into the jungle

We had been sitting in a minivan, facing backwards on a hard handmade bench, for hours as the driver delivered people and goods between the start point and our destination.  We passed through villages, jostled over dirt roads, and witnessed teenaged infatuation, and jealousy.  After the last passengers were delivered to homes or stores, we continued onward into increasingly rural areas, until there was nothing to see outside of the window but a single strip of a two-lane road, and the imposing figures of trees.

The next piece of civilization we came across was a roadblock, guarded by armed men who waited and lounged and watched.  We paid an entrance fee at the hut, and continued on, going deeper still.

A modest complex marks the entrance of the Parque Nacional Tikal, where Mayan ruins happen to haunt a small portion of a jungle, which occupies the entire Northern part of Guatemala.  After dumping our gear in the bungalow where the archeologists who originally excavated and studied the ruins once lived, we ventured out on foot.

The air, wet, sat heavy on our skin, and sank into our clothes. And then a slew of creatures and sounds confronted us.  An alligator lazed in a giant cistern-pond with its Mesozoic snout hovering above the waterline.  Ceiba trees towered above us, and between the chatter of bugs and arguments among birds, there was no silence, no pause in the stream of oscillating frequencies.  Monkeys crashed gracefully from one tree to the next, their approach marked by the sensation of a strong wind menacing the boughs.

Tikal National Park

It is so easy, as an urban dweller whose time in the wilderness is curated, to draw cliched analogies between the jungle and city life.  Patterns of movement, behavior and survival might be applicable to both environments, but they are not the same.

The process of life here in this madness of green is arguably far less managed by the hand of man.  Unfettered to a degree.  When the day flickers off, and night stands in the sky, the insects go from whispering aphrodisiacs and warnings to screaming them.  They are a glimpse into an ecosystem, which is fed by birth and death, foraging and hunting, social relationships, and the chemistry of change. The dirt of the jungle floor is the result of a millennia of these comings and goings, as are the trees and the creatures who are perfectly adapted for that place and its circumstances.

I thought I would be moved by the ruins at Tikal, entranced and beguiled by them; but I never thought the jungle in which they resided would hold so much magic. That place was outside of my experience, raw in ways I couldn’t anticipate.  And this, after only dipping a toe in.  The magic of the jungle swims in my blood, my imagination.  It beckons me to return, and venture deeper still.

i always wanted to, but never did (reflections on change)

At dinner, with a random cadre of people, I learned two restaurants I had always been meaning to check out had closed. “No!” I thought to myself, feeling a peculiar sense of loss, as if an almost friend had been taken away from me. The restaurants were there for years, and I had passed by them for years, always meaning to check them out, but never actually doing it.

“That always seems to happen, right?” someone asked. “There are these cool places, and then they disappear before you have a chance to get to them.”

layers of changes

After I thought about it, the fact that a restaurant had closed became less of a surprise, while my reaction to it became more of one. Why should I be so shocked that something has changed?  After all, the most constant and true thing about life is its mutability. Everything, all around us, even inside us is in a state of flux. Our bodies die in microscopic pieces, and are created anew. The food in the ground sprouts, grows, ripens and decays, sending its potential progeny into the universe to do the same. Asphalt succumbs to the elements and wear, radioactive isotopes decay.

old & new

Change isn’t just about decay and loss. Part of the circle is transformation. The next step in the dance: creation. The example of chrysalis is often paraded about in such discussions. (And how utterly incredible is it that a caterpillar literally dissolves into a sticky gooey mess, undergoes some sort of genetic rewriting, and emerges into this creature with wings?)

The struggle is that the human brain seems to be programmed to prefer constants. We map the world, and commit it to our hardwiring. That coding guides our actions and reactions. As convenient as that is, we have to stay flexible, which perhaps at its heart is about accepting things do not remain the same. And to see the beauty in that.

raw ingredients

I woke up, still hazy from a late night, befuddled by the contrast of the morning light and the feeling that my body wanted to sleep for another 6 hours. Once the grogginess wore off, the contents of my fridge started picking at my brain.

Normally I have two to three meals crammed inside, plus ingredients for more. Maybe it’s psychological. Maybe abundance brings me comfort, either that or I’m just neurotic and overprepared.

This morning, my options were rather limited. Raw ingredients for a tasty start to the day distilled to this: eggs, gouda, and frozen bread.

raw_ingredientsNow, what to do these things? Hardboiled, poached, scrambled, french toast, omelet, empty frittata, grilled cheese, toast. While it doesn’t seem like a lot, three raw ingredients could transform into so many things. All I had to do was imagine, decide, and act.

I decided to indulge in my latest obsession.


frog in a hole

Like magic, disparate ingredients coalesced.  Where I had been irritated at not having the perfect combination of food stuffs at my whim, I became excited about being creative with what I had on hand.

the result

the result

It wasn’t as fancy or colorful or as involved as I wanted it to be.  Yes, avocado and an heirloom tomato in the mix would have been excellent.  But the reality is this: what I have is enough.

underground sketches

2012 May 14-Milano by InkSpot's Blot
2012 May 14-Milano, a photo by InkSpot’s Blot on Flickr.

people gather in the courtyard,
notes scatter on stone, they chit chat
a bubbling rhythm, sound bouncing off columns,
as they wait.
and the musicians come, sitting in the sun in black
coats and pants, sweat
shimmering and horns scaling
as they wait.
he is there, sifting through sheets of
notes turning lines into jungle gyms.
white hair plays the same way.
in the courtyard, in the sun he stands
raises his hands
and they wait