JIM CONRAD'S
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
Written about 20kms (12mi) southwest of
Chichén Itzá Ruins, in
Yaxunah, Yucatán, MÉXICO

September 13, 2015

WALKING FROM YAXCABA TO YAXUNAH
Last Friday I began walking the 18 kilometers (11 miles) between Yaxunah and Yaxcaba, in order to visit Yaxcaba's ciber, or public Internet place, and upload the latest batch of Newsletters. A few kilometers outside Yaxunah a friend passing in a car offered a ride so in the end I only walked the whole distance on the return trip. Yaxcaba's ciber was closed both times I visited -- once because the operator simply didn't show up, the next time because a tree fell cutting the line. Despite the failed effort to issue the Newsletters, and the tremendous heat on the road, it was a fine hike back.

For one thing, traffic was sparse, so mostly the hike was a matter of peacefully walking among forests and weedy cornfields, watching clouds form and dissipate in the blue sky as they gradually built toward the afternoon storm.

The quietness was good, too. In the old days, except for gobbling turkeys, crowing roosters and occasionally barking dogs, isolated indigenous villages were quiet places. However, now, at least someone in every village blasts boom-boom music for kilometers around, and even certain thatch-roofed huts are equipped with satellite TV, normally with the volume high enough to share dialog and music with distant neighbors. Add that to roving cars and trucks equipped with loudspeakers announcing merchandise for sale, plus the traditional turkeys, roosters and dogs, and a little village gets noisy.

Beginning such a hike, it takes awhile before the body gets into its walking groove but when it does you can put it on auto-pilot and inside your head sort of lean back and watch the scenery pass. At this season -- mid rainy-season here -- the vegetation is as robustly green as can be imagined. It's like June in much of North America, when it's too late for spring flowers but too early for fall flowers, so that most plants just concentrate on the immediate task of producing green herbage.

Something pretty about being immersed in this kind of June-like world of almost smothering greenness and lushness is that despite the rampaging vigor of it all, the whole matter is very simple, at least at first glance. And there's just something about things that are both powerful but seemingly simple, like hurricanes and romantic love. In this case, all this greenness was simply the first step in any wildflower's life-formula:

make photosynthetic parts --> make flowers --> make fruits

Right next to the pavement a single species of the Sunflower Family, the Sunflower Goldeneye, provided nearly all the herbage, giving way to other species farther from the asphalt. The goldeneyes will flower around New Year's, during the early dry season. You can meet Sunflower Goldeneyes, and at the bottom of the page see how they form those yellow banks along these very roads south of Pisté, at http://www.backyardnature.net/yucatan/viguiera.htm.

Walking and walking, after a while the passing roadside with its unending greenery affects you like a long, easy-going, "powerful but simple" passage of Beethoven, maybe something from the Pastoral. The same simple motifs repeated again and again with certain artful variations -- caterpillar outbreaks here, the soil especially thin there stunting the weeds -- and through it all there's this promise of something gorgeous and meaningful at the end.

*****

A WALK AROUND YAXUNAH
Yaxunah is so small that probably it wouldn't appear on most maps if it weren't for the important Maya ruin, also called Yaxunah, about a ten minute walk north of town. Nor would Yaxunah's museum exist in which there's a table-size model of the main part of town, shown at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/15/150913yb.jpg.

There you can see that many blocks are framed with white limestone-rock walls. A little right of center in that photo you see the town's park. A view across part of the real park, with a monument portraying a Maya god at the right, and the town's municipal building in the background, is shown at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/15/150913yc.jpg.

A close-up of that god, with the thatch-roofed hut in the background serving as the tortillaría where each day I buy half a kilo of tortillas, is shown at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/15/150913yd.jpg.

Closer still, we see that the god holds in a wicker bowl some ears of corn and squash -- and we know that these must rest atop beans, for corn, squash and beans are what made the Maya Maya -- at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/15/150913ye.jpg.

Across from the park -- to its left on the tabletop model -- stands the remains of a church. It's roofless, but on Sundays someone rings the bell, and I'm told that Catholics still worship there, probably in a side-building that still has a roof. In recent years about half of Yaxunah's population has joined Protestant denominations. You can see the church at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/15/150913yj.jpg.

Back to the model, at the top and a little left of center there's the cenote, or sinkhole, that originally made the town possible here, by supplying water. Probably the cenote receives more visitors than the ruins. The cenote is shown at midday, when its waters are amazingly deep blue, at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/15/150913ya.jpg.

On the model, the block at the left of the cenote is where I live, in the Yaxunah Community Center. The model was constructed several years ago so it doesn't show what the Center now is like. The Center's main building, consisting of a library and computer room on the left end, and the museum on the right, is at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/15/150913yi.jpg.

A pretty botanical garden, emphasizing plants important to the Maya, occupies most of the block's space. A view across a small pond behind the main building is shown at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/15/150913yf.jpg.

Another shot of the garden, at the right showing the bloated trunk of a Ceiba tree and at the left the sinewy trunks of a strangler fig tree, is shown at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/15/150913yg.jpg.

Finally, there are the two thatch-roofed structures shown at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/15/150913yh.jpg.

My hut -- the future Nature Center -- is at the left in that picture. On the right is the presentation building where often teachers, officials and the like from the outside come lecture on matters from good nutrition to Maya astrology.

*****

STILL NO INTERNET CONNECTION
Our Internet connection at Yaxunah still has failed to materialize, though people who seem like they should know keep predicting that it'll be established during the next two weeks -- as they've said since July.

Of course this is a big change from the almost unbroken chain of weekly Newsletters I've issued since June 10, 2001. Various efforts have been made to upload the current batch of Newsletters, and to deal with accumulating email, but those efforts have failed, like the visit to Yaxcaba described above.

I could simply hire a taxi to Pisté 20kms to the north, but I'm figuring out how to deal with a certain new reality in my life and I don't want to have to depend on taxis. The new reality is that it's much harder now than before for me to find places to live with Internet access, which are places I'm willing to live in.

At this stage in my life I'm increasingly attracted to homes more isolated than those in the past. Now in this isolated location, with regard to the Newsletters, I'm exploring options, and waiting to see what happens. It's a moment of evolution for me, and I'm as curious to see how it all works out as anyone.

This Newsletter will be uploaded as part of a batch of unsent ones when either a connection is established, or I manage to hitch a ride to town with a ciber -- or when some other option arises I can't envision now.

*****

FEATURED ESSAYS FROM THE PAST:

"Looking at Royal Palms" from the February 26, 2012 Newsletter, at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/p/120226.htm

"Mars's Next Visit" from the August 31, 2003 Newsletter, at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/p/030831.htm.

*****

Best wishes to all Newsletter readers,

Jim

All previous Newsletters are archived at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/.