Friday, February 4, 2022

Flash Friday ~ Extraordinary Days


I'd planned to go birdwatching my first morning in Mexico, but I didn't make it farther than the balcony of my hacienda, where a cacophony of new and unfamiliar birdsong filled the new and unfamiliar trees. I sat with my binoculars, my journal, my bird books, and a cup of tea and watched as great-tailed grackles, great kiskadees, Yucatan jays, a Yucatan vireo, an Altamira oriole, a golden-fronted woodpecker, and a plain chachalaca paraded through my temporary backyard. These are, no doubt, the crows, blue jays, and cardinals of the Yucatan Peninsula, but to me they were rare and wondrous sightings. On the ground below, a Mexican  agouti--a cat-sized rodent that looks like a guinea pig that swallowed a squash and is trying to walk on stilts--traipsed past the swimming pool. 

The trees, vines, and shrubs planted in the lush and meticulously maintained gardens and all things you might buy at the garden center to keep in a pot, only super-sized. Coconut palms grew right out of the sand on the beach, just like they do in cartoons. Beyond the walls of the resort, the jungle grew in a dense, impenetrable tangle. Over the next several days, I watched a troupe of howler monkeys parade across the tops of walls (tiny ones clinging to their mothers' bellies) and saw white-nosed agoutis nose among the tables of an outside dining area. I sat in the plaza one morning and watched two actual parrots steal a woodpecker's stash of seeds from the hole in a dead palm tree. I snorkeled in the warm, salty, and buoyant water of the Caribbean, watching schools of sequined fish flash among the coral, anemones, and urchins. I snorkeled in the cold, mineral water of a cenote, where sunlight filtered blue in the water, tiny fish nibbled at my skin, and scuba divers disappeared into a deep, scary cave. 

I purchased junk food in a Mexican grocery store, where real shoppers bought plastic bags of raw pork, packets of dried chiles, and heads of iceberg lettuce. I practiced my extremely rudimentary Spanish by asking every shop owner in the contrived local marketplace, "Tienes los sellos para postales? Donde esta los stampitos?" With no suerte (selling stamps, or sending postcards, it would appear, is not the done thing).

I rode a rusty bicycle among the Mayan ruins at Coba and followed its song to the most spectacular bird, the black-headed trogon (see above). With each "bop, bop" of its tune, it would splay its black-and-white striped tail feathers in a V, while staring at me with that intense blue-ringed eye. 

This is why we travel, is it not, to find the extraordinary in what, to the people who live there, are likely ordinary, everyday experiences? To shake up our notions of what's expected and see the world through new eyes?

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