Wednesday, April 13, 2011

SPREADING THE WORD - Jeff's New Guest Post

As El Viajero Contento and my other blog, One Man's Wonder, slowly but surely gain a larger international following, I've been making some wonderful, often serendipitous, acquaintances with other thoughtful bloggers -- kindred spirits, if you will.

One such friend is View From the Pier, a travel blog that is, to tweak a word, wonder-full. Author, photographer and traveler Meg Pier does a superb job of weaving together colorful strands of adventure, human interest and mystical experience in her articles and interviews. Her work has also been published  in the Huffington Post, the Boston Globe and a number of other media, as well as in several of her own books.

I'm proud to say that View From the Pier has published my guest post, IS IT JUST ME? – My Boquete Epiphany. Many thanks to Meg!

HERE'S THE LINK: IS IT JUST ME? – My Boquete Epiphany

Friday, January 14, 2011

NATURE AFTER HOURS – Frog Serenade at Las Ranas

With overexposure threatening the earth’s remaining wild places, we now have to regulate people’s access to many of them. Parks and nature preserves close for the night. Wilderness areas limit the number of people allowed to enter or the length of time they can stay. In a way, this is sad, but I suppose it’s a good thing, considering how many of Nature’s gifts we’ve already managed to love to death. 

Were they addressing the spirits that dwell here? Or were they the spirits?

Still, I’ve often wondered if Nature isn’t one step ahead of us. Do you think she might, out of sheer spite, decide to wait until these places empty out and close their gates for the day before letting down her guard and revealing her best? 

My friend, Silverio, and I were exploring the northeast corner of the Mexican heartland state of QuerĂ©taro. 

Climbing into the Sierra Gorda, we came to Las Ranas, the archeological site of a pre-Hispanic Totonaca town, featuring nicely excavated and restored pyramids surrounded by elaborate, walled stone terraces stair-stepping up the side of a steep hill. Turns out we’d arrived pretty close to the site’s surprisingly early closing time. The two disheveled guards told us sternly to make it quick, and that we’d better be out by 4:00.
We wandered among the immutable gray stone structures. One was an arena of sorts, site of the ancient pelota game (which looked, in artists’ representations, like a precursor to soccer). Silverio told me this game, though not played any more, remains an important symbol to many Mexicans. I’d heard elsewhere that the Aztecs took it so seriously that losers were routinely sacrificed to the gods!

...the wave had crested right over us, filling the treetops, inundating us in a raucous chorus of dry, raspy twittering.

By the time we'd worked our way up to the highest spot on the site, I noticed that the few other visitors had all left; it was already after four. The prospect occurred to me of being locked overnight inside what might be a pretty eerie place in the dark. Should we rush out? Then we remembered we’d actually parked outside the gate and could easily scale the flimsy fence. We looked at each other, at the timeless structures surrounding us, and then at the gorgeous view across the lush gorge. What the hell, we decided, they'll just have to come get us. (In fact, we didn’t see them again.)

Now that we had the place to ourselves, everything felt different. It was that rare sense of privilege you experience when you have something really good all to yourself. We sat in silence for several minutes, soaking in the stillness, communing in our own ways with whatever spirits might still dwell there.

Illustration: Katy Farina

Suddenly an incredible drama started to play out. In the distance, from the bottom of the gorge, we heard a faint, eerie murmuring sound, like people whispering—lots of people. Then, like a tsunami, the sound swept up the hillside toward us, swelling in its intensity. Within about ten seconds, the wave had crested right over us, filling the treetops, inundating us in a raucous chorus of dry, raspy twittering. Then the wave ebbed, sweeping back down the hillside and fading back to stillness. It all took less than a minute.

Our awe gave way to more curiosity. Could this be how the place got its name? Did the frogs always act like this, waiting every day until they thought they were alone before speaking out so unanimously? Were they addressing the spirits that dwell here? Or were they the spirits?