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  • Isla Mujeres recall as I passed by this wall in the Pearl District of Portland. A Mexicali blue, somewhere between weathered azure and turquoise. J. and F. had turned the corner to the tapas restaurant but I stood back, roving the wood. It had nothing of the Northwest about it--a piece of fence transported far from the white beach palm trees of the Caribbean.

    That first ferry ride to Isla Mujeres, Hector met us at the gate with his giant tricycle, big enough for all of our luggage. We followed along on foot, as he chattered happily in Spanish. "Si, si, es bueno," I added here and there. He unloaded the bags into the condo then went off to buy us groceries.

    Entire families passed us on mopeds. No helmets. Babies, mothers, grandmothers, fathers, clusters of threes and fours on one vehicle. We marveled at the trust factor. And their freedom to not care.

    Snorkeling off the fishing boat later that week, we saw the statue of the Madonna submerged under water. "Es por los pescadores." To bless the fishermen. Watching her through the mask had its own celestial soundtrack. Until we broke the surface, back to the brightness of sunlight.

    R. and F. stayed on the boat in deeper waters, while J. and I dove deeper, spying Angel fish, Clown Fish, and a Tiburon Gato--a cat shark the guide named as harmless. He swatted its tail and it sailed up from the bottom, away from the hull, away from us, drumbeat sinister just the same.

    The next day F. found a conch shell she learned to play like a trumpet. It now lives in the garden, a trigger memory collecting moss.

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