The title should come with a sub-title called ‘Little Miracles’ which I feel compelled to explain first. I have come to look at those tiny inexplicable events that happen in one’s life – things that one could easily dismiss as luck – to now come to regard those same things as little miracles. An example was when we were canoeing last month and on our second or third set of rapids both me and our bag of electronics got dumped out of the boat. Surprisingly the electronics survived because Sarah tied off the garbage bag which I had more or less ignored and just kind of packed it with our phones, my netbook, and stuff. And the place where this miss-hap took place just happened to have been right across from the very first wilderness camping spot on the St. Croix River. This is significantly important for a very big reason. Until then every preceding mile the shoreline was nothing but bog; nothing but a tangle of impenetrable trees that were mostly underwater, meaning there was no place to pull off. And we were to discover later that every mile thereafter, with few exceptions, were bog too.

Now here is the second little miracle that happened just 5 short minutes later. We no sooner got the canoe, ourselves, and our stuff pulled onto shore at this quasi-manicured wilderness camping spot situated on high ground that the sky literally opened up and it poured rain for 40 straight minutes. We tarped up the stuff, I turned the canoe upside propping one end high up on a tree and we took shelter under the canoe. There was a 10 minute break in the rain where we took that opportunity to pitch the tent and it proceeded to rain hard for another hour and a half. We were able to warm up in the tent and change into dry clothes. Coincidence? No. If our accident would have happened 5 minutes earlier or 5 minutes later we would have been royally screwed. We’re talking a big cold rain storm – thunder, lightning, wind, the whole bit – and us with no protective gear. We truly were babes in the wilderness. You can call it whatever you want but to me it was a miracle.

So miracles both big and small are how I choose to look at my life these days; always mindful of the protective hand of the Almighty. Like when I tripped and fell down the stairs two weeks ago; that should have had tragic results especially for an uncoordinated old fool like me. But I escaped with only a torn up toe.

I live in an area populated by some very bad men. Just last week 22 men were killed in yet another cycle of the local violence here in Michoacán. People back home ask me if I am scared. Or people back home tell me to be careful. I am reminded of the preface that W. Somerset Maugham wrote for ‘Appointment in Samarra’ the novel published by John O’Hara in 1934.

The preface goes something like this: A merchant in ancient Baghdad sends his servant to the marketplace to buy food. The servant comes rushing back and says ‘Master, master, lend me your fastest horse so that I may flee to Samarra to escape my fate’! The master asked him what was going on. The servant replied that while he was in the market he happened to jostle an old woman and in turning, he saw that she was Death. The master said, ‘Fine, take a horse and go’. The master was curious so he went down to the market and found the old woman and discovered that she was in fact Death. He asked, ‘Why did you frighten my servant so’? Death shrugged and replied, ‘I didn’t mean to frighten him. I was merely surprised. For tonight I have an appointment with him in Samarra’.

So, getting more on point here I should mention the 7 cigars that turned up just yesterday morning after being missing in action for something like 5 months. Sahuayo doesn’t have a cigar store or sell cigars anywhere; not even their own loathsome brand, Te Amo. A friend of mine brought me down a big box of Flor de Llaneza. And I mean big; it’s like 6” deep and holds 30 or 35 cigars that are 6 ½” long by 54 ring gauge. Anyway, I pretty much have been ignoring the box that sits on a shelf in my workroom until yesterday when I decided I could use the box to store some receipts in. I opened the box and pulled out the paper and a couple of squares of cedar that function as shelves to discover that there were 7 cigars under the last shelf!

I am beside myself with joy and happiness. They are a little dry – it’s rainy season here so the marginally higher humidity has been beneficial. But I will nurse them along to get them back in tip-top shape. Luckily the wrappers are not cracked anywhere so in a couple of weeks I’ll be smoking a cigar.

So you’re thinking, ‘Big deal, it’s just a stupid cigar. That doesn’t sound like much of a miracle to me. And even if there were a God he wouldn’t be in the habit of blessing people by giving them cancer sticks’.

Au contraire my friend. Cigars are not to be thought of as giant cigarettes. Oh, no.

Smoking a cigar isn’t about nicotine. You don’t inhale cigars. For the record, cigars have much more in common with all those things culinary then they do with those things that are habit forming. For instance there are still pre-Castro era cigars in existence. Some of those cigars so lovingly cared for that they have aged like the finest Bordeaux’s. I shiver at the very thought of smoking something so rarified.

In closing I’ll let those non-aficionados of you in on a secret. In smoking a cigar – a good cigar – one hits that place in the cigar that I call the sweet spot. It’s that magical inch (or more) where the flavor is something that can only be described as eating the finest filet mignon; it is that savory, so rich, and so complex. I smoked a Cuban years ago, the flavor of which I will take to the grave; that inch was a mile long of greatness. So yes, those found cigars are a tiny little miracle in my tiny little life.

And may you be equally blessed in finding the joy in small things.

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