The Tree Lady by Patty LaRoche

With $500 pesos ($25) tucked inside my pocket, I started the two-mile walk to Looney Bean, a famous coffee shop here in Mazatlán, to buy carrot muffins for friends who were arriving that day.  The walk is a pleasant one since a new bike trail has been built in the large median separating the four lanes of traffic.

About half way there, I noticed a young woman on the other side of the road, picking up sticks and dead grass and placing it all in plastic bags.  A few yards away from me in the median, a child’s bike rested against a tree, and since someone recently asked me if I had seen a tree bed in the branches of one of the large trees, I assumed this might be the spot.  Nearing the tree, I looked up and saw a makeshift, camouflage tent nestled in the leaves and balanced on a branch. I took the picture that you see here.

God was preparing an experience I never expected.  Then again, He usually does.

I arrived at Looney Bean and found their sweets’ display case empty.  When I asked the waiter for carrot muffins, he politely said that they wouldn’t be ready “for hours” but he had no idea how many hours. Not typical for this popular tourist spot.

Walking back on the path, I neared “the tree” and spotted that same woman I had seen earlier.  This time, she stood under the tent, staring up at it.  I grabbed my phone and videoed her, and without her seeing me, she raised her arm and pointed straight up.  She remained frozen in that position while I continued moving closer.  I stopped the video as I passed her.

Continuing to look back and noticing her in that same stance, I walked about 20 yards before feeling a definite God-tug to return to the lady at the tree.  Reversing my steps and staying on the bike trail, I stood adjacent to where she stared upward.

“Senora,” I said.  She didn’t move.  I repeated “Senora” louder, and she turned to look at me.  She was delicate, maybe 30 years old, with kind eyes.  In Spanish, I asked her name (which, of course, I immediately forgot). Then I said, “Estás bonita” (“You are beautiful.”)  Her smile was gentle and sincere.

Reaching into my pocket, I handed her the carrot-muffin pesos and said, “Dios le bendiga” (“God bless you”).  She seemed surprised to be given the money.  “Gracias,” she answered genuinely, and I walked home.

I cannot get her out of my mind. What led this woman to this life?  Did she choose this tree because our area of Mazatlán is safe? Or because she is near the beach where she can bathe?  Or simply because the tree is always lush with leaves, unlike many of the others surrounding it at this time of year?

Later that day I drove back to Looney Bean and saw my new amiga sitting on a board under her tree, eating.  I smiled, realizing that God somehow had made sure I didn’t put my money where my mouth was but instead gave someone else the chance to do the same.

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