Saturday, December 26, 2009

OF RIBBONS AND BOWS...


A silly fantasy I've entertained over the years came to fruition on Christmas morn.

Background Part A:  Our front yard which was once an apple orchard has become a junkyard of old cars from Hudsons and Model T's on up to... well, that's part of the story I guess.

Background Part B:  As a young child I drew incessantly and fantasized having my very own red convertible car.  When the Miata appeared decades later -- first as huge billboards with a photo of a red one and just its name -- I recognized my childhood drawings made real.
SO..... for fun, I would poke Robert to see if maybe...  but NEVER really meaning it because such cars are so very impractical.  Where do you put the groceries, your friends, your bike, your pokeboat, your camping gear?
Nevertheless, I played around with the image of waking one Christmas morning, and after coffee and sweet quiet before the tree, finding a small package there for me.
Inside this package would be a key, maybe with a bow on it, and a note, "Whatever car this fits, is yours.  PS  Look for a bow."
Then I would wander out into our yardful of cars and search...  and find that Miata.

This Christmas Morn / 2009:  After a quiet time in the living room, fire newly stoked, I looked under the tree and there was a little package -- a key with a bow on it.  I winked at Robert and stepped outside in slippers and robe.  No need to look far, no need to trudge through the snow looking among all the cars out there.  Right there in the carport was a car new to me, with a red bow on it.  AND, the key fit.

Mind you, it is a practical car -- one I really truly DO want and deeply appreciate.  It is really OUR car because we will be taking it on many a camping/adventure.  It is a new-to-us-used Dodge Caravan.  Not red, though.  Blue, Iris Blue.  (If I get around to it, I'll restage the discovery for a photo-op  but don't hold your breath --my iPhoto says it's full, which is also why I've yet to post Mexico pix -- can't load 'em!)

(...and I smile here as I post this Christmas fantasy because right at the start of this blog --December 2007 -- is far more profound fantasy come true, described under the title "A Sadhu's Christmas in India.")

Friday, November 27, 2009

Book-ends

* Outta the water our first week in Mexico...
We began our leisure here with accidents as soon as we arrived (lost toenail for me, three stitches on the shin for Robert) which kept us out of the water, a week for each of us.
After luxuriating in the silveryblue and undulating radiance of water for the many following weeks (accompanied by the ever amusing pelicans round about, and various fishy shenanigans like a needle fish seemingly spending more time above the water than in etc etc)--

* ...we now end our sojourn, again out of the water, kind of like book-ends:
I am out of the water for a week because I'm currently up here in San Francisco -- thoroughly enjoying each and every one of my extended family members. Thus I am not IN Mexico for our final week. This is a choice I made months ago when I booked my round-trip tix. I will fly back to our humble casita just in time to help pack everything up in bug and rat tight boxes, and hit the road north.
Meanwhile, Robert is out of the water thanks to a scorpion bite.
We each had always thought a scorpion bite would be nothing more than like a really painful bee-sting. I was there when Robert got bitten, saw the guy, and watched Robert knock it off his body and step on it. Not all that painful, he said.... and we thought that would be that.
The villagers know better.
In the explanation from their years of experience, the venom of a scorpion is actually a neurotoxin that is cooling, and so you must keep your body warm to prevent the spread of it throughout your body...
So, besides injecting Robert (actually he injected himself, fearless man)
with an anti-scorpion bite treatment we keep handy in our home, he
followed their advice. For those first few hours especially, stay warm
and quiet. That means: no ocean breezes, no swimming,
no hammocks. Lie down, don't go to sleep.
Odd thing, neurotoxins. Besides numbing the area around the bite,
a typical experience (Robert, too) is that your tongue and lips feel
as though there are ants crawling over them, and the roots of your
teeth ache somewhat. Later on, the villagers say, your hands may
feel numb, too.
None of this was debilitating, of course. Robert kept quiet and
warm, and I read to him while he rested. I suspect that when I
return, this will have run its course.

And are we now daunted? Are we more fearful about living here?
Are you kidding? No way! We have had rattlesnakes by our
creekside chairs in our own Durango backyard, and bears
and mountain lions sometimes prowl our property. Are we
now afraid to live there anymore? You get the idea.
We are at ease, and aware (and love the gentle warmth of the
village neighbors, the inviting radiance of the sea, the ever
more homey beauty we are co-creating out of our humble
casita and land).
Same as you are, wherever you live.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Birdwatcher Alert

History: Our U.S. bird i.d. book lists a type of dove with a black v on its chest that is local, and also an Asian bird, larger and more aggressive with the same appearance... This Asian bird appears to be winning the survival of the fittest game, sez the book...

So: There are birds that appear to be either one of them, here in our digs (I cannot judge their size). But they ACT like irate Jaybirds, for starters. Fellow villagers laugh at their audacity as well... When strolling the winding footpath into our backyard jungle, two of these birds took great umbrage at my presence, flying from perch to perch in the thick growth directly above me at every turn, squawking loudly. They actually leaned down towards me screaming their invectives when I paused to look up at them..

What makes them especially, um, endearing is that they also have a crest! It rises up above their heads when they are thus agitated, and they shake it at me as they yell at me. No such crest is mentioned in my bird book at home.

Nor is the bird itself, crest or non'crest, mentioned in our book of Mexican birds. Not pictured, not spoken of.

Anyone have a clue, or experience with, this character?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

LITTLE BATTLES

Friends have expressed fear about the drug scene...

None of this affects our magical, calm daily life in the village and at the beach, and among our friends both local and from abroad.

Our mornings begin with butterflies, hummingbirds. Over coffee, we watch the hummingbirds war over the sweet blossoms of the male papaya tree. This morning there were three, and the sound they make is exactly the sound that the warring spaceships use in the Starwars movies. I bet that is where the MOVIE sound did come from. These guys zoom all over the sky above our yard.

At any time during the day, our porch may suddenly fill with the laughter and creativity of village kids... Their new passion is crayon'painting the xeroxed mandalas and wild animals which I provide. Many shaped building blocks, train tracks etc are also very popular.

At other times, loved neighbors drop by, often for breakfast. Our American style oatmeal with raisins and figs, plus coffee, is very popular. In return, we are invited to fresh'caught fish (tuna this morning), salad fixings, and hot made-on-the-spot blue corn tortillas. What we love to do is laugh together.

Too, Robert and I often hop on our bikes and zip down the dirt road, through the coco groves and all, to look at the waves on the beach (from our side of the river, which is only, um, ankle deep this time). We can forget to leave, too. SO beautiful and peaceful.

Yesterday, we saw a cock fight but not with chickens. It was seabirds, right there on the edge of the sea! And after all their posturing, and wing spreading and prancing, they took the battle to the air and duked it out up there! The winner, by mutual agreement, got to have the stony low'tide area rife with little fishies. The loser did not fare all that badly either. He just had to move to down to the river mouth a ways.

Oh, Robert just walked in. End of town trip.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Time Out....

I have maybe three minutes.

Update on drugs: the word on the street is more cinematic than the word in the English language newspaper published in Mexico City. Makes a better movie.

Update on the waves: Robert is having a great time and even tried out his vintage 1960 vintage Jacobs 9.0 board out there. Guess who f*ed with him, stealing his waves with a sly grin.

Update on boogieboarders: I am still swimming laps.

Gotta run! Next week I fly to San Francisco for a week.. combination Thanksgiving and Family Reunion and Celebration of our Parents' 100th birthdays (Note: they have passed on, however, thus it is their fine and loved memory that we celebrate.

Then I fly back here to pack up, and drive with Robert to see the wonderful Monarch butterflies in their winter digs... again. Scroll down and view a sampling of our photos. Wish I could post the videos.

Gone... with the wind......

Monday, November 9, 2009

SNAPSHOTS & VIDEOS

Well, verbal ones, that is. Can´t upload from here.

(But first: there are very fine waves for surfers, just not huge. You can "wear yourself out" as one guy said. Nothing for boogiers since the very first day, however. So, I swim laps.....
and Second: just after I wrote the previous entry, I saw folks with their wheelbarrows back in action AND my first burro sighting in our village.... he was from the neighboring village, however. All is not changed forever.)

1. iPOD: BROOKS & DUNN ("video")
Shoulda seen us! The village was dark and quiet the other night, but our porch was bopping. We hooked up the iPod to speakers (only loud enough for us), and just the two of us--we rocked out to the country sounds of whining guitars, close harmonies, and sappy lyrics.

2. MANDALAS ("photo")
After weeks of coloring between the lines on xeroxes of simplified mandalas that I supply, the local village kids took the chalk to the walk (meaning the ramada floor), and turned it into a full-bloom garden of colors. Hated to wash them away it was so beautiful... but they scuff, you know. And that night was Halloween, when all the village kids and a good number of parents crowd in to see the Gringa Bruja who bribes their ugly, hateful selves to leave her alone by giving them.... CHOCOLATE! Pix posted later.

3. ANCIENT MAYAN TEMPLE ("photo")
There is already of photo of this if you scroll to a previous entry-- but now it is so overgrown with large flowering vines that it looks very much like an archeological discovery. Soon to be transformed into a washroom for laundry, dishes, and bodies. Whether or not we put in a toilet is up for debate. Old hippies here. Whassamatta with a hole in the ground? Feeds that toad! Feeds them chickens! Furthermore, it´s beautiful back there in the jungle.... AND this woman right here at this keyboard doesn´t have to scrub and clean that hole out back. Now that there´s the real reason for wondering why bother to build a throne in a box.

4. DRUG DEALS GOIN´DOWN (photo)
A Facebook friend inquired if we´d seen any lately. I answered him there, but here it is again... Our dear friends who live right at the beach DID see (early dawn) a heavily laden and powerful-motored speedboat slide onto the beach just as trucks arrived from the road that ends there... a quick hauling of cargo from boat to truck and zooom. Boats and trucks were gone and all was quiet. Not for long. Shortly after, whether connected or not (you can never know), a man was found hanging from a nearby bridge over the coastal highway. There was quite the swarm of armed soldiers around that site. There are regular roadblocks with armed military as we drive to Zihua and back. And it is quite usual for truckloads of black'dressed, masked, and heavily armed soldiers to patrol our beach. We wave and smile, and some return the courtesy. One guy called a couple of the armed guys over, along with a couple of bikini'clad girls, and set himself in the center. Photo shoot! Big grins on the faces of all.

5. iPOD REDUX (whatever)
So, I´ll end this whimsical entry with another iPod story, kinda like bookends. Robert was in the ramada fixing up surfboards. I was on the porch with crayons and a xeroxed Tibetan mandala, very engrossed in my ouevre. On the iPod was playing "Raising Sand" (Robert Plant and Alison Krauss). Up our little hill, there comes bopping our delightful long'time pal. Omar -- with white wires dangling from his ears. Well, that was no surprise, since we "paid" him for work done with an iPod. What made it fun, is that he bopped over to our iPod, unplugged our sappy sweet music (to Mexican ears for sure, though this longtime folkie loves it) and plugged in HIS iPod. Man, he had on the coolest, most involving, rhythmical, great.... African music!

Sayonara.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

EPHEMERAE

1. LIGHT
Walking the winding trail through our jungly backyard, I caught sight of a perfect circle of sunlight with a perfect shadow of a heart centered within. As I walked past, I made note to return quickly with a camera and catch that view. Less than a minute later, there was not a trace of that perfection. The sun had moved on.

2. WHEELBARROWS AND SALESMEN
In 2002, and again in 2004, I made note of how the villagers traveled the winding wild dirt road from the village to the seaside.... They used wheelbarrows. The fishermen carried their gear to their boats in the early dawn, returning many hours later hopefully laden with fish. On Sundays, mothers carried the family feast and whatnot in their wheelbarrows, kids bouncing and racing all around, as they made their way to the sea. Wheels! Only a few still rode horses. Never saw a burro here.

Now, it is all trucks, and 4-wheelers, sometimes a kid driving; even fancy cars from big cities.

This transformation does bring up one delightful morning repetition. The fishermen pile in the back of trucks, and one particular young man always calls to his uncle in the early dawn light... his uncle who lives across our road, and diagonally down the hill from us, out of sight. This uncle likes to sleep in, so as well as roosters, we are treated to a humorous, friendly tirade from this nephew, as the truck putters outside the uncle's house:
"Tio! Oye, TIO! Ay, cabron..... TIO! Andale perro! Vamanos!"

3. SALESMEN
A vanished species. Back in 2004, I swung in a hammock on our porch and made note of all the things you can buy just by hanging out in a hammock on your porch. Apparently, I have lost that list, but here are some of the things: fresh baked breads, water, gas, fresh hot tortillas, ice cream and candies, furniture, hammocks, clothes, embroidered pillowcases and antimacassars, woven floor mats, jewelry, make'up, Jesus of course -- oh the list goes on. The salesmen just walk up the driveway bearing goods.

All that is mostly over now. No one can afford the gas to travel to small villages, and no one here has all that much cash on hand to buy. Gas, water, and tortillas -- and Jesus of course -- still come by. The colorful homespun creations, no more.

3. DAWN
I am now settled in enough to rise just at the very first hint of First Light, take my dulcimer and mat to the ramada and face east for the dawning.... while quietly tuning my voice to my favorite raga, going up and down the specific scale til my voice is free, and then start singing songs.... all quietly.

4. WAVES
I remember waves...... there used to be a lot of them. Big, too!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

FRESH SEA-BREEZE...and...

(NOTE: I have revised the previous entry rather considerably, if you care to look it over. Also, PETER! If you´re reading this, please email me personally. We have a humble request, regarding our butterfly book, on the bed in our computer room. Please bring it! It has the directions to the butterfly forest.)

FRESH SEA-BREEZE...
The other day it was more than a "sea'breeze" --yeeeha, it was what is called in Spanish, "una tormenta." Great word for a storm. We wandered casually over to the beach as the dark clouds were building and flashing, and the wind was beginning.....

...to watch the waves, and to marvel at the waves. There were waves in every direction as far as the horizon. Huge ones, with long trailing seafoam blown off the tops like the hair of a blonde in a red sportscar. So huge, you could easily see these mammoth fellows rolling along the coastline right out there on the very horizon.

Some were rolling in towards our beach --none of those were in any predictable pattern -- but those huge rollers in the distance were going "sideways" to the beach. They were rolling from east to west, as we stood there facing south. Breath'taking wildness.

And the surfers? Oh, they were out there in spades, like little ants, scrambling around trying to catch a wave. But it was like pinball. There were waves everywhere, but most waves weren´t formed right. You had simply to be lucky, and be at the right place at the right time -- with no clue where that might be -- and with a mighty blustering wind fighting your every stroke.

Meanwhile, back at the casita.... Mind you, our every day IS sweet.

The air is fragrant because October here is like spring --lush and moist, and laced with flowers everywhere. Birds and butterflies flit about. Our house is daily filled with laughter and tricksters, and warm companionship. The latest craze is jigsaw puzzles of varying difficulty, plus creating chalk designs all over the floor of our ramada (which by the way, the kids then broom-wash away without prompting, because even THAT is fun). Much of the time, we are goofing around WITH the kids...

Occasionally, we get out there in our rolling large yard and hack down a few square yards more of the humongous overhead weeds that blanket our yard in the four'month absence. Later(!!) for hauling the tonnage to a central pile for composting. Hot work, heavy work. By the way, our last visit´s compost pile is now rich dark earth. Yes!

Is Mercury going straight YET?????

I ask, because as you all recall, I was kept out of the water from my very first day--for a week --with a stub-removal of a complete toenail. The DAY I was healed up enough to return was the DAY that ROBERT got injured and is now officially "out of the water" til HE heals.

Some dumb gringo surfer kid (which is to say, it was not a deliberate attack by you-know-who) jumped on Robert´s wave, saw him already there, and bailed from his board with a dive.... and in so doing, carelessly kicked his board directly AT Robert, causing a veryvery deep vertical gash on Robert´s shin.

Robert limped home, and we gathered ourselves to go to a clinic in a nearby village where there actually IS a clinic. All the kids that were playing at our house jumped in the car for the ride. Party! Party!

The clinic room was a recently whitewashed broom closet (small, I mean), and the treatment table was my knees. Robert sat on a folding chair and draped his injured leg over my knees and that was where the doctor treated him.. He was CLEARLY very professional, very thorough, very clean, very good.... Three stitches. Five more days and then Robert can cut his own stitches and go back into the waves.

I just learned, a propos of nothing, that a mapache is a Mexican raccoon, and a tlacuache is a Mexican possum -- so it seems from descriptions/behaviors.

Most night around midnight Guillermo (our dear Mayor, and dear friend) goes with his dog Payaso (meaning Clown) and often with Omar and HIS dog -- and they start at opposite ends of Guille´s cornfield out there among the coco trees, and they beat the stalks and yell and the dogs bark and race around and just raise hell. Scaring away the mapache. Two nights ago, Payaso caught and killed one.

Our life here is such a rich mix of ancient village life patterns found throughout the world over multiples of centuries, and the jarring nearby presence of the modern one. The anthropologist in me watches quietly, and the philosopher in me muses.

Enough! Town trip. I have many errands to do.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Chasing the Moonset...























Sitting quietly in my boat before dawn, awaiting moonset, successive clouds of small black birds rise up from the island, cover the sky in wildly noisy cacophany, and then they are gone, and all is silent.


Surely they are very same birds I watched on another day at sunset. I watched them arrive -- from where? -- with the same uproarious symphony, and settle on that island. Noisy clouds settling in the greenery, and shaking the air for some time.


I like to let the wind blow me backwards. I like to watch the lakeweeds below my boat sway as I glide over. I like to see the waterbirds move with me yet maintain our distance.


And that black waterbird, diving fearlessly so close to my boat -- she glides around a reeded bend, only to peek back at me from time to time. At last, responding to her beckoning, I slowly move my boat. Ah! Proud mama! She is showing me her little one as they fuss with no fear of me, among the reeds.


Dawn’s golden rays flash silver the leaping fish.


Here? Lotus blooming among reeds? Ha! Fine feathers floating amid.


The round moon at sunrise melts like a lemon drop into the great blueness of sky.



Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Ramcharitmanas


THE RAMCHARITMANAS by Tulsidas
(from a talk I delivered recently -- better heard than read, of course.)

It has been said that you cannot truly understand the people of northern India unless
you
also have some understanding of their national spiritual epic, "The Ramayana."
The name,
"The Ramayana" means
"The Way of Ram." But who is Ram?
Well, then -- I would add that you cannot understand the Ramayana without some modicum of
understanding of the Hindu pantheon... so here it is in the briefest of nutshells (show "graph" and explain briefly). Now that you understand that, it also helps to understand that the Ramayana is but one of a number of sacred scriptures. There are other, far older scriptures such as the Rig-Veda, which approach the spirituality of the Hindu through Wisdom... But the quickest way to know God is through Love, and the most honeyed text of Love is the Ramayana.

Especially a particular version of the Ramayana. In the 15th Century, when Shakespeare was penning his masterpieces, the lyrical poet, Tulsidas was busy creating his masterpieces. The most famous is his "Sri Ramcharitmanas" which translates: "The Manas Lake Brimming Over With the Exploits of Sri Rama." It is THIS version that lakhs and crores of Hindus (100s and 1000s, to you) have memorized, many sing it in its entirety every Saturday.... And then again, every Tuesday, many sing their favorite chapter, known as "The Sundarakand" -- "The Beautiful Story." They love to do so, because as a meditation, this book can transport you to higher realms of consciousness.

Tulsidas himself SAYS so in the final paragraph of this epic book. You've heard this once already this morning: "This translation has been rendered into the common tongue by Tulsidas for dispersing the gloom of the heart. This glorious, holy, purifying, blessed, and most limpid lake of Ram's exploits ever begets happiness; nay, it bestows both wisdom and devotion, wipes out delusion, infatuation and impurity, and is brimful with the water of Love. Those who devoutly take a plunge into it are never scorched with the burning rays of the sun of worldly illusion."

It is this book, on one delightful day, that my own guru handed out to each and every westerner then seated at his feet. (Hold up my tattered Ramcharitmanas....) Before that, I knew NOTHING of this book. Shortly after receiving my copy I got a small taste of the power of the book. I was on a train, third class, women's car, and had the book in my lap. Sitting across from me, were three wizened "grandmothers", as sweet and gentle as warm honey. Our knees pressed against each others' across the narrow space.

Spying my Ramayana, one grandmother asked to look at it. She flipped through the pages and found, in the Hindi text section, a favorite passage. She and her companions offered to sing it to me. She passed the book back, and showed me where to follow along in English. You had to be there, of course, but the atmosphere became charged with light, and the meaning of the words took form as they sang praises to the dust of the feet of the guru. It begins in this way:

"I greet the pollen-like dust of the lotus feet of my preceptor, refulgent, fragrant and flavoured with love. It is a lovely powder of the life-giving herb, which allays the host of all the attendant ills of mundane existence... It rubs the dirt off the beautiful mirror in the shape of the devotee's heart. When (this dust) is applied to the forehead it attracts a host of virtues. .."

Once I began reading this book myself, I was delighted by Tulsidas' disclaimer of his own skill as a writer... Here is but a taste of it: "...recognizing the entire creation as full of Sita and Rama, I make obeisance to them with joined palms. ... I have no confidence in my intellectual power, hence I supplicate you all. ....(For herein, I dare to) recount the virtues of Sri Rama. But my wits are poor, whereas the exploits of Sri Ram are unfathomable. ... my intellect is exceedingly mean, my ambition is pitched too high. (Of those who are ) slaves of the flesh, anger and passion, and who are unscrupulous, hypocritical and foremost among intriguers --I occupy the first place among them. (...) I am no poet, nor an adept in the art of speech. (... ) There are elegant devices of letters, subtleties of meaning, various figures of speech, metrical compositions of different kinds, infinite varieties of emotions and sentiments and multifarious flaws and excellences of poetic composition. Of these details of poesy, I possess critical knowledge of none. My composition is devoid of all charm; it has only one merit, which is known throughout the world. ... It contains the gracious name of... Ram."

Despite this elegant denial, "The Ramcharitmanas" is a pleasure to read, just to absorb the exquisite skill of the poet as he takes off on highly descriptive sidepaths, as he wanders into philosophical and spiritual realms. Furthermore, it is a rich compendium of the Hindu culture. This book contains numerous stories-within-the-story, which explain the background and history of the various characters and events. Each of these stories is filled with humor, pathos and wonder.

For the sheer mischief of it, may I share with you an excerpt from one of them... In this one, the world's very existence is being threatened by an all-powerful demon, and it has been said that only the son of Shiva can conquer this demon. Unfortunately, Shiva is childless, celibate, and deep in an eons-long trance. Someone must volunteer to awaken him. The onus falls on the God of Love, who mutters to himself, "I expect no good to come to myself from this."

Love tries many tactics to awaken Shiva, all of which fail. But his most memorable attempt -- and it fails also, by the way, though I doubt any of us here would escape -- Anyway, his most memorable attempt to awaken Shiva was to set all of creation into a state of pure lust. Listen to these excerpts:

"(Love) then exhibited his power and brought the whole world under his sway -- the sway of lust. All the barriers imposed by the Vedas were swept away in a moment. The whole army of discriminating knowledge such as celibacy, religious vows, self-restraint, fortitude, piety, spiritual wisdom, and the knowledge of qualified divinity both with form and without form, morality, muttering of prayers, yoga, dispassion and so on fled in panic. They all went and hid themselves in mountain caves in the form of sacred books! Whatever creatures existed in the world, whether animate or inanimate, were completely possessed by lust. The boughs of trees bent low at the sight of creepers. Rivers in spate rushed to meet the ocean. Lakes and ponds united in love. Where such was reported to be the case with the inanimate creation, who can relate the doings of sentient beings? Beasts that walk on land and birds traversing the air and water lost all sense of time and became victims of lust. As for gods, demons, human beings, serpents, evil spirits, fiends, ghosts and vampires -- I have refrained from dwelling on the condition of these, knowing them to be the eternal slaves of passion. Even spiritual adepts, Siddhas and yogis gave up their practices under the influence of lust. (...) For nearly an hour this wonderful game of Love lasted in the universe. Shiva's unbroken trance, however, could not be disturbed."

Finally, Love DOES find a way to awaken Shiva --but at the cost of his own embodiment. Shiva dutifully fathers a son, who goes on to destroy the demon and so on..... But this background story is still simply setting the stage.
So now, on to the main text of the Ramayana. Overall, it is a simple story. There is a despotic king -- a demonic king from the south who aspires to dominate over all the three worlds: the underworld of the demons, the human realm, and the heavenly realm of the gods. He sets out to destroy all the temples, and all the holy priests, as well as capture all the pretty women including (and herein lies the kernel of the tale) -- including capturing Ram's lovely wife Sita. The demon's name is Ravana. He is intelligent, handsome, and charming when you look directly at him. But glimpsed out of the corner of your eye, he is terrifying with 10 heads and 20 arms, violent and angry. The terrified people, even the Earth herself, pray to the heavens for salvation. Lo and behold, their prayers are answered! A savior, by the name of Rama, is born -- and he does just that. With the help of a humble monkey named Hanuman, who locates the kidnapped Sita, and the help of other jungly creatures who fight the smaller demons, Ram confronts and destroys this scourge of creation, this Ravana, sets free his wife, and sets the world back on a righteous track. End of story.

Ah, but the glory is in the details! How the Hindus treasure each and every step of the way -- allegorically, romantically, spiritually... They see the essence of this story repeated continually, in their personal lives, AND they see it expanded into the flow of national and international politics. And they often speak of it. Here is one example of how The Ramcharitmanas was applied to our modern times... It is embodied in another interesting pre-story. This one gives a deeper understanding of the demonic Ravana. And it gives a far deeper understanding of the vastness of Love which permeates all Creation. It is a great story. Here is but a snapshot:

As the story goes -- Ravana, in his previous incarnation, had been a goodhearted king named Pratapabhanu. This Pratapabhanu was a spiritually advanced soul, kind and generous to his people. His only flaw was pride -- pride in how well he ruled, and thus he could not resist conquering neighboring kingdoms and imposing his rule over them. Not surprisingly, this pride led to jealousy and anger on the part of the conquered kings, and sure enough, one such king took revenge. Through an elaborate deception, he caused Pratapabhanu to be cursed by 1000 Brahmins! Oh, they cursed him! They cursed him to be reborn as the demonic scourge of creation in his next life, him and all his family! Thus this once good king became... Ravana. His only hope for salvation from this dreadful embodiment was to be conquered by the embodiment of Love, by the godhead incarnate... Enter Ram, whose arrows behead him and split his body in half... emphatically freeing him from his demonic debt. He is now free to be reborn, as a humbled spiritual adept, and continue on his path to enlightenment. Applying that birth/rebirth pattern to modern times, one Hindu friend of mine said, quite matter-of-factly, that that same reincarnation pattern was true of.... Hitler.

THERE ARE NO BAD GUYS. IT IS ALL ABOUT LOVE -- AND UNDERSTANDING THE BIG PICTURE, THE REALLY BIG PICTURE WHICH IS: IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE.

All of this teaching is so sweetly embedded throughout the story of Ram. So... here's a quick glance at the symbolism of a few of the characters in the epic:
For example, according to Tulsidas, Ram is the unfathomable, incomprehensible Godhead beyond words... but for now let'ss say that Ram represents our Pure Self of Noble Instincts-- that pure being within us who longs to manifest. However, we cannot easily achieve that state of awakening because our willpower, our inner strength, our pure self, our kundalini (which is Sita) is held too tightly captive, entrenched by our worldly entanglements -- the entanglements of lust, greed, anger and attachment (Ravana). It is only by deep inner resolve, calming ourselves down, humbling ourselves with some sort of regular spiritual practice that we can hope to break free (symbolized by the monkey, Hanuman, ever the humble servant). Then --and only then-- can we find the deep and stable inner peace that we seek (symbolized by the union of Sita and Rama).

Let me play with that for a bit... by looking again at the storyline,. But this time, I will add the symbolism of the characters and actions:
Here we have a world suffering under the scourge of a despotic king (that would be each of us doing the suffering, thanks to our own desires and attachments). Then, because of the passionate prayers of the people (our own longing), Vishnu incarnates as Ram (we become aware of our own spiritual potential). All looks good. Ram is slated to be crowned king -- but on the very eve of his coronation, the intrigues of jealousy break out (our desires distract us)... and Ram is instead banished to wander in the jungle for 14 years (recall our own detours along the way). As Ram sets off, his brother Lakshman and his lovely new bride Sita come running after him. They will NOT be left behind.

The journey leads them deeper and deeper into the dark jungles, closer and closer to the kingdom of the despotic and ambitious Ravana (what risks have each of us taken in our life's journey? what tempting detours?). While wandering in the jungle, there are demonic spies who have been watching the trio, and reporting back to Ravana. (this would be our personal justifications for our transgressions... lying to ourselves) Most ominously, these spies praise the beauty and purity of Sita. Ravana, who must always have the best, decides to personally kidnap Sita for his harem, which he does. (in other words, we succumb to the self-deception of pride in our accomplishments -- but there is no peace in that, and so comes the next development)

Rama (our soul), distraught with grief at the loss of Sita, and with no standing army to turn to, engages the help of the local denizens of the forest -- the humble beings around him -- the monkeys and bears, and chipmunks.
One monkey emerges from among the many -- the clever, deeply devoted, very capable and surprisingly humble Hanuman (personal spiritual practice). Ravana feels no threat whatsoever from humans and monkeys (spiritual practice! HA!)! He cannot recognize their inner strengths. Indeed, he exclaims triumphantly, "They are our FOOD!"
Thus the story goes on. You're on your own now, to make the symbolic connections.


I would like to end my talk by touching on the most beloved chapter of the entire epic, "The Sundarakand/The Beautiful Story"... and I want to highlight it. It tells of how the humble Monkey, Hanuman, finds Sita and reports back to Ram.


It is beautiful because of the antics and cleverness of Hanuman. It is beautiful because of his gentleness with Sita. It is quite delightful how Hanuman outwits the demons, even Ravana -- and how cleverly he burns down the demon's city of Lanka. And, it is beautiful because of the words he speaks to Ram, reassuring Ram that his lovely Sita is alive...

What happens next in The Sundarakand, is the moment perhaps the most highly prized by the Hindu. There is an image of this moment in stained glass in the Hanuman Temple in Taos. I have used it as the cover on my CD. And it is there, on the cover of this morning's program (and at the top of this post, btw). The image portrays this: Hearing Hanuman's report of Sita's wellbeing, Ram is overwhelmed with emotion. Tears flood from his lotus eyes. He draws Hanuman to his feet and gently enfolds him in his arms. (that moment!) Ram says: "No one, no god, no human, no sage, has done for me what you have done, o Hanuman. How can I repay you? Listen, my son. I have thought over this question, and I have concluded that the debt which I owe you for finding my beloved Sita can never be repaid...." Hanuman, utterly overwhelmed with love, falls to the ground sobbing, "Save me, save me, from the grasping tentacles of egotism!" That moment in the narrative, for the Hindu, is a show-stopper....

Then, the action picks up considerably. It is time for the battle! Ravana must be destroyed. Sita must be rescued! And few details are ignored. This is a thick book. The army of monkeys and bears -- and chipmunks -- spring into action and engage the demon forces in battle. It is not a pretty sight, and it is described in its full gore... with unholy rivers of blood, and ghouls and goblins taking their plunge in it, and dead warriors floating down it like boats, with birds perched on them... There are even heat-seeking missiles and multiple warheads. Our modern weapons are nothing new. The battle goes from the physical realm into the psychic realm of illusion, as well... In the end, as I've said earlier, the final battle comes down to one-on-one between Ravana and Ram. Ram kills Ravana and then praises him for the great -- but flawed -- king that he was. His karmic debt has now been erased.

This entire adventure, from the moment Ram was banished to this dramatic death of Ravana, by the way, has taken exactly the same 14 years for which Ram had been banished. Ram is now free to return to Ayodhya. There is, however, one controversial snag. Something about the fact that Sita had been under the roof of another man... There is an older version of the Ramayana, written by Valmiki in classical Sanskrit, which does not shy away from this snag. But our beautiful poet Tulsidas does not have the heart for it...

So, let us leave the happy couple here (we can touch upon this "snag" in the discussion afterwards).
Let's watch as they ride in their aerial chariot back to Ayodhya, Hanuman ever by their side. Let's see how ecstactically they are welcomed home to a city aglow with little votive lamps lining every roof in the city...

Let's not look -- not now -- at the ending of this story as recorded in the older Valmiki text.
Let's leave this story here... for now.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Mexico Pix: Spring 09 (pt.2)

Hey!  Look at this!  Two fledgling doves in their nest.  They are able to fly on their own now, but haven't yet given up this place of refuge.  We've watched this nest since the mother bird first started sitting here....  very carefully, from a distance, with binoculars.

This time, with telephoto, and a bit too close (I might add) Robert moved in.  The bird on the left hopped out of the nest and fluttered clumsily off. Later, he was seen back in the nest -- which is located (by the way) right behind the construction site of our new wash-stand.


Ahhh, a delicious evening meal with Marta in her welcoming kitchen...  We share such a close bond with her and her family, through all these years.  This is the mother of Omar and Lalo (appearing now and again in pix and blogs).  Her daughters, equally fine folk, don't drop by our house and so don't make it into blog-tales.

This kitchen is wattle-and-daub construction, covered in adobe and whitewashed.  Airy, light,  and comfortably spacious.



And here, from the vantage point of my hammock in our new ramada (those are my toes), is a glimpse of how lush our property is becoming.  Five ever-blooming rose bushes in pots, ferns, papaya, and various citrus trees all shade the house and provide places for birds and lizards.  We spend many a morning on the porch, watching this "wide-screen TV."





 
And here's a glimpse into the yard of our nearest neighbors.  This is where our delightful Luis lived before he was adopted and moved to Zihua.  This little girl, Diana Laura, is his cousin.  Soon, I hope she will be independent enough to come play with the other kids on the porch.  As I wrote some time earlier, this family saga deserves a novel as large as "Gone With the Wind."  

The mango tree, by the way, is on our side of the fence -- one of four.  It was a great mango year.





Appearing on our wide-screen TV this day is our molting lizard.  He wanders all over our property, entertaining us with his antics.

The ever-vigilant "OWNER" of this papaya tree is the hummingbird.  While he chases off all other birds, butterflies, even bees -- he leaves this guy alone (he don't drink no nectar).  

We have a photo of the hummingbird at rest (where he often performs his bathing ritual), but he is very small in the photo, so I didn't post it.












Mexico Pix: Spring 09 (pt.1)

The Wedding Arch --  After the very classy wedding of Josh & Morgan, we posed for a sunset moment before the dancing began...











Here is the Dr. Seuss Table.  
While the top of it is delightfully warped (spilled liquids flow to the lower 2 corners).  The boards came that way -- and still(!), the table stands rock-steady.  A favorite creation from Robert's leisure time.  This is in our new gazebo/ramada 
-- a place for leisure, surrounded by beautiful blooming things,  and cooled by the sea breezes.






But no stay in our Mexico digs is safe from construction!

Below, viewed through a previous visit's carport construction (now bedecked with copious Copa de Oro vines), is our new wash-stand.  On the top will be huge water containers and below will be room for washing dishes, washing clothes, and a private shower...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Full Moon and Beeg Waves... and Widescreen TVs(two!)

(No doubt this is my last entry for this spring 2009 Mexico sojourn. The next entry will be from Durango and will be the posting of photos.)

FULL MOON and BEEG WAVES
We need to revise our viewpoint -- away from the concept of visiting here according to the solar months..... and focus instead on the lunar phases. The waves for both surfers and especially for boogie-boarders really jack up over the full moon phase. Let us say we are coming for two full moon cycles each spring and each fall.

Lately, as the moon rides high and full, we begin each day with a morning sesh. Then we come back for a sunset sesh (both of us on boogies for this one). We tear up the surf, screaming sideways all along the front of the wave, laughing as we fly...

...all the while bathed in the peach glow of sunset. The red ball that is the sun floats in the peach nectar just above the turquoise sea, but then exactly at the setting of the sun, the sky itself explodes into even more color, perhaps tangerine, drenching the sky directly overhead. Thus, the sea around us that radiance even as the blue and the white of the waves become more pronounced -- all in an intoxicating swirl.

Just last night I turned around and around and around in the swirling post-ride turbulence, taking in the shimmer of pastel light all around..

And then.... then glides the moon into view above the coconut palms, transluscent perfect pearl set in irridescent azure. It is exactly opposite to the peach and tangerine sky, both in location and mood...

Afterwards, in darkness, with just small headlamps, we walk quietly home through a jungly path, across the now lake'like river, to our humble casita amongst the flowers.

WIDESCREEN TVs (two!)
Yup. It has come to that. We leave them on all the time, and watch them both simultaneously every morning for sure... With fresh ground coffee, pastries, and fruited oatmeal, and very often visiting village friends.

One is always tuned to the Male Papaya Channel directly in front of our porch. The other is over by the newly finished ramada (gazebo, to you). It is the Sasanil Channel, which is the shade tree that puts forth purewhite transluscent pearls for fruit.

On the Papaya Channel, we are treated to the antics and passions of one hummingbird in particular (watching him as he dines on the multitude of flowers, stretches, cleans himself, rests, and passionately chases off intruders etc etc etc..... all very upclose and delightful).

With or without binoculars for closeup, we can also turn our attention at any time to the Sasanil Channel and watch a variety of local birds (in particular, a different variety of robin than in Durango, plus great kiskadees, and the kind of oriole we nickname the Mango bird for its coloration). I love how they will select a particular pearl, hold it in their beaks awhile (looking far too large for them to swallow)....and then they DO swallow it. I can imagine the explosion of nectar as they close their beaks over these pearls. I can almost feel the liquid flowing down my throat.

But now it is time to go. This is probably our last town visit as well. First, we must finish yet one more big cement project-- building an overhead cement platform (the posts and other supports are already in place) on which we will place our water tanks. This will become our shower room, and dishwashing and clotheswashing stand. It is located to the back and side of our home. All is in readiness for tomorrow, big work day.

Many more flowering bushes are now in place, many flower seeds are planted and ready to sprout... and packing up should flow easily, too. We have a number of empty boxes ready to receive the items now resting on shelves. Then we have three days drive if we do not take in sightseeing. It is all on our whim now. Jai Sri Ram.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Future Ghost

Whew. I have written so many rough drafts of these various observations of life here... too many observations, some intense, too much to read. I'll try exclamation points per topic instead:

!
When we first arrived at the Little Salty Place, village life was so reminiscent of living in Iowa in the '50s. Rural, even. Vehicles were rare. Folks traveled with a wheelbarrow laden with picnics down the road to the beach. All felt safe, family, peaceful. Still feels safe, family, peaceful but there are cars, trucks, 4-wheelers.... Cell phones, TVs... can't be helped but I wish I could warn them what is being lost byte by byte...

!!
The Ghost from the Future (that would be me) wanted so much to warn them... I did TRY to stop one friend from taking ALL the lobsters, even those with eggs -- to take only the largest... but he could not hear me. "Hay mucho" he said. His mother laments how few and how small they are these days, and anyway, her freezer is full. Still he brings more.

!!!
And there was no way I could ever stop the utter destruction of an entire ecosystem right before my eyes. Money is far too strong a pull. The last vestige of jungle and lagoons that stretched along the shore when first we came here was bulldozed two weeks ago. The last lagoon was filled in. In its place are truckloads and truckloads of dirt, building up a platform for yet more tourist rentals. The villagers comment how beautiful it was before... with all the tropical birds everywhere, and the giant iguanas. All gone.

Despite the Biblical warning not to build your house on sand, Rogelio will build not only on a beachfront, but this last one is right at the river mouth... which will flood violently in the coming monsoon season as it always does. He is building on what was a lagoon, for goodness sake!

!!!!
And every single earlyearly dawn, Robert and I lie on our mats on the porch amazed by the cacophany of birdsong (think RJ Lurtsma - WGBH)... and then eat our breakfast with birdbooks and binoculars on the table. The spectacular tropical birds are gone but what are left are still beautiful... And right now, one of our large canopied trees is covered in small fruits that look just like transluscent pearls, beloved of ALL our birds... So when two of our favorite kids showed up one evening, pointing at the treetops in our jungly backyard, we thought nothing of it... til we saw the air'powered slingshot and their excited gesture at a "hit"!!

I came out with my very best Spanish (well, all I COULD come up with in my horror) and yelled out, "!Ya! !No mas! Adios! !ADIOS!" They were having fun killing songbirds.

!!!!!
And for those of you, if there actually ARE any of you, following the threads of these entries... Guero is back and in full form, threatening the LIVES of his targets, now. While out in the lineup for the waves ("Voy a matar'te..." or whatever... even though he speaks fluent English he pretends he knows only Spanish). He's working on one person in particular just now -- starting in with hateful insults for others to hear, then he brings his surfboard right up beside his intended victim and sneers a death threat face to face. Bad juju, very very bad juju. We are keeping a very low profile ourselves, under the radar, quiet and unobtrusive, going about our business, keeping as much separation as we can. Robert is out there in the line'up, but stays unobtrusive.

!!!!!!
Last little Future Ghost entry... That was ALMOST me! So it seemed at the time, anyway. NOT connected in any way to the swine flu hullabaloo, I apparently ate some unrefrigerated cooked chicken. I was in no pain, but my stomach rumbled all night (Robert says). Early morning, I stumbled off the porch and headed into our jungle path to the hole-in-the-back.. but barely had I entered the jungle when the ground pulled me down. I could NOT stay upright. It was all in slow motion, so I recall realizing I was going down, and the thought passed into my head that perhaps I was actually dying (from the bad food). Very calm, noticing the early morning light on the jungly leaves, thinking this might be my last vision.... I do not recall reaching the ground. I do not know how long I lay there. For the next three days, while still never in pain, I was rarely awake, rarely conscious..... just rolling around a bit, while flattened on my sleeping mat. Then it was over with no repercussions.

Robert just showed up. End of entry. We off to get a licuado or whatever! Town trip, town trip! Love to all, y hasta la vista amigos. BTW, we plan to head north around mid June. How is that for a firm date.