My most haunting image of a very off-center 2021

My most haunting image of a very off-center 2021

I remember the mirror being off center, the white space behind exposing itself beside the gray of the walls. Everything in Mexico is a bit off center, just to the side, crooked. I’ve tried to figure out this way of living as I’ve dealt with it in my own home. My husband shrugs off tiny things that don’t meet quite right or that need patched and fixed. He’s content with the goodness he has, and the little things? He’s content to let them go.

2021 was a bit off center too. For me it’s held goodness and sadness and a bit of travel. It contained the reuniting of people who love each other as well as a wedding. It’s also exposed the slow creep of knowing what you consider comfort and ease are about to be disrupted by life and destiny, at least for me.

There is an image that haunts me from our trip. I scribbled it in my notes so I could reflect on it later but could never forget as it’s seared into my brain. We were deep in the mountains, somewhere past Pochutla, Oaxaca on our way to the coffee growers, and I was absorbing the scenery like I’d been thirsty for water a very long time.

My phone camera was ever ready to snap every available angle, but I must have been gazing up at the clouds as we neared their vaporous beauty. I looked down as we rounded a corner just in time to see two older indigenous women dressed in their native garb — gray braids against their shoulders — leaning against a guard rail waiting for a bus on this twisty mountain road. They were wearing big surgical masks, regal in their posture, and I was mesmerized by the beautiful juxtaposition of what they represented: two citizens of a country doing what they needed to do to make it to the next day.

I think I missed this photo opportunity for a reason. I wasn’t meant to capture it but to reflect and write on it. It’s a simple act that’s been demonized here, and the breathtaking beauty of those two women wearing their masks in the cool, crisp air of the Sierra Madre mountains will stay with me. I’m certain they don’t feel stripped of any freedoms. I’m certain the glares I still receive for wearing mine in any local store make me long for that moment in time.

I look forward to 2022, and just like I did in 2021, I wish for health and goodness for myself, my family and anyone who decides to read these words. Each word I say — each glance I give — has meaning, impact and leaves an impression into the soft flesh of bodies and the ethereal breadth of souls. I am responsible for what comes off the tips of my fingers and sent into the world. I want to start 2022 remembering my responsibility for the very earth I live on and take up space in. Too often we believe we’re not of this world and in doing so forget we share the very air we breathe with others.

In between the spam of life, don’t let go. We fight every day to be present, but sometimes we are not. Sometimes glares replace smiles and dogma replaces sense. Here’s to a crooked, off-center, messy world. Let’s find its beauty by doing what we need to make it to the next day.

Melissa Herrera is a columnist, published author and drinker of too many coffees. You can find her book, “TOÑO LIVES,” at or buy one from her in person (because all authors have boxes of their own novel). For inquiries or to purchase, email her at