The first time the women held a ceremony at Escondido was two years ago, after an intensive goddess workshop. "At the last pool in the grotto, there's a narrow entrance way," Roy says, "and seeing one form, one body, one goddess emerge into the candlelight and down the stairs and into the water--it was a remarkable experience. Everybody was totally naked, and this was heavy stuff, especially if you're older and fat. Crone comes from chronos , time. It means a woman who has grown wise with the passage of time. It's a hard subject for women, especially someone who has invested all her energy, her whole life into looking right."
If it sounds like life in San Miguel is a bit too New Age, a bit too odd, sometimes it feels that way too. April Wolfe, 46, one of the town's two therapists, moved to San Miguel three years ago with her lover, Tina Estes. A year and a half later, she woke up one day overcome with the realization that she had sold her house in Portland, given up her title at the school where she taught and cashed in her retirement. Suddenly she panicked. She called Gail Keene, the leader of San Miguel's Friends of Unity Church, and after a wide-ranging conversation, she calmed down. "(Biblical) Abraham went through that too," Keene told her.
"My appointment book was jampacked in the States," she says. "Then it all quit. Tina said to me, 'You're forgetting the magic here. Trust.' Now I don't even have a calendar."
"You're out there swimming toward you don't know what," Estes says. "But you're definitely leaving one shore, so you'd better keep swimming through the uncertainty."
Life is full of uncertainty. Perhaps that's what makes San Miguel so attractive to the gringas. Here the uncertainties are when the rainy season will start, when will the water supply be turned back on, who will have corn mushrooms in the Tuesday market. For most, the biggest unknown, the one that is hardest to confront, is how long to stay in San Miguel. For the younger women, there's the possibility of starting a family; the older ones worry about getting sick. But for no one, it seems, is there a fear of being alone. The community is the family, the town is the living room.
Life is full of trade-offs, and you always come back to the question, what makes you fulfilled? Is it your new PowerBook or the sound of the bell tolling from La Parroquia?