Reluctant Nomad

Part of me looks with envy on people who’ve managed to stay put — people who’ve remained in the homes and towns and countries of their origin. How secure it must feel to be deeply rooted in a place, as solid and immovable as a massive oak tree.

This hasn’t been my destiny. I’ll soon be moving again, to another small apartment here in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. This will be my fourth such move in the six years I’ve been here.

The first move was into an attractively priced neighborhood, which turned out to be extremely dangerous. (How could I, a naïve, newly retired, newby in the country, have known this?) Soon after that apartment was broken into in broad daylight and I was robbed, I moved again, to what I liked to call my “penthouse” – a small casita on the azotea (rooftop) of an old apartment complex near centro.

Alas, after a few happy years there, that complex was sold, emptied, and will soon be torn down, to be rebuilt and reborn as a bright, shiny, new events location.

So that prompted another move, this time to a sweet studio with a lovely terrace in an artist-friendly neighborhood just outside of centro. My one-year lease here is up now, and (thanks in part to the COVID restrictions being lifted?) I’ll be moving again to a more-affordable-for-me studio apartment not far away.

The other night in a stretch of sleeplessness, instead of counting sheep I counted the number of times I’ve moved residences in my adult life. I counted close to thirty before nodding off. And that’s me — a person who would have liked nothing more than to have had a fixed address, carve-able in stone, her entire life.

I think of my mother’s attitude toward our family home, how much she loved it and often swooned over it: our three-bedroom, red-brick house (“Brick is SO solid!” she would enthuse) in that middle-class suburban New Jersey town. She sincerely believed that town was the center of the universe; and our home was, for her, the hub. She never had any need or desire to venture further into the world. She raised four children in that house, and she ultimately died in it. That house was her world.

“Children are the anchors that hold a woman to life,” I read somewhere a long time ago, when I lost my anchor. And, like a small boat not fully equipped for ocean travel, I’ve been bobbing about on the ocean’s waves ever since.

San Miguel de Allende, I’m finding, is a very fluid place. Gringos, especially, come and go. We make friends, and the friends then leave, often to return to the States to be closer to their grown children and their growing grandchildren.

It’s mostly single older women like me, I’ve observed, those of us who are alienated from our families, who stay and stay in SMA, moving from apartment to apartment, as circumstances, like tectonic plates, shift.

I’ve met other mothers here who have lost children through death or, perhaps, a hostile divorce in which their child or children side with the well-off ex- who can offer more financial benefits. So I know I’m not alone.

Those of us who have not been sunk by our grief, who have not become mentally or spiritually unmoored, who have not resorted to suicide or mind-numbing drugs — doctor-prescribed or otherwise, who have not fully fallen apart, have had to learn how to go on, how to “go with the flow”: become nomads. Reluctant nomads, I call us. We’ve lost our anchors, so we’ve learned to live on shifting sand in tents.

Bedouin tent (stock photo)

I could go on! But I have a lot of sorting and packing to do. I’ll write again soon — as soon as I’ve set up my next tent.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For the full story about the loss of my daughter to parental kidnapping, read:

To see my flash-fiction piece “Frida and Me,” which was recently named a finalist in the Ekphrastic Review’s Bird Watching contest, please go to this link and scroll down a bit to Frida Khalo’s painting “Me and My Parrots”:

28 thoughts on “Reluctant Nomad”

  1. Such a poignant and beautiful piece of writing, Bonnie Lee. Thanks for sharing it with us. Aren’t we all, ultimately, nomads? You seem to ask that in the gentlest way. Lucky for us we have such good guides, and find blessed anchors among whom ever or whatever gives us peace. Much love to you.

  2. Bonnie, your post reminds me of my friend whose son commented at his parents’ anniversary celebration…”We moved every time Mother had to clean the oven.” May your up-coming move go well for you.

  3. Oh, la Bonnie! I hope this is a more permanent move. I know how hard it is to uproot oneself, even in the same town. Would you ever consider going back to Taos? I do 🙂

    1. I hope so, too, querida Te! But vamos a ver, verdad? I still love Taos and my many friends from there (including, por supuesto, you) but no, I don’t ever plan to move back. — xx

  4. Lovely meditation, Bonnie, although I personally don’t think of you as a nomad. At least you are in the same town for more than a few months! Just got back to the Bay Area from my 3 month road trip to Louisiana, and I’m off for 6 weeks in Puerto Rico next week. LOL….

  5. I think you hit the nail on the head…..without the anchor….we have nothing to keep us in place. Sadly. And yet, travel, adventure and meeting new friends has been the outcome. It’s not all bad.

  6. Dear Bon,

    Moving is so stressful. I’m sorry you have to move again so soon.

    Congratulations on being nominated for the Ekphrastic Award. “Frida and Me” is an excellent name for a book. You could converse with this easily-recognizable woman, believing you have no common ground, only to find that the exotic severity is a mask. I always found her image hard to read. Perhaps beneath the surface you would discover some shared perspective or sensibility.

    I do wish I could be with you and help you move.


    1. Thank you, Paul darling! I’m afraid that my “Frida and Me” flash-fiction piece represents all that I might want to say to Frida. 🙂 Wish you were here too, but not to do any work — just to visit and have fun. — xx

  7. Excellent and I can so relate! Grew up as a bit of a nomad, with dad in the military, we moved all the time. Now I actually find it exciting and comforting. I look forward to meeting new people, seeing new sights, tasting new foods and putting my old chapters of heartbreak and dissapointment into a closed book! LIFE2.0, here I come!

  8. Terrific read. Ay another move. That’s unfortunate. Did the rent for second year go up? Or did you always consider it a one-year transition to find a long term place? Sounds like you’ll still be in wonderland Guadalupe colonia?

    1. Yes, another move, Lyn, but maybe-maybe-maybe this “new” one might be my “Forever Home” in SMA! It has so much potential, and it’s so affordable. And, yes, it’s in Col. Guadalupe.

  9. Bonnie,
    How well I understand your sentiments. We are nomads for better or worse and we make the best of it. Your writing is sterling! I hope to meet you this summer when we pack our bags to get back to SMA from Florence. In Italian we say, ‘Non trova la pace’. (She can’t find peace) That’s me! And you too and everyone else like us, I guess.

    1. Yes, dear Gilda, I had you in mind (and other friends in our position) when I wrote this WOW post — strong women who have learned how to pack up old and set up new tents in this life. We go on! And I look forward to meeting you, too, when you’re back in SMA. — BB

  10. I don’t think of you as a nomad but really more of a nester. You may change addresses but you make your space your own with your special quilts and the few things that keep you content in your space. Your new place will be transformed once you take up residence. So happy you’re still in Guadalupe!!

    1. Thank you, dear Suzanne! By the time you return to SMA it will have undergone its transformation. And it’s only a five minute walk along the arroyo from your casa! — xx

  11. Your burden has been your blessing, Bonnie. Imagine how terrifying that many moves would feel to the timorous and unadventurous. Your experience gave you courage, your courage brought adventure, and adventure has given you breadth and depth. I’m sure it hasn’t always been easy, but of all the people I know, you are the best equipped to handle the practical challenges of it, and you are mentally stable enough to always recalibrate quickly. I think you’re lucky to have seen so much of the world.¸

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