Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the October 24, 2005 Newsletter issued from Hacienda San Juan Lizárraga one kilometer east of Telchac Pueblo, Yucatán, MÉXICO

Hacienda San Juan lies far enough west in the Yucatan Peninsula for us to have escaped the damage suffered on the coast at Cancún and Cozumel. We experienced four or five days and nights of stiff winds and intermittent showers, a few trees lost some branches and some palms lost a frond or two, but that's all.

It was a dramatic event, nonetheless, with radio stations issuing yellow, then orange, and finally red alerts in Spanish and Maya. Because Hurricane Isadora caused such terrible damage here in 2002 people were fearing the worst. At San Juan we dismantled the windmill, placed heavy wooden poles across already-shuttered windows and doors, removed paintings from walls and shifted furniture into safe spots in case the windows and doors blew out. Rumors in town were rampant so when I went there to buy bananas I was asked by several -- for we gringos are recognized as knowing everything -- what would happen. "¿Quien sabe?" is all I could reply.

For five days trees and shrubs gesticulated wildly and grass heaved in pretty waves. The sky changed moment by moment and a shower could come out of nowhere, even as the sun shined. The usual birds kept low profiles though occasionally a low-flying White-winged Dove would streak overhead or a Turkey Vulture would appear having a devil of a time maintaining his usual composure. There were lots of tarantulas along the road and a fair-sized scorpion took up residence in the bathroom. Were they looking for refuge, sensing the storm's proximity? The gardeners killed and chopped to pieces a large boa constrictor. Had this beautiful, harmless snake, who must have lived here for years, also been out searching higher ground?

If you could separate yourself from the dread of what might happen, it was actually a wonderful time to move about, to see the sky so unsettled and the trees and bushes shaking and heaving so. One felt enormous power in the neighborhood, a gorgeous surging of streams of violent, impersonal energy.

On the road to Telchac I met one-eyed Don Hipolito on his bicycle, going to feed his pigs way down a little trail into the scrub. Don Hipolito always wears a wry smile and his wiry little body seems about to erupt into dance at any time, and sometimes it does, with or without music. His nostrils flared and he swept his arm to take in the whole landscape around us gyrating in the wind-roar.

"It's all so agreeable!" he laughed conspiratorially, "¡Es tan agradable!"