An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of December 25, 2011
Issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort adjoining Chichén Itzá Ruin in
YUCATÁN, MÉXICO

INSIDE A BEAN-VINE TEPPEE

dangling bean pods

The Winter Solstice arrived Wednesday night, so on Thursday I celebrated the New Year. The day's most ceremonial moment was when I went to the garden, sat next to a ten-ft-tall tepee of entangled bean vines, and insinuated myself into it. I lay on the ground looking up through the vine web, harmonizing my interior self with the vines' interplay of sunlight and shadow, upward spiraling stems, leaf-halos of sunlight-in-leaf-hairs, the sound of breezes among leaves, the herby odor of green leaves on vines slightly drooped in midday sun, and the ground's dusty odor of yellow and brown, curled leaves. Silhouettes, sun-streaks, glowings, shadows, all shimmering and animated in the breeze, ants up and down stems, a katydid unmoving on a leaf, me there the same way, the same way as all.

People underestimate the beauty of yellowness. A dangling yellow leaf glowing in sunshine expresses something that a red, green or blue leaf never could. Yellowness flecked with brown is profound, especially if the flecks are angular, as they are on leaves with splotches delimited by branching leaf-veins.

There's something of a cathedral in a sun-drenched bean tepee seen from the inside. Spires, crenulations, stained glass, the iconic clump of pods hanging ready to pluck, the promise of each bean inside its pod, the breath-holding, the prayer.

An iconic clump of pods with silhouetted beans is shown atop this page. My stained glass with an unexpected hatching aphid (Can you see it?) is shown below:

bean leaf reticulations

I love the way breezes move through bean tepees, rustling a leaf here, strumming a spider silk there, but mostly just moving through and out, then beyond.

But, if you stay long inside a bean tepee, ants begin biting. At first they just wander over your body but eventually one clamps down and then they all do and you can't just sit there. Even the most gentle ant-picking provokes them into emitting their formic-acid stink, the odor pooling there inside the tepee, so you're sitting there with ants biting and there's a general stinking, and it's clear that your moment of celebration had a time limit, which is natural.

You get up and look at the tepee, and see that despite all its detail and exotic interior, it's just one tepee among several, plus you could have as easily celebrated among the basil or in the banana grove, or next to the weeds, or someplace in the woods.

And off you go, celebration performed, feeling good to find yourself launched into a New Year as hungry as ever for colors, textures, odors, feelings and rambling thinking that'll be there every day and night for another year, if you can just keep quiet and pay attention. Facebook Icon.