Friday, November 23, 2012

Mayan Legacies

Jenny and I stared upward at the Temple of Kukulkan, the renowned step pyramid and centerpiece of the archaelogical ruins of Chichen Itza, capital city of ancient Mayan civilization. Built in homage to the feathered serpent deity which maintains its name, there were carved serpent heads at the ends of the balustrades.


Perhaps our expectations were too high. Perhaps National Geographic had glorified Chichen Itza in its flawless photography. Whatever the reason, my kindred spirit and I exchanged kindred glances and we were thinking the very same thing: underwhelming. To the naked eye, the Pyramid was composed of rather large, symmetrical limestone building blocks. Yes, it was vast. Yes, it seemed imposing. Yes, it made for some rather interesting photo ops, of which we took full advantage and Jenny took a rather carefree snapshot of us, energetically leaping in the air with Kukulkan's namesake in the background. But Wonder of the World was stretching it.

The tour guide showed us the supposed location of the phantom serpent shadow that appeared writhing along the stairs at the spring and autumn equinoxes. Jenny raised a perfectly arched eyebrow, given that it was December, invisible, and therefore unimpressive. I wondered if we were jaded, or if we had traveled and seen too much in an abbreviated period of time, or perhaps we had lost that exuberance, that child-like sense of wonder when everything was new and fresh and exhilarating. Perhaps we were a bit distracted. Nevertheless, we explored Chichen Itza with a lingering sense of disappointment and rather lethargic pace, since we also insisted on being stylish under the boiling Mexican sun.

At one point, Jenny retreated into the velvet shade along the Temples of the Jaguars, with a dessicated mural portraying a divine battle scene, where she rested her feet and I proceeded onward. Whether it was my penchant for exploring or my relentless curiosity, I kept walking through one set of walls to another, sparse columns, ballcourts. Unknown, unnamed, and uncomplimented ruins struck my fancy far more than the lauded expectations of someone else.

Then I entered the El Caracol observatory temple, a conspicuously round structure in the midst of all the angular ruins, pointing like a vector towards its spiral staircase. Here was where the Mayans watched the planetary movements and the stars traversing the firmament. Intrigued, I asked our tour guide, descended from the ancient Mayans himself and thereby visibly affronted by our lack on interest in his ancestral homeland thus far. Reluctant at first, he shared with me the Mayan prophesy of 2012.

"Does that mean that the world will come to an end on December 21, 2012?"

He shook his head vigorously.

"It is not some apocalyptic ending. It means that the energy of the world is shifting based on the alignments of the planets with the sun, something that happens only once every 26,000 years so it will be the beginning of a new age, a new era, a new beginning. All the planets and constellations of the zodiac will be aligned with the sun and it will bring natural disasters to the earth. This will signify the end, and the beginning."

"Right now, only three of the planets are aligned and we have already witnessed storms, hurricanes like Katrina. When all of the planets are aligned, the gravitational energies of the earth and the celestial forces will change, and there will be more."

This conversation happened in 2009, when Katrina was the greatest devastation to hit my beloved country. Looking back, this was shared with me prior to the Tsunami and nuclear meltdowns in Japan, prior to Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, and prior to the vast destruction experienced by cosmopolitan New York and her less refined neighbor of New Jersey.

Manhattan was pitch black, the insipid darkness of lack, and the cold denizens who freeze within their luxury apartments without heat.

So we have been warned by the earth, the heavens, and those intuitive enough to read them. And yet, we go on living as if we will always have tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Searching in Cancun

Cancun was a place I had never intended to go, but there is something wondrous about saying "Yes," accepting an invitation and extension of a friendship that ultimately became a kinship. My friend Jenny was traveling on a business trip there, and the resort was such a vista of paradise that many of the conference attendees brought a significant other. I walked the white sand shores in the morning, and studied the transparency of water throughout the day. It was more than just examining the many shades of aquamarine; I was searching for a familiarity, a story that had begun with the sea.

Let me explain. Sometimes we find ourselves through the journey of others, whether real or imagined. I had begun writing a story about an abandoned woman who lived on the edge of an ancient lake in ancient time. As long as I found a thread of inspiration in her life, and the events that precipitated in the glorious burst of creation, I could find my own way along the winding road of my life. At least I could make do. Yes, I had begun to feel lost after months of searching for myself. In some ways, I could see how people could go on searching forever, trip after trip, degree after degree, relationship after relationship. Bohemian wandering, continental sojourns at times were preferable to admitting a deep truth within yourself and realizing you have to change.

I had scoured the museums of Paris, looking for the face of my heroine, among those immortalized on the canvas. I didn't know exactly what I was looking for,a restlessness in the gait, a certain ingenuity in the eyes perhaps, a moment of surprise when one is shaken out of resignation. I never did find a face that satisfied me, but in the searching, I discovered more about my character. And perhaps about myself.

As I was searching for inspiration, Jenny was searching for potential wedding venues. Jenny and I lived oddly analogous lives, and I recognized the symptoms well. Not wearing the engagement ring, not settling upon a date, not mentioning the very fact to people we just met, as if by omission it would cease to be true. Yet, she would exert herself identifying all the elements of the perfect wedding, like a mechanical exercise. What is it about women that we keep hoping even when the blatant hopelessness hits us in the face like a slap? Maybe it was love, and maybe it was arrogance, the illusion that we could actually change another.

Somehow, between the void in my life and the absence in hers, we became like sisters. Perhaps kindred spiritship was borne in mutual pain, as well as good times and a similiar sense of fashion. It is only when you fall that you discover who will help you up, encourage you, and stiffen your resolve to become more than you currently are. I remember so many epiphanies in the past year, yet straddled with many nadirs of self-doubt. And in the midst of it all, the sister who was overwhelmingly supportive, and always patient, was Jenny.