Tuesday, April 18, 2017

In the jungle, you can lie down and be claimed

Leading upto the Belize retreat, I didn't do my normal obsessive levels of research but I did some. While I was leafing through Lonely Planet I remember getting a sense of three Belizes: Belize City, the Cayes, and everywhere else.

Everywhere else is most of Belize. While in most of Central America, like Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, it's pretty simple to hop on a bus, land in a new town, and get a room in a small hotel. In Belize things felt... different. More remote. The majority of Belize's land is undeveloped. Tourists generally stay in a few ecoresorts spread out through the countryside. That's not arrive-in-town-and-see-where-it-takes-you traveling. That's planning-ahead-to-be-at-a-resort travel.

Kevin and I have never stayed at a resort and honestly have never been drawn to that. Resorts always make me feel like I'll be secluded away from where I actually am. While I can see the allure if you only have a weekend and want to relax, I generally travel to experience a new place so I want to be in the thick of it.

And I wanted to experience Belize. We had spent time in the Cayes (and loved it even beyond what we expected) so I figured we'd finish our time in Belize in the countryside. If you're going to book a resort it might as well be an ecoresort. I had read about Chaa Creek in San Ignacio. The resorts, including Chaa Creek, generally exceeded my budget, but Chaa Creek had a campground for budget travelers. You had access to the resort facilities when you hiked in from the cabins. I booked it.

When we arrived at Chaa Creek it felt fancy. Generally, on a graph of increasing fanciness my satisfaction decreases. I was a little nervous. Reception gave us a slip to give to the campsite director alerting him that I was vegetarian. Then they sat us down to wait by the manicured lawns to be driven to the campsite.

As we waited an older couple from New York passed us. They asked us if we were going to the campsite and we confirmed that we were. "It's rustic out there! There's NO electricity!" They told us in shock. We said, "We know." And nodded politely. Satisfied that they'd warned us they moved on.

Shortly afterwards, a big gregarious Mayan man showed up in a pick-up truck. Docio runs the campsite with his family. I showed him my slip of vegetarianism. He sized me up and said, "We don't do this." I shrank a little. He roared with laughter, "I'm just kidding! Get in."

I love Docio.

As soon as we climbed the hill to the little campsite we were happy. We gazed down on a few tarp-roofed, screened-in cabins. There was a shared outdoor bathroom and shower hall. A small kitchen and dining room were fully stocked with potable water and bug spray. As you climbed down the trail you were at an access to swim in the river. To the right was the Medicine Trail that lead back to the resort.

Kevin and I quickly climbed down to the Macal River and swam. Being in water felt very important during that time. We made it happen daily.

The water was cool and the river very quiet. There's not much around there. We listened to birds. We were nibbled on by a few fish. Docio's wife and son boarded a canoe at the far bank. They crossed the river and passed us as they climbed up to prepare dinner.

Dinner was summer camp style. We quickly made friends with a few other travelers. During our short time we'd catch up on their days over breakfast and dinner. Docio did indeed prepare me delicious vegetarian food. 

Over dinner the sky got dark quickly. We used flashlights to pass slowly from the dining hall to the bathroom and then back to the cabin. While we ate, Docio's family had lit kerosene lanterns in each of our cabins. We returned to soft light.

While we read in bed the nighttime outside our cabin grew noisy. Each night I revelled at how the jungle came alive. The howlers around San Ignacio sound immensely more monstrous than howlers I had heard in Costa Rica. I don't know what it is but I wonder about their echoes over the river? It almost sounded like a band of ghost cows. Seriously. Cows because there was a mooing at times. Ghostly because it took on this echoed quality. It sounded and felt like rushing wind. It was so loud it woke me up every night. I loved hearing it because it reminded me that nature is not quiet but it is peaceful. The sound wasn't manmade and it affected me differently. It brought me proportionally into that environment.

And I won't lie-- it scared me too. I was 99% sure that the sound I was hearing was howler monkeys, which I know are no threat to me. However, it did sound kind of otherwordly so parts of me wondered about some type of zombie panther? I did bravely go to the outhouse. That involved leaving the cabin and walking a ways in the pitch black dark. I think I win at jungle survival.

After breakfast we walked the Medicine Trail back to the resort, which is about a 10 minute hike. This was so exciting to me! Kevin and I had read about Dr Rosita Arvigo who studied under Mayan Medicine Man Dr Elijio Panti. Together, they created the Medicine Trail as well as protecting huge swaths of Belizean jungle for old growth medicinals. I loved walking the path labelled with various plants and trees, watching birds and animals, and gazing down at the Macal River.

Back at the resort things were resort-y. I took advantage! I spent a whole day at the Infinity pool where I could order delicious drinks and eat at the really good restaurant. Certainly expensive food for Belize, but pretty sweet!

We started to understand the allure of a resort! Most guests would book these expensive tours each day. They spent a lot of money going around to the various temples (you could go to Guatemala for Tikal!) and ruins or caving or any other adventure. I mean, it's cool! BUT Chaa Creek sat on acres of FREE hiking trails. The trails wound through a working farm (that you could visit), the Medicine Trail and associated history, a natural museum, the pool, the river, canoes, and plenty else.

We did all the free thangs.

Kevin and I canoed up and down the Macal River, or more accurately, Kevin canoed and I watched toucans and all types of fantastic birds. We woke up early one morning for a free guided bird tour with the best Tanzanian guide who gleefully shouted "Excellent!" every time he found a bird. We visited the butterfly reserve and were surrounded by blue wonder. We hiked and hiked and hiked and read and swam and relaxed.

One morning I thought I woke to rain. I heard big plops on the tarp roof of our endearing cabin. I went onto the porch and saw a band of howler monkeys. What I was hearing was the sound of the nuts they were discarding and throwing onto our roof. I love monkeys. They give no fucks at all.

A friend at the campsite suggested a lovely and very discounted DIY day. We arranged to canoe down to San Ignacio and have Chaa Creek pick us up a few hours later. We assumed our known arrangement: Kevin took the oar and I proceeded to enterain him with stories. We rowed 5 miles down the Macal, through territories of birds of every conceivable color. I don't think I've ever seen nor heard as many birds in my life. I felt like I floated through worlds before slowly encountering the small town that is the city of San Ignacio. 

As promised, a Chaa Creek employee met us and took up the canoe (fancy resort!). We walked into dusty San Ignacio, through the fruit vendors at the flea market, and wove into a few shops. It's a sort of rough and tumble town. A lot of travelers don't like it but use it as a base camp for adventures in caves and ruins. I could definitely see doing that.

Kevin loved it. It felt like the perfect balance of grit and skepticism of outsiders.

We decided that next time we're in Belize we'll likely stay there to do the tours that interest us--like the ATM caves-- through independent providers (which is less expensive than booking at Chaa Creek). Then we'd go back to Chaa Creek. The peace of the jungle had a hold on us.

We hailed a taxi to take us to the Mayan ruins located in San Ignacio, called Cahal Pech. The museum is one of the better I've seen and the ruins are practically empty of visitors. As opposed to the dense crowds of Chichen Itza and Tikal, here you get a very personal and calm visit to beautiful ruins.

Some of the museum exhibits we've encountered at ruin sites speak of Mayan people as though they no longer exist. Any trip through Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, or elsewhere in Central America shows what a lie that is-- Mayan people are everywhere. Cahal Pech did a much better job of acknowledging the continuity and lineage. I also came to better understand Belize's history.

I had been reading census figures of Belize's diverse population. The literature kept talking about various groups coming to Belize maybe a hundred or two hundred years prior. The ruins date human presence much earlier than that! The exhibit at Cahal Pech explained that Belize's population at the height of Mayan civilization was three times what it is today. When the inexplicable event happened that dashed Mayan populations, Belize was practically empty of humans. The jungle overtook many of the ruin sites. Many have still not been uncovered, or uncovered by people outside of Mayan lineage. Mayans and other groups began coming back to Belize in the last few hundred years.

Kevin and I have happily visited many Mayan ruins. This particular portal was a first! I shared this photo on social media just thinking it was kind of cool. My friends alerted me to the "feminine" quality!

That night, we decided to do one last Chaa Creek tour by signing up for the night hike. A few other campers joined us in shining our flashlights on the Medicine Trail as we hiked back to the resort after dark. We met our guide at the bar. Having been at the campsite we had no idea that it was a party down there! Our guide gave us each a head lamp so we could be the cool kids at the happening bar.

We set off as he shone his light at the lawn just feet from the bar. The whole lawn sparkled with THOUSANDS OF SPIDER EYES. Immediately, I saw what we had gotten ourselves into. This was a "things that go bump in the night tour." It was so funny because the guide was totally spooked by any type of creepy crawley-- he'd had a lifetime of experiences of bites and near misses. I understood why we'd been asked to wear socks.

As we walked quietly deeper into the woods, I fell in love. We saw scorpions, tarantulas, every type of spider, possums, snakes, and all the stuff of nightmares. We all learned to quickly train our lights, to walk softly, and carry no sticks.

Kevin was the first to spot the snake on the rail post. Apparently this guy is a fast mover and poisonous. The guide was very cautious. The snake was so beautiful!

After the hike, we sat at the bar with our friends. I felt sleepy and so happy. The jungle is so alive. Kevin kept talking about something sort of unnerving and also really liberating-- in the jungle, you could lie down and be claimed. If you waited long enough, you wouldn't exist anymore. The density of the jungle would absolve and dissolve and be with and use every bit of you. There was something weighty and beautiful in that.

As with the whole of our trip to Belize, I was surprised. Honestly, I didn't think I'd like it that much. From afar, I couldn't get a read on Belize's personality or way of being. I think that's because Belize has nothing to prove. It is. It's a sense. It's a feeling. It pulled me in. I love it.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Power and Imperfection

I have been developing a new relationship with my personal power and it's been very private.

I've gone deeper into my yoga practice. I rearranged my schedule so my practice could be disciplined and dedicated. I commute to Philly most mornings, pay the bridge toll, and go to a studio where no one knows me. I keep it that way. I don't tell many people what I'm up to (and I'm going to keep it that way). I'm anonymous. It's just my body on the mat.

I'm practicing very traditional, classic yoga where my sweat burns my eyes and there's no talking or music. There's nothing distracting me from being a body on the mat. There's nothing distracting me from my body.

Repeatedly, my teacher says, "Stop being afraid to take up space! Take up room! Stop apologizing for yourself!"

I'm developing a new relationship with my own power.

This teacher and I have had maybe a conversation threaded together over a few whispers and a handful of emails. My body is showing apology and reluctance.

I'm working on it.

My job has evolved and made me more visible, which means I have to own myself more. I make decisions and live with them. My old stories and ways of being meant there was a lot of reluctance, ambivalence, and fear around displeasing people or being wrong.

I've come to realize that being empowered has a lot to do with being imperfect.

I've become much more strongly decisive. And I'm not always right. In fact, I'm learning how much healthier it is to let go of trying to be right. Instead, I'm working for present. In flow. Watching where energy is moving and going with that. Paying attention to where there's movement instead of what's the least controversial or most popular.

It feels juvenile. I was pretty sure that I was a fully mature adult. I'm not sure of anything anymore.

But I'm having a private relationship with my body and it's reminding me that part of protecting myself is being weirdly and wildly open. The more I'm seen, the more I learn what I chose to share. The more present I am, the more I have to stay home in myself.

I'm finding out how to be powerful and not apologize for having agency and control. To be in it, sometimes eff up, and own that too. That I'm allowed to be here. I'm meant to take up space.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Traveling from Tulum to Belize

As a somewhat obsessive travel planner, it has become a practice to be more spontaneous. And whenever we're recalibrating, we flux in both directions, right?

After years of anally knowing every possible hotel or travel route or fun day activity, I went to Mexico with only two nights booked in a tent. I knew that we needed to be in Belize by February 16 to safely be at the retreat on February 18.

I'd heard you could catch a bus.

We had about a week in Tulum so I did some asking around. There are a few ways to get down but they're rather time consuming. The option that left us with the most free day time was to take the overnight bus from Tulum to Belize City. We purchased our tickets, waited in the well lit station, and boarded the comfortable ADO bus.

The trip was really fine. People always complain that the buses are freezing. They are. But I'm glad the drivers are alert. I just bear it in mind and wear all my clothes. I was fine.

The less fun pieces are pulling into the Mexican customs around 3 am and trying to be coherent. You have to pay an exit tax. It was less expensive for us to book one way flights into Mexico and home from Belize so our airfare hadn't paid the taxes. The bus driver doesn't mention it when you board either. We always plan for the unexpected so we paid it and were fine. A few other passengers had bigger issues.

And then round two, entering Belize. Immigration and customs is always a bit stressful but especially in the middle of the night. The upside is that there are no lines. The down side is that you have to try to be together.

From the border we probably only drove another hour into Belize City. I'd heard a mix of reviews from other travelers. I didn't spend much time, but I didn't find it to be an especially dangerous city. It seemed like a normal city where you should have your bearings. It reminded me of a lot of cities in the Caribbean or US south. It has the slow feel you find in tropical settings and the city falls away to country quickly.

We didn't spend much time. From the bus stop we took a quick taxi to the ferry. At the ferry docks porters take your luggage for you. This took me aback but it's commonplace in Belize. Thankfully, in Belize City these porters are wearing uniforms so you know they're official. In Caye Caulker they don't always wear uniforms, which can be slightly more unnerving.

The dock itself is pretty great! There are cafes and plenty of wifi and seating. Soon, we were seated top deck of a racing ferry headed to Caye Caulker. As it was the first ride of the day we were mainly surrounded by commuters headed to a day of work on the Caye. People laughed and joked like they were on a bus back home.

About 40 minutes later our bus sliced through the grey sky to a small mangrove-clad Caye. Like, small. Caye Caulker has no cars, just golf carts. You can bike the whole island in about 20 minutes.

I had booked us two nights in an airbnb. We took a golfcart down. We were early so they stowed our things and gave us our bikes. We set off for coffee and to get our bearings.

Caye Caulker is maybe the most chill place on earth. The cayes do have soft sandy beach, but they also have a lot of sea grass in the water so most people swim by walking out on a dock. Some parts of the world remove the sea grass but of course, this is disruptive to the ecosystem. In Belize, they generally leave it, which I appreciate.

In Belize, they leave a lot. Time is slow. People are playful. They dish it out and expect you to give it back. I had a Rasta follow me on a bike mumbling "Blueberry." I asked a Belizean friend what it meant and she reminded me of the Marley song about it-- a type of kush. She said, "Belizean men will say anything. They saw my sister with a lot of tattoos and started calling her 'coloring book.'"

Very quickly, I felt very relaxed. It is an easy place to do absolutely nothing. We were pretty fried after spending the night in a cold, border-crossing bus, so nothing felt really good.

As we explored the island, we saw signs advertising ferries that ran from Chetumal, Mexico directly to Caye Caulker. I asked how long that took. It sounds like it would have potentially shaved 2 hours and Belize City off our trip.

I would have known if I did some research.

What I don't know if when those buses and ferries run. It could have eaten into one of our days. It sounds like we would have taken a 2-3 hour bus south from Tulum to Chetumal. There we would have transferred for a ferry bound direct for Caye Caulker. Also, that would be a rather long ferry ride and it might not have been a comfortable trip.

We'll have to go back to find out.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Mayan Ruins on Tulum Beach

After enjoying the delicious (and more affordable!) meals in town, jumping into every cenote we could get to, and wandering around the Yucatan, we decided to finish up our time in Tulum back on the beach.

The Zona Arqeologia is closer to the ruins and also more integrated into public beach accesses. If you stay in town and ride your back down to the beach, these tend to be the points where you hit the sand. All the way up the road, practically at the ruins, there's this weird and great place called Zazil Kin. It had nicer hotel rooms but also plenty of dark cabins. We found an available cabin with shared baths (meaning you walk to one place where there are clean restrooms and you walk to another shower house for a trickle of water to clean you) and booked it for our remaining nights.

Our cabin had untrimmed palm fronds that batted our heads as we ducked into the dim space. We said it didn't have a hair cut-- as some did! Even in the height of day it was hard to see in there. It kept the temperature cool but made packing a bit challenging.

Kevin and I slept side by side in our comical twin beds. I couldn't understand the mosquito netting because there were few bugs so close to the sea. However, one day the wind turned and blew down from land. Then I got it!

There were only a few hours of electricity a night so we read by flashlight. There was wifi only in the reception area so in the evenings all the guests congregated there. Some would drink and swap stories at the bar. Kids would play in the playground. We scrolled our phones and answered emails.

The first night we arrived we took a walk on the beach. Remember that full moon? It was huge and hung over the horizon of the water. The only people we could see were two others skinny dipping. Immediately, I shed my clothes and walked into the water. I've never before swam in the ocean at night. The moon was so bright and the water so warm.

As I walked back to the beach I was disoriented from the tide and had to find Kevin again. As I said, he is a cheerleader to any attempt on my part to be adventurous. He just worried that I might be eaten by a shark.

The following morning we walked up to the Mayan ruins. The entry fee is small and getting there early means you won't be as dogged by the tour crowds coming down from Playa Carmen and Cancun. The site was actually better labelled than Chichen Itza and some of the other ruins. Also, the ruins are built on cliffs directly over the sea. They form a bit of a peninsula that juts out before the Bay of Akumal crawls back into the coastline behind (we visited there one day to swim with turtles).

At the ruin site you can descend steps to little beach coves that are only accessible in this way. People wandered down to swim and play in the surf. There was no shade but it's a beautiful area.

The only part of Zazil Kin we weren't too into was the restaurant. They had you in their little stretch of paradise and the food wasn't great. We started walking along the beach and found better options. A beautiful breakfast spot with a view of the mangroves. A fun spot at lunchtime on loungers.

Best of all, when our friends Julia and Richard flew in to begin their Honeymoon, we all met up and shared tips. We spent the day swimming, sunning, listening to jazz, and eating great food. They dropped us off at the bus stop in Tulum town as we began to journey overnight into Belize.

Friday, March 17, 2017

DIY touring in the Yucatan Peninsula

Wandering through the main drag in Tulum you find lots of tour shops hawking one day trips to Chichen Itza, a dip in a cenote, lunch, and maybe touring a chocolate factory in Valladolid. I was interested in seeing these cites (when in Rome and all) and we hadn't rented a car so we needed ways to get places. When I booked our first night's hotel in town I asked if they had suggestions on how to see Chichen Itza. He advised booking a taxi driver for the day who would take Kevin and me to all the sites. I price compared that with going on a tour. It was cheaper to have our own private driver for the day.

I highly recommend it.

Jose picked us up at our hotel at 7 am. We drove two hours to Chichen Itza. Through the miracle of time zones, we arrived at 8 am as the park opened. As we waited to enter the park Jose hailed a tour guide who suddenly slid into the seat next to us. We asked him his rate and it was rather high. Kevin and I used to get a little flustered in those situations and agree to a tour even though we didn't want to spend the money nor experience the site in this way. Instead, Kevin had his bearings and politely declined the tour.

Chichen Itza is open to the hot sun. Early, the crowds are smaller but it fills up quickly. It can be overwhelming with vendors hawking wares and guides selling tours. But, historical sites the world over are like this. Angkor Wat was often very similar. Kevin kept hunting for a good book so we could guide ourselves. The plaques mainly had to do with architecture, not history, context, ritual, nor belief. We found the information we could.

Most of the sites are dedicated to Venus. Venus is a star visible in the night sky to the Yucatan. Venus intersects with Mayan beliefs on descending Gods and Goddesses, astrology, and seasonality. 

Hot and sweaty, we exited Chichen Itza after about two hours in the park. We'd actually stayed a little longer than we had told Jose that we would. He drove us directly to Ik Kil, a cenote very near to Chichen Itza.

As I stood at the rail looking down into the depths of the cenote I instantly recognized it from postcards. This place is the stuff of dreams. As it's close to Chichen Itza and more commonly visited, it's more expensive and with more infrastructure. There's a gift shop and locker rooms. You pay for everything. 

We slowly descended slippery stone steps down to the water level. There's a small area to stand that's crowded and jostling with people from Mexico and all over the world. A few ladders were stacked off to the left for those who wanted to descend into the water slowly. There's not a lot of privacy. Often someone would scramble alongside you.

To the right, steps lead up to a small platform where you could jump into the deep water from a height of 25 ft. I held our bag while Kevin scrambled up the steps. In an instant, he was flying. 

There were two bored lifeguards really not doing very much. Most of the world seems to engage with the "life is risky" motto. Having recently shed much of my hesitation I told Kevin I wanted to jump. He is always interested in me being more adventurous and fun so he gladly took the bag. I began to ascend the steps. When I got to the top I saw the intimidating space between me and the water's surface. 

I said to the life guard, "I'm scared." He shrugged with boredom and said, "Jump." If I wasn't so nervous I would have found the whole thing hilarious. I asked if I should hold my nose. Again, a disinterested shrug. "Yes, that's good. Jump." Probably seconds had passed but I noticed people around me who were beginning to jump as I hesitated. It didn't feel safe to be so close to the edge. There was obviously no law and order. The lifeguard was mainly ensuring that people didn't jump directly on top of one another. I told myself to do it, held my nose, and stepped off the edge.

I hated the sensation of free falling through space but I loved the feeling of resurfacing in the water knowing that I jumped in fully. I loved feeling like I entered in with less hesitation than I used to, that I was doing the thing.

The waters were clear. There were plenty of quiet, private places to swim off to. Kevin spent a while on the edge of the cenote as the roots dripped water around him.

Afterwards, we climbed the flights of slippery stone steps back up to ground level and found Jose. 

He drove us to the colonial town of Valladolid for lunch. It feels like a place. Like, somewhere people work and live, which is always orienting after visiting tourist sites. We wandered around the center square before deciding on a spot to have lunch. There are factories in town that process chocolate and coffee for those who want to do more. We've taken some of those tours in other places. We just watched the kids leave school for the day, the retirees read their papers on a park bench, and life go by.

When we reconnected with Jose he gave us some options. We could always go back as we'd already had a full day-- we'd done what the group tours normally do but more quickly as we did it on our own schedule and only had to continually gather ourselves. We could stop at some more cenotes. Or, we could head to Coba, which is often it's own tour.

Coba is a slightly less touristed Mayan ruin by lagoons, some that are home to crocodiles. We asked Jose to take us to Coba. As we drove up to the quiet gate he told us to go inside and rent bicycles. The highest pyramid is about a mile into the park. He wanted to make sure we got there before closing.

His advice had been great so far so we rented two rickety bikes and set out on the path. The park is mainly flat and the trails are wide. The breeze gathered between the tall trees. Coba is much shadier and kinder than Chichen Itza. We passed smaller ruin sites until we finally found our way to the main pyramid. We looked up up up the steep stone steps with just one long rope to orient climbers.

So we climbed.

I've often found that up isn't so bad. You can lean forward and organize your weight. As we got to the top, we had to again negotiate lots of bodies speaking various languages with differing ideas of appropriate space sharing and respect for sacred sites. It's daunting. Little kids were up and down like mountain goats. We gulped at the height, sat a moment in the fading sun, before beginning our descent.

The tricky part. At a certain point the stone steps are so worn that they no longer have angles or a top surface to stand on. I think it's easier to shift into butt sliding there. I stuck my feet into little cracks and crevices to slow the descent as my butt slid on the smooth stone. My hands clung to the rope even as people on the other side grabbed on to aid their climb up. 

It wasn't my first rodeo.

We found our bikes again and dashed off to another part of the park to take in whatever sites we could before we lost light and access. The park was practically empty. The breeze was cool. The sites were beautiful and interesting. Ever since my evening and morning with the moon and sea I'd been singing a certain refrain in my head: "Everything is amazing. Nothing is perfect."

The breeze was cool and a mosquito bit me. The ruins were awe-inspiring and the crowds were annoying. The sun was glorious and it was hot.

It's all amazing. None of it is perfect.

Thursday, March 16, 2017


Years ago, when Kevin and I traveled through Panama, we took turns reading Barbara Kingsolvers The Lacuna. We read about these clear, cold, aquamarine pools where human sacrifices were made and secret caverns are discovered. I started to read about these cenotes hidden throughout the Yucatan peninsula, known to those with roots to the land, and fantastical to tourists traveling through.

I love watering holes. One of my favorite scavenger hunts is for cold water hidden to refresh you on a hot day. I've lounged by the Blue Hole in the Catskills. Kevin and I got too late to one in the Pine Barrens (deforesting the surrounding environment changed the ecosystem causing the water to become polluted). I was enchanted by the idea of encountering cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula.

As Kevin and I packed up our belongings at the Zona Hotelera campsite and headed into town, we asked about visiting some nearby cenotes. We began hitching rides on collectivos, or vans that function like buses. For change you could ride shoulder to shoulder with local commuters to a site off the highway. Some cenotes charge more for admission than others. The more expensive sites tend to have picnic areas and changing rooms. The less expensive (and in my mind, more worthwhile) sites had pretty much no development. You encounter the crystalline water, set your things down by some tree roots, and dive in.

I remembered The Lacuna as I swam through the stories of each cenote. In some, there were roped off areas to not disturb swimming turtles. In others, you swam under cave outcroppings populated by thousands of sleeping bats. You could swim deeply and find caves and tiny pockets of air. By one cenote, we were harassed by a family of ducks that had likely been domesticated by tourists unwisely sharing food. Cenotes were sites of sacrifice and test at Chichen Itza and other holy places. 

I told my Aunt about visiting the cenotes and she said, "I have nightmares about them!" In her nightmares, she's thrown into the dark depths. As people have been through the centuries.

They hold our dreams and our fears.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hearing your own voice between the moon and sea

The last few months have been loud and dense and chaotic. There has been a lot of noise and fear. Again and again I tried to make room to hear my own voice, but it was really hard. I was traveling ahead of the Belize retreat in part to soften into a space appropriate for facilitating the retreat. I needed to make sure I was at peace to try to offer the same to the attendees.

Given the intensity I was wondering what it would take.

It took one day.

As I wrote, when I first woke in Tulum it felt sort of weird just because I was out of town proper. I just needed a minute to get a lay of the land. Once I felt like I had my bearings, I opened up to its beauty.

I spent a lot of time with the sea.

The water was clear and so many blues.

I'm often a really hesitant swimmer. While I love to swim, it can take me an unreasonably long time to enter the water. I let that shit go. I walked directly in and submerged. I felt a lot that was tangled in me float away.

There was a Full Moon on February 10. Astrologically, it had significance and due to my current love of all things Chani Nicholas, I was paying attention.

In the middle of the night on February 9, I woke up. I decided to exit our hot little tent to use the bathroom. As I walked out of the tent I saw I didn't need a flashlight due to the bright light of the growing moon. I walked into the moonlight, funneled through the palm leaves. I stood there looking at the moon for a long time. I stood there feeling the moon for a long time. I stayed with the moon in this quiet, soft place.

And then I went back to bed.

In the morning, thanks to our intel from the airbnb host, we went to get breakfast at one of the fancy beach front hotels. The hotel had these amazing cabana beach beds spread out along the sand. They had outlets and signs you could turn if you wanted to order something. Kevin was completely freaked out. We set up camp, ordered breakfast, and took out our books. Still a bit dazed by the moon, I stood up in the growing sunlight and walked directly into the water. And I understood something that I had been struggling with for some time: "what has this period of my life taught me? What was this struggle about?"

With sudden clarity, I knew.

I walked back from the water, laid in the shade alongside the person I loved, and let myself be warm and content and at peace.