I started this several years ago and put it away, not to rediscover it until Saturday, when my daughter planned an alebrije-painting session for the family as a Christmas present. I did the patterns on the tongue, top fangs, and right cheek then. I want to complete it and hang it on the wall, instead of consigning it to a drawer of half-painted and unpainted critters, so this evening I started painting the sides of the face. Even using acrylic markers, I can’t get the precision and intricate detail of Oaxacan artists, but they are my beacon.

To paint alebrijes is to be back in Oaxaca: sitting around tables with a dozen other norteamericanos in the upper terrace of the Oaxaca Lending Library. Painting my very first one (a sea turtle) in the town square of San Martín Tilcajete during a festival dedicated to this, the town’s signature art form. Sitting at home (home for our six-month sabbatical), at the table we had bought in the huge market, Abastos, strewn with the evidence of our various projects, such as the long huizache pod I had picked up from under a tree in the neighborhood, captivated by the geometry patterning its surface also.