An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of July 18, 2010
Issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort adjoining Chichén Itzá Ruin in
YUCATÁN, MÉXICO

HORSEFLIES & RACHMANINOV

Whistling "As Time Goes By" from the old Humphrey Bogart movie Casablanca I enter the dirt-floored hut, summon Rachmaninov's Cello Sonata Opus 19 onto the computer, bring her picture onto the screen and mix myself a stiff pozol, the Maya drink of water and cornflour. I stare at her as the robins' singings just beyond the pole walls mingle with earnest cello and piano. A horsefly drawn by the light lands on the computer screen right atop her lovely ear and as afternoon thunder rumbles deeply on a purple horizon and Rachmaninov's melodies keep knotting up and disentangling I sit sweating and gazing, the odor of mildew drifting up from stained and tattered shorts, and the looming storm's first lightning flickering between the hut's pole walls.

What a thing to be alive and to feel all this, and even to be ready for more once Bogart and Rachmaninov have had their say, the chilly rain has run the horseflies off and the odor of mildew is replaced by the fragrance of the forest's wet herbage and the mud around the hut. I am alive, and memories of this woman haven't killed me yet, and after the rain there will be swallows in the sky and maybe a few rays of sunlight before sunset, and frogs croaking, and maybe then it'll be Bach and Mississippi Leadbelly singing the blues, me lying there inside the mosquito net on raw cedro boards smelling tragically and honestly of resin.

Alive, alive and yearning, not really worried about my time running out because anymore I'm not even sure time exists or that "I" am something apart from everything else with a beginning and an end, just alive, feeling, looking around, soaking in, digesting, holding on, very, very alive.

Here's why I'm telling you all this: This kind of being alive I've come to only after a great deal of simplification and getting rid of stuff. In previous more cluttered, secure and comfortable lives I've tried living exquisitely but always distractions and the laziness that accrues to security and comfort kept me from it, took the edge off things, and of me.

Is the horsefly/Rachmaninov kind of living better than the coffee-maker, big-TV-on-wall one? Except that my style impacts the planetary biosphere much less destructively than a life in which consumption of goods and services is a main feature -- in which case it is indeed better in an important way -- I'd say no. That's because I believe in diversity, so if others have different priorities and choose different living styles, that difference not only is to be respected, but cherished.

However, the world is hog-gung-ho awash with messages that we all must consume, consume, consume, and that's killing the planet. So here are words from a different world, one of biting horseflies, Rachmaninov, pozol and that goodbye woman with her gypsy dresses and two- toned eyes:

Simplify, simplify, simplify, then with what's left over, savor, savor, savor! Facebook Icon.