Posted by: ktzefr | April 28, 2016

Haiku — short, but not always sweet

First frog of spring; Photo:KFawcett

First frog of spring; Photo:KFawcett

This is what I love about haiku:  A few words can hold a lot of meaning or form an arresting image or create a mood;  they record the high moments of life and depend on the power of suggestion to be effective.  A haiku is a starting point for trains of thought and emotion, so the reader has to fill in the details, make the connections, and discover the larger story for himself. 

Here are some of my favorites from the haiku masters (17th to 19th century).  Each could be the beginning of a story.  This first one is by Moritake.

“Fallen petals rise

Back to the branch – I watch:



~ Moritake was a Shinto priest whose work was often inspired by religion.  “Fallen petals” comes from a line of scripture that asks: “Can a fallen blossom return to its branch?”) Most haiku indicate the season in one way or another either by image or direct statement, as in Basho’s wild violets of spring…

“Here on the mountain pass,

Somehow they draw one’s heart so –

Violets in the grass.”


~ Matsuo Basho was born in the mid-1600s of samurai blood.  This was a stable period in which men of the warrior class turned their energies to the art of peace.  Poetry was one of the most popular art forms.


“Oh, these spring days!

A nameless little mountain,

Wrapped in morning haze!”


Basho’s “nameless little mountain” reminds me of some of my favorite sights — the Appalachian hills of my childhood, the fairy-tale cloud forests of Costa Rica, Ecuador’s Valley of the Dawn among the volcanoes, and the distant Sierra Madre on my morning walks in Mexico.  I love cloud-draped mountains!

Likewise, I’ve had many days this spring when I’ve been out walking and caught a sweet scent in the air that I couldn’t identify.  Much like the following…


“From what tree’s bloom

It comes, I do not know,

But – this perfume!”


A couple of days ago I was working on the back porch when I heard a frog croaking/singing, and I searched until I found him inside the hollow leg of a plastic shelf that holds several of my son’s bonsai trees.  It’s shady in this tunnel of the shelf leg and he can hide in close proximity to the insects that flit about the little trees. 

By coincidence I flipped a page and came to one of my favorite frog haiku.  This one by Kikaku who showed a childish delight in his work where others tended to be more serious.  The frog in the poem is a fun image, but it’s also a comment on human life.  Is the frog swinging with joy or is he clinging to a single leaf, his feet dangling in the air? 

“A tree frog, clinging

To a banana leaf –

And swinging, swinging.”

And this one –

“The dawn is here:

And ho! – out of peach bloom the voice

Of Chanticleer.”


I’ve been awakened by the voice of roosters in the Kentucky hills and in the Andes Mountains and on islands in the Caribbean.  A rooster’s voice at 5 a.m. sounds the same, no matter what language he speaks!  


This one, by Kakei, also reminds me of home in Kentucky.

“Dawnlight, and from the well

Up comes the bucket – in it

A camellia-bell.”


Our neighbors had the kind of well with a long, cylindrical bucket that had to be dropped down by rope, filled, and then pulled up again when they needed water.  There were no camellias around, but there was a tall pear tree on the hill above the well where a wild climbing rose had managed to weave its way almost to the top.  The well had to be covered except when in use to keep out debris.  I can imagine a well bucket full of water – and rose petals.


Cherry blossoms are a common theme for Japanese poets.  I can understand why — their sudden beauty after a cold winter, the falling blossoms, the rebirth every spring.  On my morning walks the past few weeks I have enjoyed watching the new cherry buds bloom, walking through the “rain” of petals, and now seeing the flowers cover the ground like pink snow.  I like this one by Onitsura.

“They blossom, and then

We gaze, and then the blooms

Scatter, and then…”


~ Onitsura was another poet of samurai birth who started composing at a young age.  Like many other poets, he often makes a sort of equation between human beings and inanimate objects, ascribing to the trees, for example, the same feelings that people have.


“How cool the breeze:

The sky is filled with voices –

Pine and cedar trees.”

When I was a child I could look out my bedroom window and see a pine forest.  My friends and I spent long hours playing in the pines.  The “voices” of the poem could be that of the trees, the rustling sound they make in the breeze, or the song of birds, perhaps.  But I read it and remember all those childhood voices – the laughter and excitement and squeals of delight.


Many poems have also been written about spring rain.  The following two are by Buson.  Taniguchi Buson was equally famous as a painter and is considered in Japan to be one of the best of the haiku masters.  He wrote more than 30 haiku about spring rain.  The first of these two is probably one of his least sophisticated poems, but it’s one of my favorites.  The second suggests a darker side of things.  Its effect is utterly Buson.

“Spring rain: and as yet

The little froglets’ bellies

Haven’t got wet.”


“As the spring rains fall,

Soaking in them, on the roof,

Is a child’s rag ball.”



A great deal of emotion can be packed into a pocket full of words.  And the emotion can change, as in the following poem by Taigi, or be left to the reader to discern, as in Kito’s poem.  Both poets were pupils of Buson.

“A flitting firefly!

‘Look!  Look there!’ I start to call –

But there is no one by.”


Excitement is meant to be shared.  I feel lonely when there is no one around at some special moment.   But there is a more profound sadness when, in my excitement, I think about sharing something with a particular person and then suddenly realize that they will never be around again.


“Evening haze:

When memories come, how distant

Are the bygone days.”


This last one is by Issa, one of Japan’s best-loved haiku poets.  It’s another look at spring rain and could easily be the beginning of a story…

“Rain on a spring day:

to the grove is blown a letter

someone threw away.”


Who threw it away?  Why?  Who found it?  What did they do with it?  What did the letter say?  Fill in the details, make the connections, discover the larger story….  One amazing thing about life is this:  everyone’s story is different!















Kwansan CherryI have always loved poetry.  I came of age in Appalachia in the 60s, but I didn’t read much poetry in school and rarely read works for kids.  When everyone else was out of the house, I stood in front of the living room fireplace, as if on stage, and “sang” words written by Lord Byron and Shelley and Wordsworth — poems in an old book my dad kept on the bookshelf.  The Golden Treasury of Songs and Lyrics with notes by Francis T. Palgrave, who was then noted as being the “late professor of poetry” at Oxford, was first published in 1908.  As an elementary school kid, I often didn’t have a clue as to the meaning of what I was reading/singing, but I loved the words and images and rhythms of poetry.   (This classic anthology was brought back in print in February 2016 after many decades of being out of print.  Available HERE.)

 A few words, an image, or analogy can send me packing – traveling vicariously back to childhood, home, or another special place or time.  Though it has happened many times over the years, I continue to be startled when memories of home surface in a faraway place – or a poem.  This has happened to me in town plazas in Latin America, watching families enjoying “the park” at night, or witnessing a downpour in a rain forest and being overpowered by the memory of that wet-earth scent that comes after a shower in the Kentucky hills.  And so it is with poems…

 In the US during the 60s there was a lot of talk – and tomes written – about “finding” oneself.  As if every young person was lost.  I wasn’t.  Thanks to my Appalachian heritage, I knew who I was.  My goal was to explore every new avenue I could imagine through reading, travel, and making friends.  What fun this still is!

 The following Hindi poets writing in the 60s came from a very different “home” than the place where I grew up.  But maybe…not so different after all.  


~from “Fruits of the Earth” by Sumitra Nandan Pant


 “Childhood.  I planted pennies in the yard and dreamed

Penny trees would grow.  I heard the air sweet

With the silvery ringing of my clustered crop

And strutted round like a big fat millionaire.

Ah fantasy!  Not a single sprout came up;

Not one tree appeared on that barren ground:

Swallowed in dusk, blighted my dreams.

On hands and knees I scratched for a sign of growth;

Stared into darkness.  What a fool I was!

I gathered the fruit I had sown.  I had watered coins.”


(I never planted pennies, but who hasn’t done something similarly foolish as a child?)


 ~from “Sudden Laughter” by Shamsher Bahadur Singh


“By a cut-off path and somber waterfall

The sky defined by a fuzzy draggle of clouds,

…here, that dark young girl

Has suddenly relieved the air with laughter.”


(On the playground or in the classroom or sitting with friends in a tree…a tense or sad or frightening moment could be totally quelled by someone’s sudden belly laugh.)



 ~from “A Star Quivered” by Kirti Chaudhari

“A star quivered in a corner of the sky.

I thought, yes

Everything sometime or other will shine out like this.”


(Don’t all kids want to shine – sometime?)



 ~from “Cloud in the Canyon” by Dharmavir Bharati

“Though sun is still hidden,

Its haze-blurred light between peaks

Flashes like a supernatural gleam;

Rivers now vein the land below with their shine;

And, through the milky glass of air,

Spruces glitter like arched steel;

And slowly mist, layer by layer, crumbles

Here, then there;

Sun like heated gold

Showers down

Bringing to blossom whole villages.”


(I am reminded of mornings in Kentucky, living in a valley surrounded by hills that were draped in mist, and how the mist slowly vanished as the sun melted it away, revealing the meadows and houses, like the blossoming of a village.)


 ~from “Spring Wind” by Kedar Nath Agrawal


“Allow me; I’m the wind.

Spring wind; that’s my name.

 I am the very one

Who has toyed with the sky

For centuries, and did it



I am the one, yes I,

Who whistled harmony

To the sweet air

Of earth’s first day.


I am the very one

Who drops the biting wine

(Spelled “Love”) on every tongue

To keep all creatures young.”


(Spring.  Youth.  Renewal.  Love.  That’s what it’s all about!)


 ~from “Time” by Naresh Kumar Mehta


“Let us make this lake endure

Not by touching it

Not by sitting at its shore,

But by looking together into its mirror,

Dedicating ourselves to it,

This water,

Which is time.”


(I like reflections in water – what you can see and what is hidden, and how these change over time.  But they are never as revealing as a mirror, which loves to show wrinkles and bulges and other evidence of Time’s handiwork.) 


~from “A Single Shooting Star” by Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh


“A distant star

Shoots through the blue of space.

Here, someone measures its speed,

Records the rise and set…


With equal speed,

Another lone star seems

To move across the space

Of every man’s heart.  So,

In moving out of shades

Of evil, reining self,

Riding the void, each star

Becomes the image seeing

Its own fearless offspring—

Because of this I shall

Put faith in every man,

In every man’s son.”


(Wasn’t it easier in childhood to believe in the goodness of all people?)


 ~from “Stump” by Nirala (Suryakant Tripathi)

“A mere stump,

All foliage gone,

Done with making.


Spring approaches and it does not quiver with anticipation.

Spring arrives and it does not bend to a bow under the

  Green  weight.

Nor does the love god, concealed in its branches, shoot

  From that bow

 Keen arrows carved of its pungent blossoms.

No traveler rests in its shade,

No lover weeps in the spot of shade

Cast by an old blind bird who sits there

 Dumbly recalling the music it once could make.”


(Ah…at some point, don’t we all become “old blind birds dumbly recalling the music we once made”?  Maybe that’s just me.)


 ~from “A Moment on Green Grass” by Agyeya (Sachchidananda Vatsyayan)


 “We may for a moment

Recall automatically

A boat plying on the river,

The first showers of July

Spattering on a dusty path,

Swimming together in the lake,

Unprovoked laughter beneath the banyan tree,

Your sunburned face, lines of your hair

Fixed on the face by beads of sweat,

Pine forest, two horses running together,

The wind soaked with the river…

Honey from the comb…

The dusty smell of the half-known acacia tree…

The sun dropping behind the dome of the mosque,

Glossy rocks by the spring…



A hand’s width of shade on the sand beneath the shrub…

Hot wind.



We recall without effort.

We do not think.

We are running for the shelter of the past.”


(Nature.  Love.  Memories.  All pretty much the same everywhere.  All searching for shelter.)


 ~from “Fragments of Doubt” by Prabhakar Machwe

“The solitude questions the waterfall’s continual babbling;

The asking of trees is put by the birds’ wild mocking;

Hint of more asking is in the rainbow’s arching;

I’ve brought two fragments of doubt in the bag of my



(Why is it easier to appear to be an authority and keep doubts hidden in a bag than to admit a lack of knowledge or understanding?)


 ~from “Impressions of Water” by Raghuvir Sahay


“Lightning flash.

Rains pour down in a dense forest far off.

Noon; dark lake; a branch of mango drooping over it.

Breeze: I stand by the window…and the spray

Of the breeze has touched me.

Suddenly night: sand suddenly upon the other side,

Suddenly a calm, deep river

Comes into sight.

…So water leaves its many marks                                   

Upon the mind.”


(Water – spring floods in Appalachia; the pink water of the salt flats in Mexico; Caribbean blue, the prettiest water in the world.   A mind over a lifetime can collect thousands of images of water that can stir every kind of emotion.  This must mean something…)


~from “Search for Directions” by Shambhunath Singh


“Those directions may be mine

Where unheard sound

Leaves traces on the wind,

Where reveries

Sparkle with truth;

Each solitary lane,

Each unsniffed breeze,

Each empty path—

Those directions may be mine,

Mine alone.”


(I don’t mind getting lost.  I’ve made many wonderful discoveries by switching direction and making the new one mine!)


All of the poems can be found in Modern Hindi Poetry: an anthology, edited by Vidya Niwas Misra and published in 1968.

Posted by: ktzefr | April 18, 2016

Poetry and Blackbirds…

Sometime in March I was looking out the kitchen window and saw blackbirds at the feeder.  Grackles?  Cowbirds?  I grabbed the binoculars.  The birds were a deep, glossy black…with a yellow band on the wings, like a racing stripe on a car.  Then one bird flexed his wings and flashed his bright red epaulets at the world as if signaling in another new season.  Redwings!

Our yard is usually a quick stop on the migration route for the red-winged blackbirds as they continue on wherever they go every spring.  But this year it looks like they’ve decided to stay.  There are several males, but no females yet.  They show up later, after the males have found a suitable place to nest.  When the girls arrive the boys will compete for their attention, each one trying to prove he is the biggest and flashiest red-wing around.  I’m keeping a keen eye out for this display.  I don’t want to miss the show.  And I do hope the females are happy with the neighborhood. 

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

In celebration of National Poetry Month and the return of the red-winged blackbirds — this by the famous Kentucky poet, Robert Penn Warren, from the anthology Bright Wings


“How far a-winging to keep this appointment with April!

How much breath left in reserve to fill

The sky of washed azure and whipped-cream cumuli

With their rusty, musical, heart-plumbing cry!

On sedge, winter-bit but erect, on old cattails, they swing.

Throats throb, your field glasses say, as they cling and sing —

If singing is what you call that rusty, gut-grabbing cry

That calls on life to be lived gladly, gladly…

The globe grinds on, proceeds with the business of Aprils and men.

Next year will redwings see me, or I them, again then?

If not, some man else may pause, awaiting that rusty, musical cry,

And catch — how gallant — the flash of epaulets scarlet against blue sky.”


Live life gladly this spring!


“Redwing Blackbirds” by Robert Penn Warren, from Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds, Edited by Billy Collins with Paintings by David Allen Sibley.

Photo: Drawing of the red-winged blackbird from the Reader’s Digest Book of North American Birds.

Posted by: ktzefr | March 11, 2016

Bunz: Squirrel With No Tail


Bunz, the tailless squirrel; Photo:KFawcett

Bunz, the tailless squirrel; Photo:KFawcett

He made it through the winter!   The first time I saw him I figured he wouldn’t make it at all. I don’t know if he’s a genetic anomaly or if some critter caught his tail and wouldn’t let go.  I can’t get too up close and personal with the little guy, but from a variety of angles it’s obvious that there isn’t even a stub or a puff of a tail.  Just buns.  Or Bunz, as we call him.

I watch squirrels perform all sorts of acrobatic feats in the trees in my yard.  Those bushy tails are not just for looks.  A tail is to a squirrel as a pole is to a tightrope walker; it helps the critter stay balanced as it leaps from tree to tree or shimmies onto a narrow branch or electric wire or a slippery gutter running along the rooftop.  A squirrel’s tail is also used to communicate with other squirrels.  A flicking tail means the animal is alarmed.  A tail that suddenly fluffs up means it’s feeling aggressive.  A tail has other practical purposes, too.  It can serve as a blanket in the winter.  The bushiest tails make cozy wraps.  In summer they can be hoisted overhead like an umbrella to provide a built-in shady spot for a critter in the sun.

So…I wondered, knowing the community of squirrels as I do and being on a first-name basis with the ones on my street, this: how will the poor little guy possibly survive the winter?  Would the others accept him?  Would anybody want to live with him (they do like to share nests in winter)?  Would the others reject him outright?  Take his food?  Steal his nest?  Bully him?

I don’t have a clue what happened in the nests or trees or otherwise out of my sight over the winter, but I gave him peanuts when he came to the door — and there was no schedule to this, no rhyme nor reason to the timing of his visits.  Yesterday, he came up on the deck when I was working on the laptop and I brought out a few pecans (special treat) and he found a shady spot, ate the nuts, and stretched out to sleep.

Guess a tail is not all it’s cracked up to be.  Maybe he doesn’t need one.


Squirrel Wisdom

No one except the squirrels is out and about at daybreak,

as they scurry up and down the trees, leaping

from the maple to the dogwood to the beech,

grasping onto branches that bend and sway

but do not break.

Squirrels, sharing their squirrel wisdom.

Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Aren’t we always trying to find a branch to grasp —

  One branch that will bend and sway

but will not break.


Posted by: ktzefr | March 4, 2016

St. Croix “Blues” and Poetry

St. Croix; Photo:KFawcett

St. Croix; Photo:KFawcett


In the ocean there are many bright strands

and many dark strands like veins that are

seen when a wing is lifted up.  Your hidden

self is blood in those, those veins that are

lute strings that make ocean music, not the

sad edge of surf, but the sound of no shore.

~ Rumi, from Masnavi

Rumi’s Masnavi is composed in filaments and fragments with no satisfying beginning, middle, or end.  Yet it feels complete in the way, perhaps, that a person is whole or a day is whole or an ocean is whole.   Experiment.  Pick up the poem and start reading anywhere.  See how it connects to your own life.



Posted by: ktzefr | March 2, 2016

Foto Focus on Orchids

I have a bunch of orchids that never bloom.  I put them outside in summer and they look very green and healthy.  I bring them inside in winter and alternate setting them in the sun and out of the sun.  I water thoroughly and then forget to water for long periods of time.  I’ve been told by various people to do this or that and I’ve done this and that and they don’t bloom.  So…I enjoy visiting the local orchid shows in late winter/early spring.

Orchids in Focus is always a great exhibit at the US Botanic Gardens.  The current show opened on February 27 and goes through April 1 in the Conservatory Garden Court and East Gallery.

Here are a few favorite pics:

Orchids; Photo:KFawcett

Orchids; Photo:KFawcett



















Posted by: ktzefr | February 24, 2016

Roosting Among the Ruins: Hacienda Chichen

Hacienda Chichen, Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico, January 2016…

I have been many places one time.  There are only a few places, however, that I have wanted to return to again and again.  Hacienda Chichen is one of those places.

At the edge of dark I sit on the porch listening to the birds settle in to roost for the night in the nearby acacia trees, their black figures silhouetted by the falling sun.  Tree frogs and night birds sing, a perfect accompaniment for swaying in a hammock or curling up in bed.  Hacienda Chichen is a green oasis in the Yucatan jungle.  It’s a short walk to the nearby Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza and a perfect place to wander in beautiful natural surroundings. 

El Caracol, Chichen Itza; Photo:KFawcett

El Caracol, Chichen Itza; Photo:KFawcett

The hacienda is also a good place to relax and do nothing.  Cottages are scattered throughout the property and hidden among the majestic royal palms.  It’s quiet late at night, except for the sounds of nature.


Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

The casco or main house is almost 500 years old…

Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

On our first day it rains all night.  Sometimes barely a sprinkle; sometimes it sounds like a deluge on the cottage roof.  When dawn breaks I slip out of bed and open the window to a burst of cool, moist air and a cacophony of song.  Mornings here start with the call of the chachalacas, the whistle of the great-tailed grackle, the coo of doves.  Cenote Xtaloc, one of two large sinkholes on the grounds of the nearby Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, is only a few minutes’ walk from here and is the closest watering hole for the area’s birds.

Pathways meander through the grounds in the shadows of stately palms, African tulip trees, and gumbo limbo.  Enormous philodendrons wrap around tree trunks and mingle with a plethora of bromeliads — dainty ferns and spiky air plants.  Clusters of bougainvillea hang from the rooftops.  Yellow flycatchers soar from tree to tree.  Parrots chatter to each other.

Trees grow on top of ruins on the hacienda grounds.  The roots cling to the sides of this ruin…

Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Blooms everywhere…




In January the African Tulip Tree is in bloom with its shower of fiery orange blossoms mingling with the palms…

African tulip tree, Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

African tulip tree, Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett




Bromeliads find spots to grow in the crevices of trees and rock walls…




Bromeliads, Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Bromeliads, Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

In the organic gardens the bananas and papayas are ripening…

Papaya, Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Papaya, Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

At the end of a winding trail through the gardens sits the little church of San Isidro…

San Isidro, Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

San Isidro, Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett


One of my favorite spots on property is the long, front veranda of the casco, which was built by the Spaniards in 1523.  This house first belonged to the “lord” of the hacienda, who was appointed by the Spanish crown to oversee the once vast cattle ranch that later became a thriving sisal plantation.  In modern times the hacienda has been most noted as a home-away-from-home for the archaeologists — many sponsored by the Carnegie Institute — who first came here to study Mexico’s most famous Mayan ruins.  The guest cottages spread about the property are named after the individuals for whom they were initially built.

View from the veranda…

Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett


Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

And the pool…




One afternoon we took a nature walk and visited the nearby hut of a friend — Jim Conrad — who writes a Naturalist Newsletter online describing his life in Yucatan and the plants and animals he meets on his daily excursions.  Visitors can take a walk with Jim to learn more about the hacienda’s many trees and flowering plants and the vegetables and fruits in the organic gardens.  



After dinner and a day of exploring the Mayan temples and ball courts and studying the hieroglyphs that decorate the stone columns in the ancient market place at nearby Chichen Itza, I settle into a comfortable chair on the front porch.  Night bird calls mingle with trova music from the ballad-singing trio that comes nightly to entertain at dinnertime on the back veranda.  I’ve known the singers for years, Bibiano (center; my favorite bird guide in Chichen, too) and his brother and son or sometimes (here) a nephew.  All talented musicians.



Beyond the skittering of bats in the candle trees a few other flying visitors appear like magic against the deepening purple sky.  Parrots maybe.  Flycatchers or kiskadees or melodious blackbirds.  A pygmy owl.  Honeycreepers, tanagers, or motmots?  It’s impossible to know who has come to sleep or sing night songs among the branches.

After awhile the music stops, the dishes cease rattling in the kitchen, and the last of my fellow travelers closes her IPad (the front veranda is the best place to connect both with the outside world and the closer natural world at the same time).  I stretch and yawn, then make my way along a winding path beneath the trees to my cottage.  It’s roosting time.



For more information:

Within the 300 hectares of privately-owned property, the Hacienda Chichen has dedicated less than 0.08% to constructed areas.  The rest is home to many species of natural flora and fauna, including 150 different bird species.  The Hacienda supports several projects and an active volunteer program to increase environmental care and eco-vision awareness among locals.  A reforestation project in recent years has added more than 3,500 indigenous hardwood trees to the property, making it a haven for many endangered endemic species, including families of kinkajous, oscillated turkeys, white tail deer, Morpho butterflies, and a variety of birds.

Activities: Birdwatching and Nature Guided Tours, Maya Cooking Lessons, Yaxkin Spa and Maya Healing Rituals,    Volunteer Vacation Programs






Posted by: ktzefr | February 15, 2016

14 Fun Facts about Flamingos

Flamingos, Celestun Biosphere Reserve, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Flamingos, Celestun Biosphere Reserve, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

I can hear my neighbor’s snow shovel scraping the driveway pavement.  The trees outside my window are covered with white stuff.  The birds are constantly at all of my feeders, and I fed them and the squirrels half a loaf of old bread from the refrigerator this morning.  It’s cold and wet and yucky.  So, I’ve turned my thoughts to warmer places, sunnier days, prettier sights — the beautiful Celestun Biosphere Reserve in Yucatan and its pink birds.



1) This is how a flamingo eats: it plunges its head into the water and twists it upside down so it can use its top beak to scoop up fish and shrimp and snails and algae. Flamingos exemplify the old saying, “you are what you eat” because the pigments in much of their food is what causes the flamingo’s feathers to be pink. They stamp their webbed feet in the mud to stir up the water and bring up morsels of food.

2) When baby flamingos are born they are white. Both parents take care of the newborn and feed it a fluid they produce in their digestive systems.

3) Young flamingos “grow up” in about five days as that’s when they join other young flamingos. They stay in small groups but go back to their parents for food. A group of young flamingos is called a crèche. After about three weeks the crèche starts to look for food on its own. They eventually also turn pink from the food they eat. The bill, which is straight at birth, gradually turns downward like the adult flamingo.

4) Before a flamingo takes flight it “runs on water” to get a good lift off.

Flamingos running on water; Celestun, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Flamingos running on water; Celestun, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

5) Flamingos are very social birds. They live in flocks of 2 to almost 400 birds, and the flocks can live in large colonies of thousands of birds.

6) Flamingos spend a large part of their day preening. They have a gland near the base of the tail that produces an oil that they use to waterproof their feathers.

7)   Flamingos live in lakes that are found inland or near the sea. The also like mangrove swamps and tidal flats.

8) They are noisy birds. They honk, grunt, and growl. They have specific calls for certain behaviors; they use vocalization to communicate with the flock; and parents use vocalization to recognize their young.

9) When flamingos rest or sleep they often stand on one leg, and they face the wind so it does not penetrate their feathers.

Flamingos, Celestun, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Flamingos, Celestun, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

10) Flamingos have been known to fly more than 300 miles each night between habitats.

11) Most of the water where flamingos live has a high salt concentration, but they drink fresh water. Some birds live near geysers and they are capable of drinking hot water that is near the boiling point.

Flamingos, Celestun, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Flamingos, Celestun, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

12) A flamingo generally lays one egg. Both parents take turns sitting on the nest and lifting and turning the egg on occasion with their beaks. The incubation time is between 27 and 31 days.

13) Fossilized flamingo footprints, estimated to be seven million years old, have been found in the Andes Mountains.

14) Flamingos can weigh 5 to 6 pounds and have a wingspan of 55 inches.

Flamingos, Celestun, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Flamingos, Celestun, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett



For more information:  The Celestun Biosphere Reserve is located on the Yucatan Peninsula.  It covers 146,000 acres and is located in two states — Yucatan and Campeche.  The Celestun River and mangroves are home to thousands of flamingos.

More facts about flamingos: See “Flamingo Classification” at Seaworld, “Greater Flamingos” at National Geographic, and “Flamingo Facts” at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park.









Two things I can’t resist: photographing flowers and reading poetry.  So, to celebrate Valentine’s Day, here are a few of my favorite pics and a few words from favorite poets that look at the many sides of love — the recklessness, happiness, doubt and second guessing.  The sadness, the loss of self interest, and the need to love oneself.  Or, as Billy Collins says about love: “it’s a little more complicated than that.”

Daylily; Photo:KFawcett

Daylily; Photo:KFawcett

“Love is reckless, not reason.

Reason seeks a profit.

Love comes on strong, consuming herself, unabashed.


Yet, in the midst of suffering,

Love proceeds like a millstone,

hard surfaced and straightforward.


Having died to self-interest,

she risks everything and asks for nothing…”

~ from Rumi, “Love is Reckless”


Orchids; Photo:KFawcett

Orchids; Photo:KFawcett

“On summer nights the world

moves within earshot

on the interstate with its swish

and growl, an occasional siren

that sends chills through us.

Sometimes on clear, still nights,

voices float into our bedroom,

lunar and fragmented,

as if the sky had let them go

long before our birth.


In winter we close the windows

and read Chekhov,

nearly weeping for his world.


What luxury, to be so happy

that we can grieve

over imaginary lives.”

~ from Lisel Mueller, “Late Hours”


Roses; Photo:KFawcett

Roses; Photo:KFawcett

“When that washboard clacks, when

someone whistles with it, washing


the sky; when a worksong

wakes me up, Damn you,


I think.  You shoulda oughta.

What, marry a long woman?”

~ from Maurice Manning, “The Tin Roof the Birdsong and the Rain


Orchid; Photo:KFawcett

Orchid; Photo:KFawcett

“When it’s late at night and branches

are banging against the windows,

you might think that love is just a matter


of leaping out of the frying pan of yourself

into the fire of someone else,

but it’s a little more complicated than that.”

~ from Billy Collins, “Adage”


Tulips; Photo:KFawcett

Tulips; Photo:KFawcett

“The time will come

When, with elation,

You will greet yourself arriving

At your own door, in your own mirror,

And each will smile at the other’s welcome,


And say, sit here, eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine.  Give bread.  Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you


All your life…”

~ from Derek Walcott, “Love After Love”




“We have lost even this twilight.

No one saw us this evening hand in hand

while the blue night dropped on the world.


I have seen from my window

the fiesta of sunset in the distant mountain tops.


Sometimes a piece of sun

burned like a coin between my hands.


I remembered you with my soul clenched

in that sadness of mine that you know.”

~ Pablo Neruda, “We Have Lost Even”


“Hemos perdido aun este crepúsculo.

Nadie nos vió esta tarde con las manos unidas

mientras la noche azul caía sobre el mundo.


He visto desde mi ventana

la fiesta del poniente en los cerros lejanos.


A veces como una moneda

se encendía un pedazo de sol entre mis manos.


Yo te recordaba con el alma apretada

de esa tristeza que tú me conoces.”

~ from Pablo Neruda, “Hemos Perdido Aun


Posted by: ktzefr | February 9, 2016

Windows on Yucatan…

“Set wide the window. Let me drink the day.” ~ Edith Wharton

I like to check out the view through “windows” — both natural and man-made openings to the inside and outside worlds.  The image that is captured in a window is a limited view in the same way that concentrating on a single moment in time requires one to eliminate all of the distractions and influences surrounding it.  This is an impossible challenge in the interactions and exchanges of everyday life, where nothing is said or done or felt in isolation, but it’s possible to capture such isolated “moments” when armed with a camera.  I especially like a “window” with a view that contrasts greatly with its “frame.”

Here are a few favorites from my latest trip to Yucatan:

Convento de San Antonio de Padua, Izamal, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Convento de San Antonio de Padua, Izamal, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett


Ruin on the grounds of Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Ruin on the grounds of Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett


Cenote Ik Kil, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Cenote Ik Kil, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett


Salt Flats, Celestun, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Salt Flats, Celestun, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett


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