An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of April 17,   2011
Issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort adjoining Chichén Itzá Ruin in
YUCATÁN, MÉXICO

    SIESTA

I think every day this week the early-afternoon temperature in the shade at the hut's door rose to over 100° (38°C). The humidity wasn't too high, though, so if you kept in the shade and didn't move around much it wasn't bad. In fact, since I jog well before dawn and spend an hour or two each morning shoveling out a hole for a septic pit, by the time it's that hot I'm ready for a brief snooze, and when I lie down, even with the heat, it's actually very pleasant.

A breeze passes through the hut, blowing right between the wall poles, and the wind's sound soughing through the surrounding trees and rustling the roof's thatch is very soothing. Birds are relatively subdued, but still a few manage to call, especially doves with their moody, monotonal ooooooohs. When it's that hot you sweat all the time, but evaporation cools you off, and somehow it feels good when the body reaches its sweat/evaporation equilibrium. Just lie there in the dim hut feeling the soft breeze, listening to the peaceful sounds, letting the mind drift...

But, of course, it's not that simple. I'm a gringo who came of age in conservative rural Kentucky where people were expected to work, not take Mexican siestas. During my early afternoon siestas I always feel a little guilty. Childhood programming is hard to undo, and if a genetic component against afternoon siestas comes with my blue eyes, that's hard to overcome, too.

One way I deal with the guilt is to ask myself just who decided for everyone that people are supposed to work eight-hour days, from nine to five, or thereabouts? Who decided that departing from "normal workaday schedules" was lazy, antisocial, and maybe even sinful?

Also, I keep in mind that my Northern culture not only sniffs at afternoon siestas, but also builds suburbs without sidewalks, and when houses go up, first the developer cuts all the shade trees, then ignores building orientation with regard to natural cooling in the summer, and solar heating in the winter. Nowadays up North even windows are sealed and can't be opened if a pleasant spring breeze is blowing.

Thinking like this, I nod off, in defiance, if nothing else. Then in a few minutes I awaken amazingly refreshed for such a brief rest. Maybe a dried leaf scraping in the wind against the hut's outside wall will have awakened me, or the soft chuckle of a robin calling from deep shade, or the little-feet-on-loose-dry-bark sound of a fly-chasing gecko scampering across the hut's pole walls.

And somehow I think it's a good trade. On the one hand I have to put up with the heat. But, on the other, I get to be where no one blames you if you lie low during the day's hottest hours, and where a nice cooling breeze filters from shade trees all around, and passes right through your little hut's walls. Facebook Icon.