An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of June 12, 2011
issued at Mayan Beach Garden Inn 20 km north of Mahahual
on the Yucatán Peninsula's eastern coast just north of the Belize border,
in the state of Quintana Roo, MÉXICO

TRICKSTER

Stories drift around about Pancho, who lives in a shack up the beach. What's relevant here is that nowadays he's eating sea-turtle eggs and the turtles themselves. He curries favor with his Mexican neighbors by sharing his eggs and turtle meat with them. A neighbor tells me that he gave 50 turtle eggs to a family who didn't really want them, so, after Pancho left, the family threw the eggs away. "Pancho gets to all the nests," I heard, "and he digs out every egg, all up and down the beach."

One way to think about Pancho is that, in terms of the sea-turtle situation, he's The Trickster. Most cultures sophisticated enough to know that everything has an Achilles Heel, recognizes The Trickster in its mythology. The Trickster is the one who always screws things up by unexpectedly playing tricks or otherwise not respecting normal rules and conventional behavior.

The Maya with their gnomelike alux recognize The Trickster. Native North American cultures often taught their children about the Coyote or Raven Trickster, and Black slaves in the US with long memories of Tricksters back in Africa told stories about Br'er Rabbit.

You can understand The Trickster's value in everyday living. Keeping The Trickster in mind, you never over-invest in any one thing, for you assume that at the very moment you're most dependent on that single thing The Trickster will come along and mess it all up. People properly respectful of The Trickster don't build nuclear power plants producing spent fuel that will remain lethal for thousands of years.

So, sea turtles co-evolved with their environment for millions of years, until everything was working just right, the ocean poetizing in terms of peacefully grazing big green sea turtles, and then along came Trickster Pancho, and thousands and thousands of Panchos, which the elegant evolutionary impulse bringing forth sea turtles seems never to have provided for.

But, of course, Nature did think of The Trickster, for The Trickster is part of Nature -- sometimes manifesting as an earthquake or hurricane, or war or pestilence, a comet striking the planet, or just general bad luck. Whatever, The Trickster always comes.

Moreover, there are tricks beyond the everyday sort. For, even after all sea turtles and Tricksters are gone, the creative impulse will remain. New life and new poetry will arise, if not on Earth, then someplace else.

And then the trick will have been on all of us. Facebook Icon.