternoon sun baking the bougainvillea petals that carpeted the entire ground floor. There was a stairwell, its lumpy clay rising to nowhere – a phantom second floor. 

I couldn’t move, and Jose Luis froze, too. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve thrilled at finding antiques in the raw – the twin tarnish of time and dirt. Never again will I find an antique like the hacienda of Alexander Shepherd.

We stood there, on the blanched petals, like the dry air had cast us into statues. Every hair on my body gave a lift. I still wonder at how close I came to saying, ‘Kiss me.’ The words didn’t just form, they wanted out.

Jose Luis must have felt it, too – the need to do something, anything to match the force of this place, to honor it fast. He reached over – his face screwed up like he was trying to remember the English word for what he was about to do – and squeezed my forearm with two fingers.

A pinch. This was real: a terracotta castle on the floor of the deepest canyon. Like a kid who worries no one will ever believe her (‘we found this place…’), I worried I’d never write it. Not with the force that makes you nearly kiss your friend. 

Batopilas will never let my mind go, I’m sure. The beauty of that terracotta castle alone is enough to stake its claim in a honeycomb of memory, to say nothing of the magic hour light blooming through my life right then, just before I left Mexico. Never again did I live abroad; I was right in sensing the end of a rare time. But the force this town has for me, I think, has more to do with wondering. It’s the places that refuse to answer our questions that hold us always in their air.