Wanderings through life, landscapes, and occasional loopiness. So pull up a log and have a bit of a sit-down ’round the virtual campfire.

To Heed or Not to Heed

I was thinking the other day about advice. The good kind. The common-sense-passed-down-from-your-ancestors kind of advice. Simple little things like “look before you leap,” for example. The kind of advice that you wish, say, world leaders might actually take into serious consideration.

In the American Southwest, where I grew up, there’s a legend about a woman called “La Llorona” (yo-ROH-nuh), a spirit who wanders local waterways seeking her lost children. In the tale, La Llorona was a beautiful woman from a small village. One day, for strange reasons, she apparently threw her two young children into a river and then, realizing what she had done, she starved herself to death, finally collapsing and dying on a riverbank. But she continues searching for her children and in her eternal rage and grief, she occasionally attempts to snatch live people and drag them into waterways.
For those of you who grew up in or who live in New Mexico, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. For those of you who didn’t but who visit, you’ll probably see a certain bumper sticker more than a few times. It says “Ditches are Deadly! Stay Away!” and it features an old crone glaring at you. Unlike the legend, however, the woman on the sticker resembles the witch from the Grimms’ “Hansel and Gretel.” In the legend, however, La Llorona is a tall, thin, ethereal beauty dressed in white.

Anyway, the point is, you don’t want to go messing around in New Mexico’s acequias or arroyos because holy crapoli, some scary-ass witch will jump out and drag you in. Forget the drowning thing, which is the real reason you shouldn’t be messing around en los arroyos. You don’t want the witch grabbing yer ankles. And if everybody knew La Llorona was pretty, they’d probably WANT to go messing around in the ditches. And that would be bad because a flash flood might come along and sweep you…well, not to the Gulf of Mexico. More likely, floodwaters would pin you against something (like, say, some other idiot who decided to go swimming in a flash flood or perhaps a tree branch of some kind or the grated mouth of a drain pipe) and you might be meeting up with La Llorona’s lost children. Anyway, I’m sure that’s the reason the bumper sticker portrays her as some wart-nosed stereotypical Halloween witch: To keep you from looking for a hot spirit date down by the water.

So every summer, I think about La Llorona and how she’s become “good advice.” I think about the people who don’t listen. It’s because of them that we create legends that become advice that we pass along to others. So when you find yourself at a river’s edge—metaphorical or actual—ask yourself whether you want to heed applicable advice or whether you want to become advice. Because the La Lloronas of the world aren’t looking for a romantic rendezvous in the moonlight and sometimes, neither should you.

To Heed or Not to Heed

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