The Oregon Trail

Location: Medford, Oregon

Visiting my daughter-in-law’s cattle ranch in Oregon.

We have no idea why the previous owners of the ranch bred the cattle so that the calves would be born in the middle of winter.

For me, it makes each morning a bit like an Easter Egg hunt, as we get up in the morning to see if there are any more calves than yesterday.

There are two more this morning.

They are quite wooly and wonderful.

There’s Always a Rainbow in Hawaii

Location: Lahaina, Hawaii

I am in Maui now to do some maintenance, logistics, and to simply unwind.

Maui has always been a recharging place for me.

There were some high winds when I first arrived. These were dry winds, but the rattling of the palm leaves makes it sound like you are in a downpour.

Then the next morning you see the windfall coconuts beneath the palms.

I left my Loft in San Francisco

Location: San Francisco, California

In San Francisco for two days to meet with lawyers, financial people, accountants, museum staff, and realtor. I also heard Janet Yellen speak at the Commonwealth Club.

I saw my loft in San Francisco for perhaps the last time.

I built this place twenty years ago.
It has been my student loft, my primary residence, a place to stay when visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, and a crash space for friends and family when they visit San Francisco.

But now it is time to let go and move on to other adventures.

The Flaming Bull

Location: Santa Elena, Yucatan

The religious celebrations continue as they set off fireworks to honor Jesus Amor by setting off fireworks and having a man in a bull outfit running around chasing the kids.

On the back of the bull are fireworks that shoot wildly into the plaza.

The Hetzmek

Location: Santa Elena, Yucatan

The longer I spend in this village in Mexico, the more I feel a part of it.

Today, I became the godfather of a Maya child in a Maya Hetzmek ceremony.

My wife was the godmother, and she was also the godmother of the mother of the child, twenty years ago.

The ceremonial dress that she wore for the first ceremony still fit her and she wore it again for this occasion.

The ceremony was held in the house of Don Hernan, who practices the old Maya religion. A candle was lit for the old gods and particularly the alux to watch over and protect the child.

The Fiestas in Honor of Santo Cristo del Amor

Location: Santa Elena, Yucatan

This is the beginning of the of a two week religious celebration in Santa Elena.

At five in the morning people gathered in the church with the occasional rocket going off outside the massive church doors.
The cavernous church echoes the sound of the blast.

Santiago says that when he was a child the church was full, now there are only several dozen people here. He fears that in a few years this part of the ceremony may die out completely.

We decide to go up to the top of the roof by means of an ancient spiral staircase. In the old days they used candles.

We light our way with our cell phones.

The wedge shaped steps are four inches thick and embedded in the stone walls. We stop to explore the balcony in the back and the upper side chambers along the side, then we head up onto the roof.

The steps are sturdy, except the second step from the top is missing, and it is a long way down.

I have come this far, a simple scary missing step is not going to stop me.

I ease myself up to the roof and look out over the city. There is not much to see in the darken city, but it is wonderful to be here just the same.
During the wars, this is where they placed their lookouts. There are some big iron bells up here. In the old days they would ring them for celebrations such as this one. I am right next to them.

This morning I am glad they are silent.

We head back down the stairs to the processions.

At the bottom the ladies are offering a drink of finely ground corn, sweet potato, and water. I think it is an acquired taste, but the tamales they give us are excellent.

Then we head over to one of the village houses where there is a statue of a saint that the ladies are singing to. Other ladies offer the celebrants more tamales and a hot coffee and cinnamon drink.

I much prefer this over the liquid corn and sweet potatoes.

Then they add some slats to the statue of the saint and start a procession with the celebrants and a small band of drums and trumpets. They take this saint to another house with another saint and sing outside with the musicians playing.

Again cinnamon and coffee drinks are offered along with tamales.

Then both saints are taken in a procession the the church, with the musicians and the occasional rocket being fired.

In another house in the village they now start the slaughter of the pigs.

The pig is on a rope harness and tied to a tree. The pig-sticker deftly stabs it with a knife. In a minute or two the pig dies from blood loss.

These are not smooth pink city pigs. These have a heavy coat of hair.
They then proceed to remove the hair from the pig. This is an involved process. They pour water over the pig then use knives and a blowtorch for the hair removal.

They killed four pigs this morning. The killing and hair removal are done with the curious addition of the musicians playing in the background.

The pig stabbing and dead pigs was not an easy thing to watch.
But I had some bacon that morning, and felt if I was going to be a meat eater, I should be able to watch the process as to how a living animal becomes food.

I vow to pay homage before each meal to creatures that provide me sustenance.

At the end of the hair removal process, I returned home for a short rest.
My camera battery was dead and did did not get much sleep the night before. I took a bit of a nap and returned.

I missed the hog butchering, but was able to see butchered pigs hung up in a Maya hut, and watch them make sausages and fried pork rinds.

I now see why they spent so much effort on removing the hair.

Pork rinds have always been one of my favorite foods, and it gave me a strange sense of satisfaction to munch on them while remembering the live pig I saw earlier in the morning.

There were about three times as many people for the feasting as there had been been for the procession. And they were playing salsa music on a boom box rather than the drum and trumpet live band.

The next day there were going to provide a feast for the poor of the village.

What’s in a name?

Location: Santa Elena, Yucatan

No one knows what Santa Elena was called when the ancient Maya were building their stone temples here a thousand years ago.

But I spoke to Don Felix an 83 year old Maya elder.

He said that the name for the town 400 years ago was Tac-si-lee-lun-ka which meant town of low intelligence, and proceeded to tell the story of a man who got his hand caught in a jug, and rather than break the jug decided that the correct solution was to cut his hand off.

The anthropologist in me thinks that the town may have been called that, but this is a name given by enemies or rival towns. “What town is that?” “Oh, that is the town of the stupid people.”

Much like today if you ask a sports fan what is the name of their biggest rival, you may get a rather unflattering nickname for the team and their fans.

I doubt if the local people referred to themselves in such terms.

200 years ago it was known at the place of the fertile soils, (or central city) Noh Ca Cab.

Then came the caste war. Civil wars tend to be very brutal on the local level, and the Yucatan was no exception.

Warriors from the rival village of See-boo-che came to the town at night and set fire to the houses where the villagers were sleeping. When the villagers ran out of the house, they were shot, the men, the women and the children. Many of the villagers fled into the forest.

The warriors then burned the entire village.

The people of Noh Ca Cab then made a retaliatory raid on the village of See-boo-che, burning their houses and shooting their men, women and children.

When they returned to No Ca Cab they said we did not want this fight, we have had our revenge and we want no further part in this war.

The leader of the village said we must have a new name for ourselves.
We will call ourselves Santa (Holy. For we are a humble and holy people.) Ele (burned) Nah (houses). In other words the humble and holy people of the burned houses.

The people of See-boo-che relocated their village further away and said “We are the same people as Santa Elena”

Life is a banquet. Be sure to take in a swallow.

Location: Santa Elena, Yucatan, Mexico

I took a motorized tricycle to Kabah today.

My favorite part was stopping at the small caves along the sides of the road.

I saw no bats in these caves but did see dozens of cave swallows swarming in the interior. These are curious creatures whose nests are built out of mud and attached to the ceiling of the cave.

The Center of the Universe

Location: Santa Elena, Yucatan, Mexico

Part of my job as in innkeeper is to chat and swap stories with the guests.

During one evening of a night of mutual story telling, a lady turned to me and said, “Perhaps you are in the center of the universe. You don’t need to travel, the travelers come to you.”

So I studied up on what scientists had to say about the center of the universe.

The most excepted theory is that when the big bang occurred, everything did not start at one point and expand like a bomb going off, but that everything started at once and the space between matter started to expand and is still doing so today.

There was no single starting point.

Furthermore no one has been able to find an edge and many are not even sure that there is one. So as far as the center goes, the analogy they give is that it is like asking which point of the surface of a sphere is the center of the surface of the sphere?

The answer is none of them or any of them.
Take your pick.

If the universe is truly edgeless, then you can declare any place you like to be the effective center. So when people ask you if you think you are the center of the universe. You can answer, “Maybe not ‘the’ center, but I am ‘a’ center.” But, don’t get too cocky …so is the jerk that cut you off in traffic, and that whiny lady, and the big obnoxious dude.

Perhaps this means that you don’t have to go anywhere to find wisdom, if you want to attract it, wisdom will come to you.

Some interesting questions.
Why, don’t you drop in for a chat.