Queen of the Night

by Judy King 20. September 2010 18:41

Lorraine's flowers 017Queen of the Night
Even without a regal name, you'd know that the Queen of the Night, the night-blooming cereus, is the sovereign of this area's list of stunning, fragrant white flowers.

While all of the fragrant white night-blooming plants here are worthy of royal attention, Reina de la Noche (Queen of the Night) is certainly appropriately named. Few other plants in the world produce blooms that can compete with the style, form, scent, or drama of these fragrant, once-a-year giant white flowers.

Because each flower opens and closes in the dark of one night, few expatriates have witnessed the flowers on the sprawling, ordinary-looking plant that drapes over walls, rocks, or trees.

It takes a few seasons to learn the pattern of this plant's blooms. Be careful, you could miss the flowers entirely during your first year or two at Lake Chapala.

When you notice that one of the buds begins swelling, be sure to go back and check the plant every hour or so, all evening long. Sometime between eight p.m. and midnight, you'll be calling the entire family and part of the neighborhood to come watch the final hour when this huge bloom opens bit by bit, just like a Discovery Channel freeze-frame documentary film.

Lorraine's flowers 008 Lorraine's flowers 010

(Above:) When the buds have swollen to this point, know the flower will open that very night.

Beginning in April, the first several flowers open on the Hylocereus undatus, which is better known in the United States as the night-blooming cereus. Early in the blooming season, one of the glorious flowers opens each night. If you are lucky enough to have a Queen of the Night in your garden, let your friends know that you'll call them in time to come see the flowers open on the night of the plant's annual grand finale.

Lorraine's flowers 030 Lorraine's flowers 023 

There's usually one magnificent night in late April or early May when a half dozen or more of the eight- to ten-inch white flowers come into full bloom. Most of us who have relocated to Lakeside are usually sound asleep long before midnight, but it's well worth the effort to join in a flower watch — you won’t see much the following morning -- soon after the first rays of morning sun, the flowers fold up and fade away.

Lorraine's flowers 041 (Left:) This plant produced 10 lemon-scented, eight-inch blooms on one memorable night

Break out a bottle of Champagne to toast a life that brings you to this moment, to this sight, and the lemony fragrance spreading through the neighborhood.

A larger tropical variety of the plant is found in the southern Mexico states of Oaxaca and Vera Cruz. Epiphyllum oxypetalum has many of the characteristics of Reina de la Noche.  An ordinary-looking plant, it is distinguished only by its long leaves during most of the year. It earns the title Dama de Noche (Lady of the Night) on the one night of the year when it bursts forth with 100 or more 10- to 14-inch blooms.


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

Living at Lake Chapala’s August Issue

by Judy King 1. August 2010 15:14

Wow, it’s the First Day of this year’s EIGHTH month! 
I can barely believe that this month marks the three-quarters mark of 2010. We are having another great year here at Living at Lake Chapala. In fact, nine members of our writing team has been out gathering information for our all new August issue. We've prepared a little bit of everything this month — take a look at this summary of our new articles.

image A Sailor Run Aground

Jim Tipton is introducing you to one of his very good friends in this month's Community Article. If you've not yet met Ken and Lise Clarke, you'll want to after you read about how this Lakeside couple met aboard ship and fell instantly head over heels in love. This is a love story with lasting power — when they reached dry land, they raised a family and then moved to Lakeside for retirement — and so Ken could write his story of the years at sea.

Mexico's Traditional Music

Mexico is a land of eternal music — it's part of the lifestyle — it's part of life. What's Mexico's most popular music? That, like most things in this land of contrasts, depends. There are those who would vote for orchestras playing classical music, or for classic rock and roll. More traditionally, you'd have a giant pile of votes for mariachi — that smooth blend of violins, guitars and trumpets. Earning just as much (or more) devotion from residents in central and northern Mexico would be the bandas — the groups of trumpets, trombones, clarinets, and percussion that play a type of music that sounds a little like a sharply uniformed military brass marching band colliding with The Six Fat Dutchmen Polka Band.


(Left:) A youthful group of musicians — a banda plays traditional music on the Ajijic plaza. (Right:) Bandas of all levels of fame and popularity perform in Lakeside's villages. This group came from a nearby town to play in an Ajijic club on July 17. The big name groups come to town for the annual fiesta and during mardi gras.

As Micki Wendt explains in this month's Out and About column, this isn't all about John Phillip Sousa, and it's not about Lawrence (a-one and a-two) Welk (but it helps if you were in your high school marching band and lived in the upper Midwest near a German or Polish population.) Banda music is a Mexican hybrid, and it's the love of the nation.

You may not think you know banda, but you've heard it — the bad, the ok, the good, and the really good. You're apt to hear it every time you pass a construction site or wait at a stop light behind a car with a throbbing stereo, or hear the marching band marching around town at 7 a.m. during fiesta. So far you've probably been more annoyed than in love, but give this article and the links to some professional videos a chance…you may be surprised!


Mexican banda members are snappy dressers. (Left:) This Chapala group was performing right outside the municipal building one evening — all in white and that shade of hot pink that here is called Rosa Mexicana. (Right:) Ajijic's Banda Incomparable was sporting new suits at last year's fiesta — their logo is embroidered on the back of the jackets.

Really Great Karma and  A Cookbook for a Cause

We're fixated this month on great food prepared by sets of Mexican sisters with great ideas and big hearts. First in the Mexican Kitchen, Harriet Hart is visiting a new restaurant on Calle Hidalgo in Ajijc which is owned and operated by Margarita and Rocio del Castillo. These vegetarian sisters recently moved from their home town — Guadalajara — and opened one of the cutest lunch spots in town — Buen Karma.

image image

Then former mental health professional Carol Bowman interviewed a trio of Guadalajara women — the Levy sisters — who have turned their skills in the kitchen into a cookbook (written in Spanish) and then turned the cookbook into a fundraising tool with proceeds going toward their pet project — a mental health center in Jalisco's capital city. You'll enjoy meeting the Levy sisters and learning about their favorite non-profit in this month's Health and Safety column.

The New Expat Radio Station for English Speakers

Then Judy is bringing you something very new — online radio for expats! Yep, Amigo Rodrigo is spinning American music on a 24-hour-a-day radio station — along with Mexican news and weather in English, Spanish vocabulary words and other specialty bits of information — and you can listen to it all on your computer. It couldn't be easier. Catch up with all of this in the Feature Article.

Back to School (Times Two) and Attending the Ballet 
What fun, we've devoted two slots this month to how foreigners at Lakeside get involved in the community, and take on some or all of the school expenses for slightly overwhelmed local families. While there are a dozen or more groups and organizations who are creating scholarships to pay the expenses so local kids can continue to attend classes — from Kinder through Grad School — our Cost of Living and Soul of Mexico columns tell how individuals are making a difference here at Lake Chapala.

First up Georgina Russell is back, this time in our Cost of Living slot explaining how she administers a fund for area kids. Who started this fund and this program? A trio of New York kids who were visiting their relatives at Lakeside! Now the US kids come back every year to see how the money they've raised in their home town and New York schools is being put to use here.


(Left:) One of the special joys of being a sponsor to a Lakeside student is being included in graduations, programs and special school events. (Right:) The ballet at Lake Chapala? You bet. And Scott Richards enjoyed it all – see his report in this month’s People, Places and Things.

Then long-time Lakeside resident, Phyllis Rauch explains how she and her late husband became involved in helping to educate the members of a family in their village of Nestipac. While Phyllis dreamed at first of "their kids" becoming doctors, lawyers and engineers, she reflects on how it's all worked out in real life and beautifully illustrates the Soul of Mexico piece with photos of her current (and we suspect her favorite) student Daniela.

Saving the Wild Orchids

Artist Janice Kimball delves into the world of Mexican wild orchids this month in our Homes and Lodging column. You'll enjoy her story of how she came to fall in love with these tender exotic beauties — years ago in the middle of an all-too-long Detroit winter. Now she's on a soapbox, helping us learn to protect the wild orchids from area mountains — and best of all she tells us where to find lovely, not-endangered, plants in local nurseries.


(Left:) These lavender beauties were once wild orchids in the Jalisco mountains above Lake Chapala. They've been blooming on a tree in Ajijic now for nearly 15 years. (Right:) Leave the wild orchids to bloom for another year in the mountains. Local nurseries have a lovely selection of hybrid orchids at very reasonable prices.

Planning for Singles

And to wrap up the issue, Judy is exploring some tips for singles living at Lakeside. It's just so important to form a support group and then finalize some of the necessary plans so that your friends will easily be able to help your children should you be recovering from illness or surgery and when you die. Look for this so very important information in the Getting Here space.

Are you a Living at Lake Chapala Subscriber?

That’s our rundown this month – and now, while you read these pieces we are already working on our Big Blowout Bicentennial Celebration for the September issue of Living at Lake Chapala. We’d love to have you become one of our family of subscribers and we’re betting you’ll love reading the very best online magazine about life in Mexico. Did we mention that subscribers have access to on-line support – we’re always here to answer your email questions! What a deal that is!


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

by Judy King 28. July 2010 13:12

Rain Garbage Bag Rain GearFor some reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about rain lately –  maybe that’s because we’ve received about 20” of rainfall since the rainy season started six weeks ago – about 60% of our annual average rainfall.

So far, I’ve been as cheerful as Gene Kelly about our soggy summer, I’ve not been singing and dancing in the rain, but the mountains are wondrously green, the lake is rising – on course for a 30-year high point .

My garden has never looked better…but…unlike Julie Andrews, I’m not cooing about “raindrops on roses” being one of my favorite things.

Think about it, it’s rained 24 of the 28 days this month – and on most of those days, it’s rained in daylight hours contrary to claims you may have read on other websites that it only rains at night here in paradise.

Those claims are fairly accurate – in times of normal weather patterns. It’s when tropical storms and hurricanes start circling their warm, moist air into our region, the blue  skies darken and we move into cycles of gray days and hours of gentle, steady rainfall. It’s enough, as Elvis said, to have “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”

28July8am Those Tropical Storms and Hurricanes

As Alex and Bonnie have moved up the Atlantic/Gulf Coasts and Celia,  Darby and Estelle have pushed rain to us from the Pacific Coast this month, I’ve had plenty of indoor computer time.

I’ve been following the tropical storms on The Weather Channel link on Amigo Rodrigo’s online radio station at KMEXRadio.FM. It’s easy to spot the oddly shaped state of Jalisco – it forms that prominent bump on the Pacific Coast and then reaches inland to our location at 5,000 feet on the north shore of Lake Chapala.

Be sure to click on the animate (Weather in Motion) button under the map to see what those clouds have been doing the past few hours. For example,  the map above is the still shot at for 8:17 a.m. EDT (7:17 a.m. Chapala Time). When you animate the scene, you see the storm cells that produced the .75” we received between Midnight and dawn…and you can see how that large series of cells to the south at 7 a.m. is moving into our zone toward midday.

editor4-rainI’ve also been taking some sort of perverse pleasure in checking the website for the private weather station in Riberas de Pilar – several times a day – just to see how much rain we’ve received. I must not be alone, the owner of the site reports 6,000 visitors last Sunday!

Rather than to start “Crying in the Rain” like the Everly Brothers, “Walking in the Rain” with Johnny Ray,  or complaining, “Oh No, Don’t Let the Rain Come Down” with the Serendipity Singers, I’ve been enjoying some extra time curled up some favorite books, Rain of Gold, House of Rain and The Rain God as I “Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain” (Donavan).

One recent “Day That the Rain Came Down” (Jane Morgan) I spent watching some old movies, The Rainmaker, Rain Man, and two movies titled Rain -- one with Faye Dunaway and one with Joan Crawford.

 
Are there really 800 Songs about Rain?

A little research showed me that while there are only about 100 movies with the word rain in the title, there are more than eight hundred songs about rain – some with lyrics of note for our lives this month:

 DSC00782  “Rain Rain” (Cher)

Rain, Rain in the sky
Everywhere I look my eyes see
Rain, rain fallin' down
Crying as it hits the ground

“Eastern Rain” (Joni Mitchell)

Rain comes from the east one night
We watch it come
To hang like beaded curtains
Till the morning sun
Water dripping from our clothes
You with raindrops on your nose
Ask me sadly please don’t go away now.

DSC00902 “The Late September Dogs” (Melissa Ethridge)

Come on let it rain
Let it rain down on me
Let the rain touch my hands
Let the rain set me free
Let it rain down on me

“The Rain” (Will Smith)

The little rain drops fallin’ down on me
But I can’t seem to feel it, feel it
Feel it coming over me

editor3-garciaKeep your Eye on Mount Garcia

“Can you Stand the Rain?” (Boys ii Men)  We’re still loving life here at Lake Chapala, “Come Rain or Come Shine” (Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and Bette Midler).

Still….we’re keeping an eye on Lake Chapala’s south shore peak, Mount Garcia to see if it’s still shrouded in clouds.

You see local lore says that when Sr. Garcia puts on his sombrero, you’ll know it’s going to rain. Seems like all month he’s had it pulled down to his eyebrows.

Meanwhile, we’re wondering …

Who Will Stop the Rain (Credence Clearwater Revival)

Heard the singers playin’, how we cheered for more.
The crowd had rushed together, tryin’ to keep warm.
Still the rain kept pourin’, fallin’ on my ears.
And I wonder, still I wonder who’ll stop the rain.


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

Daytime Drizzle & Rain – Is That Legal at Lakeside?

by Judy King 18. June 2010 14:29

rain-garden It’s noon here at Lake Chapala and it’s raining, pouring, actually these last 10 minutes or so.

I know, I know, someone told you it only rained here at night…before you start trying to send a sizzling email to city hall or the chamber of commerce, or to me for that matter, let me explain.

Most of our June – October rainy season, that’s a true statement. After a comfortable, sunshiny day, the clouds bank up, roll in and either around 7:30 or in the wee hours of the night, the thunder and lightening commences and then the heavens open to let the rain pour down . We sleep like babes – the temperature is cool enough to need a blanket and there’s that comforting sound of raindrops on the roof.

SO, What’s the Deal Today?

About the only time we have clouds, rain, thunder, drizzle or other “weather” in daylight hours is when a tropical storm is working on either the Atlantic or Pacific coasts – pushing masses of humidity ahead of their huge systems. When that warm moist beach air is driven by the seasonal storms over the mountain ranges, the air cools, the water condenses and well – it rains – in the daylight – in front of God, tourists and everybody.

In this region of Mexico where a weatherman (in any language) is as hard to find as larger size clothes and shoes, how are you supposed to know when these systems are moving our way?

I’m glad you asked.

MexicoSat_4-300x202 To keep track of tropical systems that are building, on the move, increasing in power, diminishing, or just plain stalled and funneling warm moist air into our area, bookmark this Weather Channel Map – it shows current storms heading for Mexico.

How do you locate Lake Chapala and our state of Jalisco on this map? The coastal portion of Jalisco is most of that widest bump on the west (left) coast – then it extends inland – to the north east (up and to the right). That’s where we are!

Thankfully this morning the warnings and watches for this system -- Tropical Storm Blass were diminished – backing the category of the storm back to a Tropical Depression.

Still, though there’s a good chance that we’ll continue to see rain – at night and even in the daytime – for the next few days. As you can see by this map, updated at 1:18 p.m. Lakeside time, there’s still a considerable amount of activity in this system – look at all of those orange and red areas indicating stronger cells.

I’m no meteorologist, but I’ve seen enough weather maps to predict that there’s more weather heading our way for the next few days. You can bet that we’ll have rain for as long as those orange and red spots are moving our way. That little downpour at noon was the effect of that “L” shaped small cell that you can see right over our area. Looks like there is much heavier rain to come.

Guadalajara’s Weather is Different

By the way, if you are visiting family north of the border or not yet moved here, don’t depend on the typical online temperature boxes – you know the ones – you can put on your home page and you see them on some of the Mexico-based websites. They show the high and low temperature for “Chapala," and sometimes a three or five-day weather forecast.

The truth is that most of those services are actually putting the numbers registered on thermometers and rain gauges in Guadalajara, Tlaquepaque or the airport under the “Chapala” heading.

rain-streetThat’ll give you a false impression for sure. Giant Lake Chapala at 55 miles long and 11 miles wide has a distinct effect on the weather here. Our hot season (April, May and early June) temperatures run 8 – 15 degrees cooler than Guadalajara. In the winter cold time (Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day) the lake works its magic to keep us from being Guadalajara’s low temperatures – easily 10 degrees colder than we register here.

SO, how can you know what our REAL weather is like? Bookmark the local weather site, Chapala Weather.  You’ll find an entire weather system at your fingertips, with none of the problems. You don’t even have to empty the rain gauge. Plus, this weather-obsessed resident of Riberas del Pilar (between San Antonio Tlayacapan and Chapala even has the stats you love to know – how much did it rain last night, what’ the year’s high and low temps, and how do they compare to last year’s hottest and coldest times, what percentage of this year’s rain has fallen, what’s the humidity, what’s the barometer doing.

Good Grief, he’s even keeping track of the dew point and the wind gust speeds. Everything you wanted to know about Lake Chapala’s weather, all in one handy spot – and it’s accurate!

Now that we know that this is going to be the way of the world for the next couple of days, I think I’ll head for the couch and alternate watching movies on my new TV and reading.  Popcorn anyone? 


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

Looking for the Rabbit in the Moon

by Judy King 25. May 2010 20:40

Soul3-moon This week, like every month, it is the time of the Rabbit Moon. There’s a full moon on May 27 – the last several nights have been bright enough to cast shadows in my Ajijic garden.

Since the days of the ancients, when the residents of this great country have gazed at the moon, they’ve seen not the face of a grinning man – they’ve studied the profile form of a great rabbit.

Aztec legends of the creation of mythology’s second and fifth sun gods Nanahuatzin and Tecciztecatl relate how they became the sun and moon.

The story tells of the brave and noble sacrifice of Nanahuatzin during the creation of the fifth sun. Humble Nanahuatzin easily and willingly sacrificed himself in fire to become the new sun.

The wealthy Tecciztecatl, proud and ambitious, is consumed by fear until after hesitating four times, pride forces him to follow Nanahuatzin’s example by jumping into a vast pyre. Both rise as suns, but due to Tecciztecatl's cowardice, the gods felt that the moon should not be as bright as the sun, so one of the gods threw a rabbit at his face to diminish his light. Some versions of this story tell that Tecciztecatl was in the form of a rabbit when he sacrificed himself and so forever casts the shadow of a rabbit. across the night’s dimmer “sun."

Another version – with Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent

There’s another legend in Mexican folklore, one a little more akin to the legends and myths we know and recount. This story also evolves from pre-Hispanic legends, and it tells of a time when the great god of the Sun, the Plumed Serpent Quetzalcoatl lived on Earth as a man.

One time so long ago that no one is left to remember, he started on a difficult journey. After walking for a long time, he became hungry and tired.

With no food or water around, he thought he would die. Then, a rabbit grazing nearby offered himself as food to save the God’s life.

Quetzalcoatl, moved by the rabbit's noble offering, elevated the rabbit to the moon, then lowered him back to Earth, and told him, "You may be just a rabbit, but everyone will remember you; there is your image in light, for all men and for all times." And so it was and so it has been.

rabbitThe Rabbit is in the moon for all men and all times

Indeed Mexico isn’t the only place where you’ll see a rabbit in the moon or hear the legend of the moon and the hare. The Chinese, Japanese, Maya, some residents of South American and Pacific Island cultures also see the famous hare. 

Here in Mexico the image is so common that there’s even a favorite saying about infrequent occurrences. Perhaps you think these things happen…once in a blue moon. In Mexico, It happens only once in a rabbit moon.

Apollo11’s Encounter with the Rabbit in the Moon

The moon rabbit was mentioned in the conversation between Houston and the Apollo 11 crew just before the first moon landing. 

Houston advised the astronauts: “Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning there's one asking that you watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit.

“An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chang-o has been living there for 4000 years. It seems she was banished to the moon because she stole the pill for immortality from her husband.

“You might also look for her companion, a large Chinese rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is only standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree. The name of the rabbit is not recorded.

Apollo 11 Member Collins replied, “Okay, we'll keep a close eye for the bunny girl.”

Look up to the Rabbit Moon

We’re not promising you’ll se a Chinese bunny girl, but it you look closely, we think that forever more when you cast your eyes up to the full moon, you’ll see that Mexican Rabbit Moon.

Here are the upcoming full moon (Rabbit Moon) dates for the rest of 2010:

May 27, June 26, July 26, August 24, September 23, October 23, November 21, December 21


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

About Judy King

Judy King

Hi There — Welcome to my little corner of the world. I'm Judy King and I live in the centuries-old village of Ajijic on the north shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest natural lake.

I've lived here full time since 1990, and... [ more ]

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