Do you have any primordial desires?

Location: Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Dozens of them, but two of them in particular are awakened in Tulum, Mexico.

First of all there is the primordial need to photograph sunrises. My mind tells me that the world already has an adequate supply of sunrise photographs, and there is no need to produce any more. But once I am here, I always wake up at dawn, grab my camera, and head out to capture the sun, the clouds, and the sea.

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Secondly, there is the urge to swim in the ocean. This is a sport that requires very little equipment (or none at all if you are selective.) But this was complicated this time by the huge bulk of seaweed that is currently in the water just off of the beaches.

Swimming becomes almost impossible and I feel like I have been given an exfoliation treatment by the combination of ocean waves and churning seaweed.

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As I leave the ocean, the seaweed in my grey beard and hair make me look a bit like Poseidon, the ancient Greek god of the sea.

I say good morning to the Mexican beach keeper, and he waves and gives me a look that translates into, “Gringos, who can understand their mysterious ways?” Who indeed, as I shower off and leave more plant material around the drain than I find in most salads.

Yet my needs are now satisfied, and I can go off on my next quest, to find decent art among the tourist crap.

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The best Defense is a good rock fence

Location: Santa Elena, Yucatan

Private property rights are respected in the Yucatan, but as as with most rights they are only respected if you defend them.

The most common excuse for trespassing to to say, is to say, “Oh, I thought this was open land?” or, “I didn’t think anybody would object.” This is called the law of inherent permission. If nobody seems to mind, then I can hunt, wander as I please, or maybe even plant crops or set up a homestead.

The usual first defense against trespass is to set up a fence.

It does not have to be an insurmountable fence, but it has to be obvious enough so that folks can not say, “Gee, I didn’t see any fence. I must have wandered off course.”

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Here the most popular fences are barbed wire and/or stone walls, and most of our property does have stone walls and/or barbed wire. But over time the rock walls can fall down in places, the fence posts can collapse, and the wire can break.

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In these cases, the wanderer can say, “Yeah, I saw the fence, but I just assumed that the owner abandoned his claims some time ago.” This is not an unreasonable defense.

We have dozens of walls criss-crossing our property that served their purposes decades or centuries ago. So, one our first actions with our property is to mend the fences and to put a perimeter trail.

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This says, “This is private property, and yes, the owner does care, and if you want to be on this land, it would be a good idea to get permission first.”

Ah, the joys of being a land baron.

Can you give us some trash talk?

Location: Santa Elena, Yucatan

There is very little trash on the streets of Santa Elena, yet there are very few trash cans. One can only conclude that they do not litter the streets and that they carefully dispose of their trash.

One of the popular trash disposal locations is to just throw it out the car window. The jungle does a good job of hiding the rubbish, so it is a win – win situation

…unless you own property by the side of the road.

If people see a rubbish next to the road, they conclude that this must be a good spot to add more. So, if you wish to discourage the practice, you need to clean up the trash that is already there. This sends a subtle message, that the land is under new ownership and that the new owner would really, really appreciate it if you put your rubbish somewhere else.

And should a subtle message not get this across, it doesn’t hurt to put up a sign.

Do you ever think dirty thoughts?

Location: Santa Elena, Yucatan

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Why yes, I love thinking about dirt, playing in the dirt, looking at the dirt.

We now have two and a half acres of unplanted farmland. They have cleared off the brush and burned it for the ash, just as they have done for thousands of years. But now we have modern tractors to come and till the land.

Nothing says potential like seeing a vast field of rich red dirt. Now we have set up the irrigation and decide what to plant.

I know we want to plant corn and watermelons. Our Farm Manager wants us to grow peppers, tomatoes, and squash to take to the market.

Looking at the field again. Many, many dirty thoughts.

Are the stone walls only used to mark roads?

Location: Santa Elena, Yucatan

No, they were also used to mark property lines, a practice that dates back in the Yucatan at least 500 years. This was the ancient way of saying, “This is my property. Do not cross without my permission.”

We have quite a few of these on our property. The walls have been removed in some of the flat fertile areas, but have remained for decades or centuries it the rocky hillsides. They go on for a few feet or a few hundreds of feet. They could have been put up decades ago or hundreds of years ago.

The archaeologist in me wonders what old neighborhoods used to be here. Were they slowly abandoned due to economic decline or were they destroyed in the bitter internal wars that were fought here?

Do you travel the road less taken?

Location: Santa Elena, Yucatan

Heck, yeah.

I even take the road overtaken…
Overtaken by the forest and the jungle that is.

The town of Santa Elena has a population of about 3,500, but two hundred years ago it had a population of over ten times that number. The pole and thatch houses have long since disintegrated, but the calles (roads) remain.

You see, whenever they wanted to mark out a calle they would edge the borders with a mortarless stones walls on both sides. The walls run more or less north-south and east-west. The path between the walls is anywhere for sixteen to eight feet wide and make slight bends and twists for no apparent reason.

The ones that border property lines still belong to the city.

You are not allowed to build on them and the city could legally open them up at any time if there was some political and economic reason for doing so. For example if a strong supporter of the president of the village would like better access to his back acreage, they just may clear and pave the road If a section of road is entirely within your property and it has not been used as a road in living memory, the land could become yours to use as you please.

Our property is just outside of the current village and much of it is overgrown with tropical forest.

When you see the old calles running through the forest, you have to wonder who used to live here, and how long ago.

What’s in the bag, Mister?

Location: Mereda, Yucatan

Today I attempted to open a bank account in the Yucatan.

It turns out that this can be a rather complicated process. They won’t just accept my money, there are some new regulations, and they needed to check my documents at some special office before I can open an account.

I was told to hold on to my money and come back in a few days.

So here I am walking around with 100,000 pesos (about $5,500 in US, over twice the average annual wage for the area) in my shoulder bag.

Walking around finishing my shopping, going to restaurants, and strolling down the streets in a foreign city, doing my best to look like your ordinary old gringo with not much in his pockets.

What’s in the bag?

Just some sentimental old papers.

How is your Spanish coming?

Location: Mereda, Yucatan

My life has always been a bit surreal, but arriving in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, has only increased the voltage. Here I am without an interpreter and barely know enough Spanish to order a hot cup of coffee.

When carrying on conversations with taxi drivers, hotel staff, vendors and strangers, I am not really sure what they are asking, and I am pretty sure that my answers are equally opaque.

Then there is the art of finding my way in a city that has numbered streets, but the numbers seem to be in the order that they were recorded, and do not follow any decipherable sequence or grid. And should I find the street, there are no numbers on the building.

So, I am not exactly sure where I am or how to get where I am going, And if I say, “Sí,” what am I agreeing to, and if I say “No,” what exactly am I refusing?

It is a rather confusing experience, but I love it, sort of like living in multiple realities simultaneously, or going to a job interview after taking hallucinogens.

Adios, Amigos.

How do you sleep at night?

Location: Henderson, Nevada

I am back home to my Southern Nevada abode.
Sleeping in my own bed.
The bed is memory foam. But the bed does not remember me.

Apparently it is short term memory foam.

We wrestle for position most of the night.
It ends in a draw.

Perhaps it will remember me tomorrow.
And then after a few days,it will conform to my sleep positions.

Then I will leave, for a few weeks or a months and upon my return we will rediscover each other all over again.

The question then becomes,
“Do we reframe our memories to adjust to the present, or do we reframe the present to adjust to our memories?”

What are you doing in Mexico?

Location: Santa Elena, Yucatan, Mexico

For the next few months, we will be shifting our international headquarters to Santa Elena, Yucatan, Mexico.

I have been acquiring property over the last year and now have about 280 acres of land. This includes vast tracks of forest jungle, and some possible archaeological features. We are currently employing machete men and chain experts to clear out some trails to see exactly what we have. This is in the Puuc region of the Yucatan.

I am learning to speak Spanish and Mayan to communicate with the workers and the townsfolk. Foreign language has never been one of my skills, but I do not think the Yucatan is going to adapt “English only” anytime soon.

The ancient Maya built vast pyramids at Uxmal and Kabah about a thousand years ago. In Santa Elena, they constructed more modest structures, although I am told that when the Spanish came four hundred and fifty years ago they tore down a Maya pyramid and used the stones to build the Santa Elena Cathedral. I can see old building stones in the stone porches of the buildings in town. The archaeologist in me is quite excited in threading the ground where the ancient Maya built their civilization.

Concurrent with this, in the flatlands of the property I have several acres of neem and avocado trees. And they have just planted several hundred lime trees and a score of coconut palms. We have plans to expand into experimental organic agriculture. I am a city boy, and don’t know much about agriculture, but I worked with a lot of back-to-the-land hippies in my youth, and have to admit there is a real satisfaction in drinking orange juice that came from one’s own trees.

Sadly, they tell me that the tequila agave plant does not grow well in these soils. But, we can always experiment. Who knows?