Surprisingly the rain didn’t bother me. First, it came quickly like a heavy torrential downpour, and then the noise of the fat droplets and hail so overwhelming we had to yell our conversation, and then, the deluge flooded the cobbled streets outside and soon TierrAdentro’s roof caved in and half of us patrons had to scoot to higher ground as waterfalls cascaded into the restaurant/store floor and the puddles reached our feet.

Beautiful clouds yesterday on Avenida Felipe Flores

…I ended up walking home, and it was the most comforting wetness of being soaked and the mist was nestled and crawling around the mountains like these clouds just crept in low to say ‘hello’ to us mortals… and what an indescribably amazing feeling, to suddenly feel part of the whole great ecosystem and feel a greater force assure me that–in spite of everything–the world really is a good wonderful place, that there was a deep flowing rooted sense of goodness that surrounded me… and that gave me a sense of tranquility and contentment that was so satisfying today. As if the earth itself was a source of cyclical life, and that you could confide your secrets and silly preocupations to it, and it would heal you. That there was a common thread of life that connected every living creature, between you and me and every other person and plant and oceanic thing, and it could offer you refreshing energy and solace. Among the six billion inhabitants on earth living at this moment, it was mind blowing to imagine that every single one of us is individually unique and unlike any other.

Los Altos of Chiapas, from the back of the pick-up truck

Suddenly I had that sharp recognition, that feeling that someone was thinking thoughts of me at that moment. The connection with somebody else, and always I wonder if I’m just being egotistical but it just feels like an unprompted moment when you know someone is thinking of you, and you know what they’re thinking of too. And sometimes you wonder if we’re all connected that intermeshed life force human way, that when someone is reminded or yearns or feels nostalgic for you…somehow, you instinctively feel it too. Maybe it’s like that carnal intuitition that alarms you, and you know when a place is going to be risky, even if there’s nothing visible or apparent to explain why you feel danger. Like animals before a storm. You can sense it, smell it, in the tension of the atmosphere.

Well that’s not normal. Do you also have an acute ability to sense things? Can you hear neon signs?” asked Phillip.

Of course, couldn’t everybody? They sound like the awful hum of mosquito zappers. He said no, most people don’t hear neon signs or florescent lights. –Really?!!– He became convinced that, because I could see (or imagine) scary things when I was a child and even now my dreams are especially vivid, that perhaps my sensory perceptions are particularly sensitive. That it is extremely abnormal to naturally see graphs from mathematical operations or hear music from nothing. He asked about horror movies. I said I avoided them, because even up to months after watching one (with the ideas/themes/concepts that were sown in my mind) I would actually “hear” voices at night, or “see” hallucinate paranormal or people standing and looking at me… from windows or from shadows…and that’s not cool. After talking about that subject, I felt pretty much like a weirdo. Like I’ve lost my mind. Again.

The pine forest and highlands surrounding Jovel

“They say that young people think they’ll live forever, and it’s true…” so we began another conversation about spirituality, death, the afterlife, and paranormal experiences of heaven and hell from people who had died and come back to relate their experiences. Apparently your senses begin to falter one by one, eyes, touch, smell, taste, sound… that the sense of hearing was the last to go and you can keep talking to your loved ones to comfort them with your voice until they pass away. During a hospice training in North Carolina, Philip read literature about the dying sending cryptic messages, that very often they know exactly when they want to let go of life… that there are things worse than death, unfinished business, that often the dying want to see a loved one, or have their favorite things at their side one last time, before they let go. And then, what the other side was like. I had read about cross-cultural comparisons between Ancient Egypt and Tibetan afterlife accounts and the religions that transpired, two great civilizations that focused on the transition point of death and beyond. I’d read narratives about people who had “died” violently from gruesome accidents or gunshots—how the milliseconds of horror from the moment they realized they were about to die, to the impact of the event—that second would stretch for what seemed to be years… from sheer terror to re-evaluating their entire lives, to the deep acceptance and letting go.

“Wouldn’t you live your life so differently if you fully realized at this age that tomorrow wasn’t promised to you?”–he asked.

The cemetery in municipal Chamula

Of course we would…wouldn’t we? In my case, even more than now, I’d attempt to genuinely love and accept those who had let me down, people who I had had a falling out with, people who I didn’t think were respectable, people who weren’t there to support me when I needed them, people I had known to talk behind my back, people who had misled me, betrayals of trust and things that had made me angry.

I would forgive more readily, welcome them into my life instead of avoiding or ignoring them for those transgressions. If I had fully comprehended my fragile time on this planet, I’d lose a lot of embarrassment and pride for seeming too mushy and serious. I’d say to them (in person) my gratitude and deep appreciation in very specific ways for certain people’s presence and profound change in my life, for which I am indebted…(I can easily think of ten people whom I owe this to.) I’d be more conscientious about being a positive influence to encourage and delight others, and let them explicitly know how much I authentically loved them… and reaffirm that they were loved by me.

Alas. Beyond short and genuine compliments, I’m not sure if I can cope with blurting out all these strong things and people disregarding it as “a weird personal phase” and me consequently feeling like the idiotic fool. Only in very specific moments can you be so sincere and not feel so exposed and embarrassed. Because like they say: young people feel immortal, and unless you have a serious terminal illness or a strong shared moment for admitting these honest things, you really risk social vulnerability. With all that I would like to say, it’s easy for someone to begin to feel extremely uncomfortable, and then ignore it without reciprocating, and then the moment becomes awkward. It’s humiliating social faux pas, and really not worth the risk.

At the moment, I probably only share my gratitude and appreciation to my cousin, who I admire a great deal and is growing to be such a fine person with all the qualities I aspire to…and a person who accepts these words with grace. With everyone else, I’m comfortable to spend more time with them, and have silent conversations with them–expressing how really special they are to me–and hope they sense it somehow. There are certain people who, if they abruptly left my world, I’d be devastated… and I don’t think they know I feel that way. And I concluded with Phillip that very often, albeit briefly, I do wonder about mortality and for that reason I was here in Chiapas, Mexico doing what I do. (Then, I made a personal resolution to try to let some of them know…while I was young.)

After talking about so many things… from what “down to earth” meant and how we dealt with anger or things that bothered us, Phillip told me he was glad we’d met… and summarily paid for my lunch.

Harvest collection of squash, figs and lime.

…Tomorrow I’ll bring some guests out of town to the Cuxtapec cooperative in Jaltenango-La Paz, a bioreserve called Triunfo. Apparently it has conserved lots of animal biodiversity and is known for its heritage coffee plantations as well as the quetzal bird with beautiful plumage. It’s such a luxury to show my friends the Mayan villages.


Personal Note: Mary is a friend of the respected and great American photojournalist Peter Turnley, and at night has been telling me about his perspective on life, especially how he sees humanity and compassion in the worst disasters/tragedies. In addition to his portfolio, check out his remarkable photo essays:


Spanish Words of the Day:padecimientos” sufferings, ailments | “pacer” to graze | “transeúnte” passerby, non-resident | “regio/a” splendid, magnificent | “realeza” royalty