Wednesday, October 7, 2015

On the Shore

On the Shore
Red and gold sassafras
Slender green tasseled grass
And the lake waves say...

“too soon, too soon.”
White mares’ tails streak blue skies
sea gulls slide and slip in air
trembling shadows on the sand
whisper but I can hear “too soon, too soon
this day will end too soon.” 
 --Barbara Spring

Friday, October 2, 2015





We visited Quintana Roo, Mexico, country of Mayans, beautiful beaches and sunshine.

All of this was delightful, but the highlight of our trip was a day trip to Xcaret, nature’s sacred paradise. It is an eco park where people may spend the day and the evening. 

There we saw ruins of the Mayan city, Xcaret,  where the ancient Mayans traded goods up and down the coast and became prosperous.  We understood how and why Xcaret had once been an important Mayan center for trade.  The fresh waters that flowed through it, and still do, are the key.  The cenotes, freshwater limestone pools, in Quintana Roo were sacred to the Mayan people as the source of life.

Xcaret is located 35 miles south of the International Cancun Airport   Those who would like to swim and snorkel in the fresh water stream that runs through it or to swim with dolphins will pay extra.   We like to do this, but there were so many other possibilities there that we opted to explore the park for the day.  The place is a nature preserve where wild animals are raised and some such as sea turtles are released into the wild.  At the entry of the park we paused near a pool of pink flamingoes and scarlet macaws.

We joined an ecological tour and our guide showed us many indigenous animals including two magnificent jaguars, one spotted and one black. We learned that the black jaguar is the albino of the species.   The cats looked contented lounging in the morning sunlight. We saw spider monkeys, curious looking manatees, and many varieties of sea turtles. We followed our guide to a small tortilla factory on the grounds with antique photos of how it used to be.  We sampled the staple food then continued on our trek through the jungle and came to dolphins playing about in the pools.

We wandered through the butterfly house with many colorful tropical butterflies that will soon be housed in a different building with a stained glass dome. We admired the round stained glass ceiling in a rectangular building and could see that it will be wonderful when the butterflies move in. 

 We went into a cave where bats hung on the ceiling and when our eyes adjusted to the dim light we saw mushrooms growing there just as they had been cultivated by the ancient Mayans.  Since people are a natural part of the ecosystems, we were pleased to see temple ruins and a replica of an ancient Mayan village. I climbed up a small pyramid and sat on the throne on top thinking of how it must have been long ago.   The Mayan people knew how to live well in this place and created a sophisticated calendar 3,000 years ago.  While Europe was in the throes of the Dark Ages, the Mayans gazed at the heavens and created amazing pyramids.

There are eight restaurants on the grounds at Xcaret and we stopped at one where we saw a band carrying a guitar, harp and drum into it.  Intrigued by the music, we stayed to enjoy a brew or two and the exotic food: marinated octopus and crab, specialties of the house.  Our waiter brought us green tomato salsa with tortilla chips to begin with.  We enjoyed the scarlet macaws that seem to live there and enjoy attention from people. 

The best part of our Xcaret adventure was a thrilling evening show.  We walked into a huge pavilion through ranks of fierce, colorfully dressed Mayan warriors.  Their faces were painted and they wore skins, feathers and held weapons.  Four beautiful young Mayan women stood on the lintel where we entered in clouds of copal. 

We were all given candles and holders to hold and light during the show.  The first part of the show reminded me of an opening ceremony for the Olympics.  A little girl, representing a pure soul and wearing a white dress was to be our guide to the Mayan spirits and ancestors. A conch shell trumpet sounded and the stage exploded into Mayan dances to the beat of drums and flutes.  We loved seeing how athletes played a sacred Mayan ball game with a rubber ball, a gift from the gods.  One team represented the Sun, the other Venus.  It looked like a combination of soccer and basketball.  The object was to get the ball through a stone hoop.

 Another game was played barefooted with a flaming ball that represented a meteor. I wondered if the players had aluminum feet.

Enter Spanish Conquistadors on horseback who fought the Mayans.  A chill ran through the crowd as the Mayan spirit wearing a jaguar mask and a resplendent headdress of quetzal feathers screamed. The scream was a cry from the heart at what they had to lose at the hands of the Spanish. Then the Catholic monks entered.  The show was done to music and perfectly choreographed dancers.
The second part of the show demonstrated the different costumes, songs and dances of Mexico with the blending of indigenous with European peoples.  In short, it told the story of Mexico’s peoples in a dramatic and very entertaining stage show.  To that we say, Bravo!




A Colorful Trip to Tikal

What we had seen from the plane were the tops of tall temples poking up above the jungle. Now in a mini bus we passed through a countryside where men carried machetes on their way to fields and women carried water jugs on their heads or dried beans on cloths in their yards. Wild turkeys crossed the roads. The minibus stopped at a roadside stand-the driver seemed enchanted by the beautiful girl selling a few snacks-and we were told we could use the bushes if we needed a rest stop.

When we reached Tikal we asked if we could have overnight accommodations for there is more than can be seen in one day. We sat and waited until finally we were told that we could have a room in a jungle lodge. We were lucky. If we had not stayed overnight, we never would have heard the haunting sounds of jungle birds and monkeys that surrounded us after dark. Also, there was to be a full moon, and we wanted to see Tikal 's tall temples in the moonlight.

We joined a group touring the ruins. Tikal is layer upon layer of temple pyramids. The Mayans just kept building on top of former temples. I had a strange feeling as we viewed nine stellae dedicated to the nine underground gods. As we followed our guide we saw that Tikal was once a huge metropolis with broad causeways and squares designed for pageantry on a grand scale.

The square with its great temples on each side is filled with sounds of flocks of parrots, monkeys, toucans and the voices of the Montezuma oro pendula birds. Their woven nests are like an oriole's and their bell like voices echo off the temple walls. The big beautiful birds, lemon yellow and rust, nest in groups around the ruins each year. The temples face north, east and west but never south. Strutting around the temples are wild turkeys that make a deep drumming noise to show off.

As we walked through Tikal, we saw temples that had been excavated and others that were still overgrown with jungle trees, vines and soil. The jungle is filled with trees cultivated by the Maya; kapok, balsa, cork, rubber trees, nut trees, allspice tree used for embalming. Chocolate was considered sacred. Spider monkeys and howler monkeys drop debris down at us from the tree tops.

We wondered at the limestone pyramids carved with masks, the ball courts where life and death games were played, aqueducts, market place, and coliseum. We visited the museum that contains a burial, a tall skeleton surrounded with shells, food jars, jade balls, jade anklets, necklaces. It is the burial found in a pyramid.

Tikal means the voice of the spirits. In the main square, the acoustics are astounding. What spirits are here? We saw carved bones in the museum, a jaguar with a human face, a serpent with a face emerging from a dragonish serpent's mouth. By day we walked carefully through jungle paths following our guide. Poisonous snakes, the fer de lance and coral snakes are found here. We were careful not to step on army ants marching in formation on the jungle floor. We had no guide at night but we decided to walk through the jungle to see the temples in the light of a full moon. The fragrance of night blooming flowers filled the air and a musky smell-was it a jaguar or a fox? Something was near. Maybe the mythical jaguar man. Then through an opening in the jungle, we sew the glorious sight of Tikal's temples splashed with the clear light of a huge moon--the place of spirit voices. We heard them all around us.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Total Lunar Eclipse

                                    Total Lunar Eclipse




A profound rolling sound

moves through our sight

black on white

and then

color of amber

with mountains caught in it.




Moon occluded: black silence.

Who could name majesties of slowly rolling

shadow when our planet covers

the familiar silver face?




The ruddy moon returns--

swaggers into sight

the color of whiskey

from some unknown tavern.

from my book The Wilderness Within

Look for it at Barnes & Noble,, The Bookman in Grand Haven, Schuler Books and Music and many other fine bookstores


Wednesday, September 9, 2015


We have encountered boobies twice: on Little Cayman Island and on the Galapagos Islands.

On Little Cayman we could walk to the booby hatch.  This was the place where the boobies had a commune of sorts.  They were nesting in trees that stood in brackish water and they brought back fish they had caught in the sea in for their young.  We watched from shore as they dived into the sea and brought up fish.  They stored them in their gullets to bring back to their nests and if they were lucky they would not be attacked by the man of war or frigate birds that forced them to cough up their catch.  It was on Little Cayman that I learned the real meanings of “boobie hatch” and “cough it up” and the meaning of booby.

The same sort of thing was happening on the Galapagos Islands only a different sort of booby had evolved in these islands.  They had blue feet.  And we were fortunate to arrive during mating season.  The male would do a dance to impress the female lifting his beautiful blue feet to impress her.  This was so amazing that many years later I have made some watercolors of this event.

Shortly after we came home from the Galapagos, someone commissioned a series of Galapagos poems for a website that is no longer available so I have these in my book, The Wilderness Within.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Sun

              The Sun
Winking as it walks, sun shafts sparkle
fish fins below.
Sun sings to wind a low melody—
billions of leaves tremble--fall.
At sundown all bathed in rose gold
And we exalt in the afterglow.