An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of May 22, 2016
Issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort adjoining
Chichén Itzá Ruin, Yucatán, Mexico

SAN ISIDRO DAY, TRIANGULATED

The Hacienda's pretty little church, built in the early 1500s, is dedicated to San Isidro, the patron saint of workers. Last Sunday was San Isidro day. The owner invited the community to come for an afternoon mass followed by the eating of a pit-roasted pig, and some Maya ceremonies, all accompanied by exploding rockets and a small band of local musicians playing traditional tunes learned from their fathers.

But, before I talk about that and show some pictures, I want to share this opinion: That life's most vivid moments usually don't take place in isolation, but rather take meaning from outside influences, and/or internal goings-on. In fact, it seems that for me last Sunday there was the event, there was an essay, and there was quantum mechanics.

The essay, from the New York Times and sent by Eric in New York, was Jon Mooallemmay's "The Amateur Cloud Society That (Sort Of) Rattled the Scientific Community." The writer describes attending a meeting of the Society, which mostly was a flop, but while sitting there letting his mind wander about the lives of those other people sitting around him, all living beneath the same sky, and how this occasioned an inexplicable rush of empathy for them. "What I felt, really, was awe: the awe that comes when you fully internalize that every stranger’s interior life is just as complicated as yours." On St. Isidro Day I was in a cloud-appreciation mood.

Eric also had sent an article from Quanta Magazine, an interview with cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman, on the nature of reality, as suggested by quantum mechanics. After several amazing twists and turns, the interview ends with Hoffman discounting all features of what we think of as reality, except one. And that one thing is the experiences of everyday life. What we feel and think right now make up the ultimate nature of reality. "I am postulating conscious experiences as ontological primitives, the most basic ingredients of the world," as he put it. Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, becoming, existence, or reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations. I think that what Hoffman was saying was that everything is illusion, except what's experienced right now.

And so, with these thoughts on my mind, St. Isidro Day came along, as gently and lovely as a cloud, as elegant and unyielding as a quantum formula.

In early afternoon with considerable heat and humidity, as the crowd began gathering, local musicians mounted onto the Hacienda's veranda and began playing simple march-type tunes typical of traditional Maya events, shown below:

Maya musicians
I knew most of the folks who were gathering beneath the big Chinese Banyan directly across from the big building, or at least I could guess which employee's family they belonged to, by their facial features. Below, you can see one cluster:
Maya dresses
A closer look at the statue n the alter is shown below:
Jesus statue
I paid special attention to the banner beside the statue, shown below:
beekeeper's banner
It says that it was presented by the beekeepers' association of nearby Xcalacoop. I like it because it presents one way the Maya see themselves, the planter in the cornfield, the corn plants heavy with light-green ears silking out, and topped by golden tassels of male flowers. The ground is covered with vigorous squash vines, some squash mature while others are still green, and all around the man, the dog, the corn and the squash there are flowers, even above the corn heads where morning-glory vines might mount their blossoms, flowers offering bees sweet nectar and yellow pollen. These stylized blossoms easily could be confused with butterflies, lightning bugs or blinking stars, but somehow it doesn't matter. I'm mystified by the man's clothing and what he appears to be wearing on his head. Whatever the details, it all seems a kind of paradise, yet it's exactly the way the banner maker saw things as he made the banner, a glimpse at his own ontological primitive at that exact moment of inspiration.

Somehow the crowd got organized, and the statue got lifted up for its yearly ascent to the church on the hill. Below, you can see the parade climbing the hill amid melodies of cornet, saxophone and drum:

San Isidro day parade
After the mass the roasted pig was eaten amid much talking and laughing, and then a traditional dance was performed, just for the Maya themselves, for I was the only non-local person there. In this dance the leader hopped and jumped in circles around a table -- the same hop-and-jump gait I've seen Maya shamans use during serious ceremonies -- carrying over his head a big bowl holding the pig's head with a sizable bread roll stuffed into his mouth, and surrounded by other breads. The man was followed by dancing women, a young man throwing water onto onlookers -- especially little boys who seemed to think it a great honor to be splashed -- and a couple of men carrying bright objects that needed no ontological reason to be other than to be colorful, all shown below:
Maya San Isidero Day dancers
I left before the kids were let loose to batter open with sticks the candy-filled piñata dangling from the big Cedro, or Spanish Cedar tree, next to the church. This year the piñata was a little blue horse with rainbow mane and tail. He looked surreal and vulnerable dangling from the Cedro's dry-season-leafless and thus wintry looking branches, behind it looming the lichen-encrusted, dignified old church, and further beyond, a very hot, late-afternoon sky populated with broody clouds with ill-defined borders. Probably there was a message in that juxtaposition of images, but I didn't try to figure it out. Below, you can see it exactly as it was, part of my own ontological primitive as I turned and walked away
horse piñata hanging in tree
The cloud essay is freely available here.

The quantum mechanics one is here. .