The Puddle of Genius

Tree size cholla cactus in El Charco del Ingenio

Tree size cholla cactus in El Charco del Ingenio

A mile or so east of the Parroquia in old San Miguelle de Allende—and up hill all the way—is a high desert botanical garden with the unlikely name of “The Puddle of Genius.” It sounds better in Spanish—El Charco del Ingenio—but then almost everything sounds better in Spanish. The garden / ecological park takes its name from a small pool of water at the bottom of the canyon that had spiritual relevance to the indigenous people.

A beautiful location with a mystical provenance and a funny name—this is exactly the kind of Magic Realism detail I like to put include in my fiction (Owl Dreams, Southwest Gothic Tales, Messages).

Back in the old days, when times were tough holy men would head for The Puddle of Genius and wait for the spirits to send them a brilliant solution to their current problems. People did

Cactus in El Charco Del Ingenio

Cactus in El Charco Del Ingenio

that sort of thing all the time before the Internet. They’d sit in the shade, clear their minds and wait for a supernatural connection. It worked for the indigenous holy men about as well as it worked for the Dalai Lama—no math problems or romantic issues please—and if things didn’t turn out well the thinker could always blame it on a higher power.

Puddle magic blessed me with an epiphany as soon as I reached the garden: “Next time I’ll take a cab.”

That’s the spiritual recommendation if you want to visit El Charco del Ingenio. Taxi’s are easy to find in San Miguel. The fairs are zoned and drivers will take out of shape Americans to from the center of town to the garden for fifty pesos (A little less than four U.S.D.). You’ll feel a lot

Old Steel Aqueduct in El Charco Del Ingenio

Old Steel Aqueduct in El Charco Del Ingenio

better about the 250 acres of trails if you don’t start off out of breath and it will please the supernatural park rangers.

The botanical garden has historical features as well as native desert plants. Pre-Columbian tools and ceramics have been found in caves scattered through the valley. You’ll see ruins of Spanish colonial buildings overgrown with vegetation. The walls and sluice of an old mill remain along with the

View of San Miguel on the walk back from El Charco Del Ingenio.

View of San Miguel on the walk back from El Charco Del Ingenio.

foundations of a Hacienda, a functional 19th century dam, and the infrastructure for an aqueduct built in the first half of the 20th century.

With all of its antiquities, you’d think the park has been around for a very long time, but it was actually inaugurated in 1991. Like everything in Mexico, the opening was coordinated with an astronomical event—a total eclipse of the sun.

Celebrations of equinoxes and solstices are common at El Charco del Ingenio. They are timed to coincide with similar festivals held in the old part of San Miguel.

My wife (a master gardener and major plant enthusiast) timed our visit after the first serious rain in the month of March, a few days after the equinox. The Jacaranda trees and the cactus were in bloom, the views from the park were gorgeous, and the spirits were free with good advice.


“Crossing” was published by Deepwood Publishing in the Ruined Cities anthology on Thanksgiving Day, 11/27/13.

 Opening Paragraphs:

Who’d have thought there’d be so many wrecked cars on the Oklahoma River Bridge? Rusted out hulks, left over from the riots when people didn’t know which way to run. Mary makes the sign of the cross; the way old time Catholics did when things might go terribly wrong.

“In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.” She synchronizes the words with the motion of her hand—exactly like Raj showed her before he went away.

It feels good to be in control of something, even if the something is a ritual from the olden times. There’ll be so many things Mary can’t control when she starts across the bridge. Every wreck is a hiding place for something deadly: a wild dog, a coyote, a man left over from the olden times.

A bad man; is there any other kind, now that Raj is gone? Mary crosses herself one more time, sucking up to God just in case he’s real. She whispers a silent prayer that there are men like Raj on the other side of the bridge. Exactly like him, only less dad-like. Men the right age for Mary. Good looking men who aren’t solitary killers or members of misogynist boy-gangs who give a whole new meaning to the idea of one night stands.

You can buy an electronic version of Ruined Cities, which includes “Crossing” and fifteen other stories at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Kobo.