Monthly Archives: April 2011

Musing At the End of Day 5…

I’m the sort of person who is pretty open to new ideas. I think it’s cool to try on different hats. And I like to find creative solutions to issues I have. It’s always interesting to see the outcome of the experiment.

The idea of a retreat is certainly not my own. Spiritual groups have done them for eons. And the concept of the women’s retreat is very much in fashion. A friend of mine did a personal retreat a couple of years ago and felt it helped her very much.

The lead up to mine bordered on burnout. I felt tired all the time, I couldn’t get the eating under control, made excuses for not exercising, was behind on my novel re-write, not sleeping well and involved in too many activities.

I wondered what it would be like to simply check out for a couple of weeks? The response from friends and family has been varied – with some scoffing at the concept and others, championing it. I myself wondered if I could handle the discipline, and reach my goals.

I am 1/3 the way through now and I am extremely pleased with the results so far. So next time you (or someone else) hatches a unconventional plan – give it serious consideration. I’m glad I did.

Here is Part 3 of “The Odyssey”:


An Odyssey

Part Three

It seemed as though the buildings were besieged by omnipresent green. They strained toward the sky, attempting to release themselves from the sinuous vines that tethered them to the earth. The stories of King Pacal, The Red Queen, and Chaac Balum swirled through my head as I immersed myself in their sculpted company and read splendid testimonials to their greatness. At one point, it poured rain. We huddled together in the recessed cavern with the Foliated Cross, mesmerized as steam rose, veiling the ancient city in gossamer.

After cavorting with the kings all day, we returned to the same second floor table we’d occupied the evening before and wondered over all we’d witnessed. I cannot describe the depth of joy that bubbled up through me. I told my husband that I wished that I’d brought my sketchpad instead of my camera on this trip.

“Why?” he asked.

I answered him as best I could. “A camera locks an image in. Drawing creates a memory but allows the subject to stay free.”

He frowned in confusion, then gave me a hug and said, “I’m sure we could find some paper and pencil crayons somewhere.”

“I’d like that,” I replied.

After one more sound sleep in our musty third floor nest, we made our way to the bus station and, not too much later, hunkered into seats 12 and 13. Almost immediately, the bus began climbing through first lush, then increasingly arid foothills.

My inner flower child seemed to be alive and well. Only 60’s lexicon could adequately describe the ride that day – Mexico’s magnificence blew me away! On the pages of my new notebook, I drew madly in great, swirling, colorful swoops.

“That doesn’t look like anything I’m seeing,” said my pensive husband.

“No,” I told him, “It looks like how I’m feeling.”

As I gazed out through the dusty window, I heard the motor groan, and in my pelvis I felt the strain as the bus forged laboriously through the mountain range known as La Sierra Madre. My breath came short and quick as we careened wildly around hairpin curves on what the driver euphemistically called a highway. It took seven hours to lurch over about two hundred topes – speed bumps – and ascend over two thousand meters to San Cristóbal de las Casas. But it didn’t occur to me to feel afraid. I was completely enthralled with the entire experience.

*** Note: The short story “Four by Four” has been uploaded to the “Writing” page. This is located just below the header. Click there to read the full text.

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Day Three

Day Three and all is well… Here’s Part Two of  The Odyssey…

An Odyssey

Part Two

As our bus splashed through puddled wetlands – bananas, heliconia, and dieffenbachia grew right up to the pavement, and the steamy, humid air heralded the proximity of the rain forest and Palenque. This Mayan city is considered to be the most spectacular of southeastern Mexico’s more than 1,600 archaeological sites.

 La Posada Tucán, located a block off Palenque’s main plaza would be our home for the next two nights. Soaping myself in the tiny shower while hot, sudsy water washed down over my body, I realized that it doesn’t take very much to make me happy.

Off to find food, we felt like two kids playing hooky. Brightly colored scarves, wall hangings, pillow shams, and table cloths tempted me to put off finding sustenance until he said, “Don’t buy anything here.  You’ll see all the textiles you could ever want when we get to the highlands.” Not fully appeased, I nonetheless set down the placemats I wanted and followed him up a flight of stairs. He claimed there was a restaurant on the second floor and he was right. Not for the first time had my husband’s prodigious memory served us well.

Seated on a breezy balcony that overlooked the action, we drank several very potent margaritas and ate a hearty meal of carne a la tampiqueña – seared flank steak accompanied by refried beans, cumin-seasoned rice, tangy guacamole and a crispy golden enchilada.  Too, too good!  We watched the bouncy marimba band and the enthusiastic gyrations of the dancers until our eyes could no longer stay open.

Back to El Tucán we crept, and crawled gratefully into the two twin beds. Flat out exhausted, we slept like the dead, but woke up fully refreshed, long before the sun had risen over the distant hills. Slinking to my side of the room, he filled my head with stories of the wonders we’d see today.

Dressed and out on the street by six, we felt lucky to find a still-operating night shift taxi; the sleepy driver smiled, happy to accept his last fare before heading home to his café con leche and a comfortable hammock.

On site at first light, we stood humbled by Palenque – the City of Kings, soaring up through the dense and bountiful forest. Howler monkeys cried out and bright green parrots darted between the sunbeams that shone through the branches of the broad-leafed breadfruit trees. All-pervasive creepers twirled up and hung down from every tree trunk, and dewy moss coated the flat rock roadway into the site.

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Day Two

Day Two is almost a done deal. And how am I? Well… I won’t say this is a day at the beach… But I must say this cleanse is not nearly as difficult as I had feared. I already feel better and that’s enough for now.

The writing is great. I have rough drafts for 1 ½ of the 12 chapters I hope to finish reviewing during my retreat. A friend sent an email saying that “Virginia Wolfe would be proud”

In the exercise category, I’m also getting full marks today. I walked for an hour and swam laps for 30 minutes. I did some laundry too and hanging out the wash has to count for some major credit.

I almost forgot about not using the phone and started dialing a friend but I remembered in time… Be sure, all of you are in my thoughts.

Keeping in mind that this is a writing blog, I will share another story with you… this time in five parts. By chance a hurricane is also part of this one but it’s oh so different from the last.

An Odyssey

Part One

I tossed most of the night. My body felt taught and I couldn’t bear how my spine and the backs of my thighs stuck to the damp, rumpled cotton sheets. I pulled my hair up off the back of my neck and splayed it over the pillow but no matter how I positioned myself, I could find no relief from the oppressive heat. Finally, in surrender, I threw my legs over the edge and slumped down onto the cool floor.

He let out his own defeated sigh, lifted himself up and piled into the hammock. One bare foot protruded from the blue striped cocoon and rhythmically pushed against our bedroom wall, producing an irritating thump-pause… thump-pause… thump…  I gritted my teeth as I lay spread-eagle on the somewhat cooler but terribly unyielding pasta tiles.

It had been four days since Hurricane Isadora slammed hard into Mérida. The power was out and it would be at least another 72 hours before it returned. No AC to cool us down, not even a fan to move the heavy, humid air. We had no running water, telephone, or ice. The room fell silent – no more thumping.

Lying in front of the wide-open window, I tried to catch the breeze that blew teasingly outside in the night. I begged, “Take me somewhere cool.” By that I meant maybe the Holiday Inn for the rest of the night and tomorrow… I knew they had a private generator.

He said “Let’s go to Chiapas! When can you be ready?”

Thank you Jesus, Mary and all the saints! While stumbling around the moonlit room, foraging for a few pieces of clothing and sundries to stuff into my pack, I answered, “Twenty minutes – tops!” I wouldn’t give him half a chance to change his mind.

I felt guilty leaving everyone behind.  I could be helping in the citizens’ clean-up campaign, but no – I didn’t feel quite guilty enough. The ADO motor coach with servicio directo to Palenque would depart at 7 am.

It was to be a modest trip.  We like small hotels and eateries just as well as large chains. We actually prefer bus trips to driving. Some years ago, in South America, I became seasoned to travel on the spring-less seats of salvaged school buses. Since then, riding long distances has never been an issue.

It had been too many years since we last passed along Campeche’s lazy stretches of jade and emerald colored coastline. As we snaked through the fishing village of Champotón , we snickered over the name of the shrimp bar we saw on the left-hand side of the road – El Viagra. That quirky naivety, unique to people from the pueblos is something we’d missed.

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