An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of October 25, 2015
issued from Hacienda Chichen beside Chichén Itzá Ruins in Yucatán, MEXICO

LITTLE GIRL IN A BUS STATION

Last Monday I traveled to Belize by bus so I could reenter Mexico with an updated six-month visa. A little before noon on Wednesday, with a new visa in hand as my bus approached home at Hacienda Chichen, I thought about the trip's adventures and impressions. What I decided was that of everything I'd seen and lived through during the past 2½ days, the most memorable wasn't the epic battle fought with voraciously corrupt border officials, or the flooding besetting southeastern Yucatan, but rather what I'd seen of a little two-year-old girl the previous night, in the ADO bus station of the border town of Chetumal, as I'd awaited the departure of my 11PM bus for Cancún.

The large, hangar-like bus station was equipped with rows of metal benches where ticket holders waited for their buses. The benches were made of thin sheets of metal so densely perforated that they formed a webbing consisting more of open spaces than metal. The benches' webbing and wire arm-rests were painted with a glossy, smooth, bright red paint, and styled into artful curves that left naked edges and sharp points bent away from human contact. Seats were tilted so that one's butt scooted backwards and down into a comfortable cavity. I got to watch the little girl discover these benches.

She'd lift up her shirt, exposing her bare belly and chest, run toward the benches and plop face-down onto the seats, and with her arms and legs spread like a sky-diver's squirm back and forth feeling the metal's coolness, smoothness and weird webbed feeling. She'd stand in the seat leaning against the back and slide downward until her spine was bent into a C while her head remained erect, and she could see her legs projecting into the waiting-room's vast openness. The view seemed to astonish her. Again and again she'd stand, slide down, and look surprised to find her legs jutting into the big room's glaring light and echoing bus-departure announcements.

She straddled the arm rests, facing both backwards and forwards. She got under the bench and for a long time stared upward through the webbing at lights hanging on long wires dangling from the high ceiling. She stuck one leg through the narrow space separating two seat bottoms, and then the other leg, her thrashing feet never reaching the tiled floor. The benches were of just the right height so that the fuzzy-socked feet of her year-old brother on her mother's lap next to her rested on her mother's knees where the little girl could stand barefooted on the cold floor and bury her face in pink, woolly sock-fuzz.

Nothing seemed to delight the little girl more than lying on her back on the seats with her arms and legs spread wide apart, gazing upward into the network of long-dangling, glaring ceiling lights. She writhed like a psyched-up snake, shrieking and flapping her arms and legs as if in anticipation of embracing the whole Universe with its gorgeous rainbow of textures, odors and colors, as if wanting to match those universal feelings with her own and unrestrainedly multiply them and send them forth anew like her own screeching laughter echoing among the ceiling's glaring points of light and emptiness.

On Wednesday morning as I descended from the Oriente bus in downtown Pisté, I thought how I'd like to experience my walk to the Hacienda just as the little girl had the bus station's benches. First I'd visit the frutaría with its fragrant bins filled with green cabbage, orange oranges and yellow bananas, then I'd hike out of town into the ruin zone with its streaming lines of international visitors, idling tour buses and of course the mind-bending ruins themselves, and finally I'd reach the quiet, shadowy world of the Hacienda.

In fact, it was a good walk. I saw Melodious Blackbirds stealing corn from fields next to the road, and summery white cumulus clouds in a blue sky, and my sweating skin was cooled by a fresh breeze from the west. When I hiked by the vast Pyramid of Kukulcán I thought about a certain curvature of the Mayas' history, their jungle origin, their defeat and enslavement by Cross-bearing Spaniards, and the subsequent mingling of the two cultures, leading to today's thatch-roof huts equipped with satellite dishes.

And as I walked into the Hacienda's quiet shadiness I thought of my own attempts to put together a life consisting of 68 years of memories, built-up opinions and vestiges of programming both genetic and societal, and I saw myself squirming on a seat's bottom formed for something much larger than myself, gazing into a vastness almost blinding with uninterpretable points of light and shifting zones of glare.

And then I wondered: At that very moment might there be a higher form of something watching me and my existential squirmings, enjoying Herself enormously, exactly as I had watched the little girl?

And I wondered whether it might be that the whole Universe with all its joyfully and sufferingly evolving things constitutes a kind of squirming-while-gazing-upward. Could it be that the little girl, and my watching and having feelings for the little girl, and the thing maybe watching me and having feelings as I watched the little girl... all somehow on some level of reality might resolve into what anyone could identify as childlike laughter lighting up a Universe with its ricocheting echoes and ever-outward proliferation?