Posted by: ktzefr | March 19, 2019

A Walk in the Maya World

Chac-mool from Chichen Itza, at the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, Merida, Yucatan

     I first came to Yucatan in the early 1980s and it was all about hanging out on the beach and shopping for souvenirs in San Miguel de Cozumel.  I didn’t learn anything about the Mayan people and culture until years later. When I became interested in Mayan history, I went back to Yucatan, skipped the beaches, and discovered what would become one of my favorite cities in Mexico. 

Plaza Principal, Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

    Merida is on the west coast of the Yucatan peninsula, a city of a million-plus people, full of history and far from the sunseekers on the Riviera Maya.  It’s sunny and hot here year round, and the Gulf is only 30-45 minutes away, but Merida is much more than a place to stretch out in the sun.  There is a lot to love — the pretty plazas, friendly people, great restaurants, and  the city is bursting at the seams with cultural events and activities, museums and galleries and theaters with something happening almost every night.  In February we spent an afternoon with a Mexican friend at the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya.  

    The Grand Museum of the Mayan World is a world-class museum that celebrates Maya culture and traditions with more than 1,000 well-preserved artifacts, including a chac-mool sculpture (top of page) from Chichen Itza.  It’s the perfect place to visit before (or after) seeing the ruins at Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Coba, or the myriad other ruins of Mayan cities along the Puuc route.  The building itself is modern, almost otherworldly, with the main part designed in the form of a ceiba tree, sacred to the Maya who believed that it connected the living with the underworld and the heavens.  It has numerous interactive exhibits and is trilingual (Spanish, Maya, and English).  The four halls include The Mayab, Nature, Culture; Ancestral Maya; Yesterday’s Maya; and Today’s Maya.  

Here’s a quick look at a few of the interesting displays:

Maya Codex, Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

The museum has a complete facsimile of the Madrid Codex, one of only four pre-Conquest Maya manuscripts in existence.  

Maya Codex, Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

The ancient Maya considered jade to be divine and much more important than gold.  Jade was used to fashion jewelry, as well as artistic and religious objects.  Rulers were often buried wearing jade death masks.

Jade necklace, Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

A stunning red wall shows the face of a Mayan ruler, a replica of the Temple of the Masks at Kohunlich.

Replica of the Temple of the Masks at Kohunlich, Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

The various exhibits contain Mayan weapons, pottery, and a miscellany of other interesting objects.

Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

 

Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Merida is a great base to explore the Mayan world and enjoy an inviting contemporary world as well.  For more info about this terrific museum check out the website here: Gran Museo del Mundo Maya

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Posted by: ktzefr | March 7, 2019

What’s in a Word?

     Two things I like about my favorite coffee shop, besides the varieties of great-tasting coffee, are these:  the perfect designs of fern leaves and hearts in the latte foam and the shop’s “word of the day.”  The creative designs make me smile and the challenge of a new word keeps my brain clicking.  Sometimes I recognize the word and can rattle off the meaning, but not that often.  Usually I admit that I don’t have a clue.

     Today the “word of the day” was “melic” – I thought “medic” and “melancholy.”  It sounded like a mood.  Are you melic today?  Or, perhaps, an herb or spice.  What if you add a pinch or a dollop or a teaspoon of melic to the turmeric and ginger? But this reminded me of metallic and that was no good.  Who wants food that leaves a metallic taste in the mouth.

     I read the meaning — “of/or relating to song, especially of Greek lyric poetry.”  So it’s all about turning Greek lyric poetry into song. 

     I could relate to this.

     When I was a child and was alone and bored, I would turn the poetry in my dad’s The Golden Treasury of Songs and Lyrics to song and sing to an empty house.  It wasn’t Greek lyric poetry, but imagine classic poems set to the rhythms of 1960s rock.

     Herrick’s”Thou art my life, my love, my heart,/The very eyes of me,/And hast command of every part,/To live and die for thee…” or  Hood’s “I remember, I remember/The house where I was born…” (Sort of like Springsteen’s My Hometown but, of course, I lived in Kentucky then and that song came 20 years later).  I recall the times I may have sung Lord Byron.  “If I should meet thee /After long years,/How should I greet thee?/With silence and tears.”

     Sometimes I imagined a boy walking about his house on the other side of town or the other side of the world singing poetry and thinking about me.  Lord Byron’s “She walks in beauty, like the night…” or Wordsworth “She was a Phantom of delight…” or even Coleridge  “She is not fair to outward view/As many maidens be;/Her loveliness I never knew/Until she smiled on me.” 

     Can you imagine a teenaged boy ever doing that sort of thing?!

     In those days I spent hours thumbing through the old book of poems, singing verses I often didn’t understand, finding notes here and there that my dad had written in school – dates that must have had some special meaning (Friday, March 19, 1923?), references to Bible verses (II Kings 19, 6-36 – I looked it up but found no connection to the poem), underlined passages – Wordsworth’s “Though nothing can bring back the hour/Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower…”  The underline must have been after 1961, the year the movie “Splendor in the Grass” came out, the story of a young girl dealing with her own coming of age and the love and heartbreak that accompany those years.   I must have underlined that one myself because of the movie or just because I liked the phrase – or simply the word “splendor.”    What event or act could ever be better than one described as splendor?

     Those old poems were filled with meanings to cover any and every emotion.  The words were mostly read by adults, but they had – and still have, I hope — the power to touch a teenaged heart. 

     Discovering the meaning of the word “melic” sent me on a journey into the past.  Of poetry and song.  Of alone times.  Of the difficulties of growing up.     

     I love the power of words.  Strong  words.  Tender words.  Pretty words.  Words that sound like music. 

     Don’t you?

 

Posted by: ktzefr | December 28, 2018

12 Slightly Wacky New Year’s Resolutions 2019

,

— River of shadows, river of light; it goes on without us.  Remember humility.

— Take time to watch the finches turn from gold to green, from green to gold.

— Be aware of the distant storm approaching before you get caught up in the wind.

— Whenever you cry, take heart and find the positive.  The Lobocraspis griseifusa is a moth that lives on tears.

— Hot coals in the fireplace are covered and dampened to last another day, but old newspapers quickly become ashes of the past.

— Don’t be too swept away by sweet memories; don’t be tempted to forget the rock-hard times or to recall the first crackle of chance.

— Extraordinary days can begin with cold words or warm croissants.   Go for the pastries.

— Rain falls, mist rises, and you can’t stop the wind.  Accept it.

— Faces in the clouds never stay put.  They’re transient; they’re not what they appear to be. 

— A bird cannot fly with one wing.  But it can still eat and still sing.

— The face in the mirror is real.  And, yet, it’s not real at all.

— White roses, blue horizons, the workings of time and space have rules.  But dreams have no rules…they’re sorta like rats in the subway. 

Go wild in 2019 and dream on!

 

Posted by: ktzefr | November 16, 2018

Day of the Dead Ofrendas: Friday Fotos

San Juan de Dios Church, San Miguel de Allende, GTO; Photo:KFawcett

Earlier this month I was in Mexico, again, for Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos).  It’s one of the most fascinating holidays I’ve experienced anywhere.  The ofrendas (offerings or altars) are an essential part of the celebration. Some people mistakenly think that Mexicans who set up ofrendas for their dead relatives or friends are actually worshiping them.  They are not.  The ofrenda or altar is created in memory of a loved one with photos, mementos, and other objects (food, musical instruments, books, tequila, Coke etc.) that represent a person’s life.  The ofrenda designs are created with beans, rice, colored paper, flowers (millions of marigolds), and other natural and man-made products. Sometimes altars are also made in memory of a famous person or groups of people.

This tribute to Anthony Bourdain was displayed at Chef Donnie Masterton’s The Restaurant…

Ofrenda in The Restaurant, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

and this one graphically memorialized journalists who have died…

Ofrenda, San Juan de Dios church, San Miguel de Allende; 2018

A walk through these colorful, elaborate displays shows not only the respect and love the Mexican people feel for others in their lives but it allows the visitor to get to know them as well.  It’s amazing how much one can learn about total strangers from these personal offerings.  Mexicans believe their loved ones return at this time every year; for two days in November their memories are brought back to life so they won’t ever be forgotten. 

Here is a very small sample from the San Juan de Dios church in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato:

Ofrenda, San Juan de Dios, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

Ofrenda, San Juan de Dios, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

Ofrenda, San Juan de Dios, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

Ofrendas, San Juan de Dios church, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

Ofrenda, Casa de la Questa, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

Next time: The People

 

Posted by: ktzefr | November 15, 2018

Just Say Hello…

A member of the herd; Photo:DFawcett

I grew up in a small grocery store in Eastern Kentucky.  My crib was a wooden bread box courtesy of Fred, the man who delivered our bread and cake and pastries every day.  When business was slow my dad played checkers in back of the store with his friends.  Once a week, Mom did the laundry on a wringer-style washer between customers.  Sometimes she and my aunt pieced quilts and shared stories beside the coal stove.    

In summer our front yard became an extension of the store.  People stopped to have lunch — highway workers and those in construction jobs, lawn maintenance, powerline repair, farm work etc.  Mom made baloney and ham sandwiches and the men gathered in the front yard shade to eat.  As I got older I learned the names of almost everyone who came to the store to shop or talk or play checkers.  I knew their families, where they lived, and many small details of their personal lives.

When I first moved to the city I was struck by the simple fact that, for the first time in my life, I could go to a grocery store and not meet a single person I knew.  It was even possible to come and go and get everything I needed without ever speaking to anyone.  This is even easier today with all the automation and ability to do self check-out everywhere.  

I thought about this the other night when an investigator called to say he would like to talk with me about one of my neighbors.  He was doing a standard background check, the sort of thing that happens all the time in this area with thousands of government and other jobs that require it.  The applicant had given my name as a reference.  

There was just one problem.  I didn’t recognize the man’s name.  

“I don’t know who this is,” I said.  “I can’t recommend someone I’ve never met.”

The investigator gave me the address.  I recognized the nearby street, but not the house number.  Suddenly, I remembered the neighborhood directory and looked up the name.  

Turns out I have known this man for more than a decade.  I could throw a stone into his yard.  But I did not know his last name.

I still recall people I knew briefly 50 years ago.  I recall the man with the limp from childhood polio, my dad’s friend who liked to drink Dr. Pepper and smoke cigars when he played checkers, the fellow who drove to Georgia in the summers and brought back a truckload of just-picked peaches to sell.  I knew their kids and their ailments and whether they had the money to pay the rent on any given month.  And, of course, I knew their last names.  

Then I started thinking about all the other people I know — but don’t know.  I’ve known Ann at the local market for years, but her last name?  Don’t have a clue.  Faces at favorite go-to restaurants; I know some of the first names, none of the last names.  I’ve known many neighbors for years, but others I’ve seen regularly when I’m walking.  I know the dogs’ names, but the owners?  Not many.    

It’s not that my memory is shot…well, there could be some of that, too.  But the simple truth is that it’s not about forgetting.  I never knew their names in the first place.  

It occurred to me that, in this day and time when people share all sorts of personal information on social media for all the world to see, spilling their guts about stuff most folks don’t even want to know, it would be impossible for one to not recognize the name of a person living a stone’s throw a way who has been around for more than 10 years.  Not true.  “Friend” has a broader definition these days, but not necessarily a better one.

I think we lose something important when we know more about a Facebook “friend” a thousand miles away than we do about the person living around the corner.  

What do you think?  What can one do?  Perhaps, just say hello.  Face to face.  And keep on talking…

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Posted by: ktzefr | October 1, 2018

The Most Dangerous Animal To Ever Live

Ruby-throated humming bird; Photo:KFawcett

The humming birds and Monarch butterflies are getting ready to migrate, to head south to warmer climes, to the sun and blue skies and a feast of flowers.  And we’re stuck with the mosquitos until it gets too cold for them to survive. 

Yesterday my husband was sitting on the back deck when he spotted a tiny, almost invisible mosquito on his arm.  He gave it a good slap and left a smudge of blood bigger than the mosquito itself in its place.  There is an old African proverb that says this:  “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito.”

The mosquito is the most dangerous animal that has ever lived. Half of the human beings who have ever died have been killed by female mosquitoes.   They carry scores of potentially fatal diseases (malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, encephalitis, filariasis, elephantiasis, etc), killing one person every twelve seconds!  The females bite people to use the blood to mature their eggs; the males only bite plants.

According to The Book of General Ignorance, there are more than 2,500 known species of mosquito; 400 of them are members of the Anopheles family, and, of these, 40 species are able to transmit malaria.  We don’t have malaria in this country, but more than 100 countries around the world do, including many in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean, and parts of the Americas. Another species of mosquito has been transmitting chikungunya virus, dengue fever, and zika virus in several the Caribbean islands.

Mosquitos are nasty critters, but are they good for anything?  Or, are they just taking up space like the human appendix?  (Actually, some researchers, as of late, think the appendix may be a repository for good bacteria to be called up when needed.)

Anyway, most people believe mosquitos would not be missed.  Some are concerned, however, that bigger insects, as well as frogs, toads, lizards, salamandars, birds, and bats — might miss these nasty appetizers.  But I think the bigger critters would quickly find something else to eat.

I’ve eaten chocolate covered ants and crispy, roasted grasshoppers.  There’s gotta be some way to cook a swarm of mosquitos!

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Posted by: ktzefr | September 23, 2018

Mushrooms, Turtles, and Monarchs

A turtle stopped in the middle of the street in front of us last week and we picked it up and brought it home.  It (he/she?)seemed quite content to burrow beneath the ivy in our backyard.  I think it will be happy here.  Common box turtle numbers are declining because of habitat loss, road kill, and capture for the pet trade.  If you see one moseying across the road, stop and help him find a greener, safer home.

Eastern Box Turtle; Photo:KFawcett

The globe balanced
on the back of a turtle
Earth Day
~Chenou Liu
We’ve had way too much rain the past few days with cloudy skies between the downpours.  Besides feeling like I’m walking on a huge, wet sponge in the yard, a garden of mushrooms/toadstools has popped up overnight.  

Coming down the mountain

Through the drizzle

 To the scent of the first mushrooms. 

             ~Chigetsu                  

They’re still here!  But not for long.  The monarchs are migrating and I’m enjoying watching them stop by for the last burst of flowers on the butterfly bush.  

Monarchs enjoying the butterfly bush flowers; Photo:KFawcett

Life

Is like a butterfly

Whatever it is.

~Soin

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May you have a week of sunny days!  If not, “somedays you have to make your own sunshine.”

Posted by: ktzefr | August 28, 2018

Frogs Say More Than “Ribbit”

Frog; Photo:KFawcett

Across the globe human beings speak different languages.  Why should we expect anything less of frogs?

If you said “ribbit” to a frog in Argentina, he wouldn’t understand.  Argentinian frogs say “berp.”  In Thailand a frog might answer “ob ob” just to be polite, but neither frog would know what the other was saying.  Algerian, Chinese, and Bengali frogs could, perhaps, mistakenly think they understand each other because their sounds are similar — it’s “gar gar” in Algeria, “guo guo” in Chinese, and “gangor-gangor” in Bengali.  The sounds of some frogs are very rhythmic and could be the background beat of a dance tune:  Hindi (“me:ko:me:k me:ko:me:k”); Japanese “kerokero”; Korean “gae-gool-gae-gool.” All frogs seem to enjoy dancing on rainy nights.

Frog; Photo:KFawcett

I haven’t heard the frogs in our yard since the last good rain.  It’s way too hot for a frog, or anyone else, to be singing in the garden.  But when they do, they make quite a racket.  Frog sound operates sort of like radio stations — each species has its own frequency.  In this way frogs of the same species can tune out all the others in the search for an appropriate mate.

Female frogs are mostly silent.  Perhaps one day the ladies will declare the right to have their voices heard!

Until then…the largest male frog, the Goliath from Central Africa, is also mute, while the loudest is one of the smallest — the tiny coqui of Puerto Rico.  I remember nights in Puerto Rico when the coqui song could drown out every other noise.  These tiny frogs gather in huge groups in the forest and try to outdo each other.  Their chorus has been recorded at ninety-five decibels, which is close to the human pain threshold.  And yet they don’t burst their own tiny eardrums.  For a long time scientists didn’t know why, but then discovered that they use their lungs to hear by absorbing the vibrations and equalizing the pressure.

Betty’s Frog; Photo:BMcGrath

Some frogs can make noises like other animals, from cows to crickets.  The barking tree frog sounds like a dog.  The carpenter frog sounds like two people hammering nails out of sync.  Fowler’s toad can imitate a sheep and the paradoxical frog grunts like a pig.  

So, why is the word “ribbit” always used to describe the voice of frogs?  And why is “ribbit” the sound frogs have made in movies for years no matter whether the frog  was in a pond in Colorado or on the river in the Amazon? 

Ahhh…because there is a frog that does say “ribbit” — the Pacific tree frog.  

Why is its voice so famous?  It’s the one that lives in Hollywood.

Note:  This wonderful info about frogs came from The Book of General Ignorance: Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong (John Lloyd and John Mitchinson) because I thought I knew a lot about frogs…and didn’t.

Posted by: ktzefr | August 24, 2018

Squirrel Wisdom…

 

On morning walks this week I’ve been gathering hickory nuts.  I fill my pockets for the resident squirrels as I fill my thoughts with memories of Sunday afternoons in Kentucky…

Autumn afternoons, the sun a soft yellow is keeping its distance.  My mother in her blue plaid dress is bent over gathering hickory nuts and dropping them in her apron for blackberry jam cake at Thanksgiving.  She hums gospel tunes while she works – Rock of Ages, I’ll Fly Away, In the Sweet By and By.  

I collect nuts in a plastic pail and daydream about the blonde-haired boy who teases me at school, about making friends with the popular girls, about having leather sandals next summer like my friend Sandra.

The years fly away through many pairs of summer sandals.  I no longer recall the face of the blonde-haired boy.  I haven’t seen Sandra since college and haven’t heard my mom sing for a long time.  No one eats hickory nuts in my neighborhood in the city, no one except the squirrels, awake at daybreak scurrying up and down the trees, leaping from the hickory to the maple to the beech, grasping onto branches that bend and sway but do not break. 

Isn’t that what life is all about? Year to year, we scurry and leap and look for branches to grasp, branches that will bend and sway, but will not break.

May your days be filled with sturdy branches…

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Posted by: ktzefr | August 20, 2018

Tea with St.-Exupéry

Two surprises this month…my friend Ramani returned from a trip home to Sri Lanka bearing a 400-gram bag of Watawala Pure Ceylon tea leaves for me, and I discovered a book that I would never have imagined caring a whit about — St.-Exupéry’s Wind, Sand and Stars.

What goes better with a good cup of tea than a good book?

Wind, Sand and Stars (Harvest Book)St. Exupery’s rendering of the pioneer days of commercial aviation, of routine mail flights from France to North Africa, is a classic, of course, but I was never enticed to read it and didn’t expect to discover such beautifully poetic prose and neat little bundles of wisdom.  My notebook is full of quotes, but these are some of my favorites:

Life before social media…

— “Thus is the earth at once a desert and a paradise, rich in secret hidden gardens…. Life may scatter us and keep us apart; it may prevent us from thinking very often of one another; but we know that our comrades are somewhere “out there”…silent, forgotten, but deeply faithful.”

On expectations…

— “It is idle, having planted an acorn in the morning, to expect that afternoon to sit in the shade of the oak.”

Discoveries…

— “Each man must look to himself to teach him the meaning of life.  It is not something discovered: it is something moulded.”

— “What saves a man is to take a step.  Then another step.  It is always the same step, but you have to take it.”

— “A garden wall at home may enclose more secrets than the Great Wall of China.”

—  “…a tree does possess a perfection that a locomotive cannot know.”

For book lovers…

— “I inhaled in passing that incense of an old library which is worth all the perfumes of the world.”

Humanity…

— “Human drama does not show itself on the surface of life.  It is not played out in the visible world, but in the hearts of men.”

On the Spanish Civil War…which seems eerily apropos today.

— “A civil war is not a war, it is a disease.”

— “Here, in Spain, a man is simply stood up against a wall and he gives up his entrails to the stones of the courtyard.  You have been captured.  You are shot.  Reason:  your ideas were not our ideas.”

— “All of us, in words that contradict each other, express at bottom the same exalted impulse…”

— “What sets us against one another is not our aims — they all come to the same thing — but our methods, which are the fruit of our varied reasoning.”

— “If our purpose is to understand mankind and its yearning, to grasp the essential reality of mankind, we must never set one man’s truth against another’s.  All beliefs are demonstrably true.  All men are demonstrably in the right.  Anything can be demonstrated by logic.”

— “Nothing is easier than to divide men into rightists and leftists, hunchbacks and straightbacks, fascists and democrats, but truth, we know, is that which clarifies, not that which confuses.  Truth is the language that expresses universality.”

— “Why should we hate one another?  We all live in the same cause, are borne through life on the same planet, form the crew of the same ship.”

— “The man who can see the miraculous in a poem, who can take pure joy from music, who can break his bread with comrades, opens his window to the same refreshing wind off the sea.  He too learns a language of men.”

If you’re in need of a zero-calorie afternoon, a few wise words to ponder, and a break from the present, grab a classic you never got around to reading and a pot of tea (sans sugar or honey) and find a quiet place.  

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