Friday, September 18, 2009

Pitaya Flower Close Up

Two more pitaya flowers bloomed the night of the recent full moon. I took some photos at intervals as they opened up, over approximately three hours. The first picture I took just after dark when I noticed the blooms opening.

The flowers open up with the rising full moon.

By morning they are closing up again.

They are such intriguing flowers. They have a sea anemone in the middle!

The bees made the most of the limited treats.

It has been over a week since I took these photos, and both flowers have withered up and fallen to the ground. I have noticed a nasty vine wrapping itself around the pitaya plant on the other side of the wall, but without access to its base to remove the vine, I am afraid it might choke the plant. I just thought I would share these photos. I took the night shots, Pablo caught the early morning shots, complete with busy little bees.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I love hammocks and have a collection of them. Below is a woven cloth hammock from Brazil. The photo is from Kona. It is too hot here to use it until around December, but it is still part of my collection. From this angle you cannot see the beautiful embroidery work on the hammock itself. Our friend Bill brought it from Brazil for us in the 90's and it's seen a lot of use, but it is still strong.

A man named Saturnino in Akumal made the first hammock I acquired. I picked out the light and dark blues and stopped off to see its progress on the loom every day for weeks as I walked to my studio garage apartment from the dive shop. Below, Pablo shows it's still usable upstairs outside on the patio. I've been toting it around the globe for over 25 years. It has seen its better days, but it keeps hanging.

When I furnished this house I counted hammock hooks to buy hammocks accordingly. I found enough hooks to hang 25 hammocks, but I settled for ten.

I think the hammock is the most practical and versatile piece of furniture. We watch TV from our hammocks. I wrote this piece in the hammock. Pablo prefers to sleep in the hammock. We roll up our hammocks and can easily pitch camp between two coconut palms OR two monterrey pines!

My research on the history of the hammock produced weird results. First the NYT article puzzled me. Wikipedia said Philipinos invented hammocks, but there was no information to support that theory. Most reports state they originated 1000-3000 years ago in the Mayan world. They were found along their extensive trade routes in all of Mexico, Central and South America. One source reported Amazonian Aborigines (?) wove hammocks from the bark of the hamack, hamak, or amac tree. Thus, its name, the hammock or in Spanish hamaca.

I read that Columbus was credited with discovering the hammock, but all he did was take some back to Europe after seeing how comfortable the Bahamians, or per another source Dominican Republicans, were lying around in them in the tropical heat. The sea faring men found them practical and they became the preferred bunks on many European ships. The ships used canvas hammocks, narrow, uncomfortable, and spaced only inches apart from one another.

Yucatecan hammocks are intricately woven, usually out of cotton, nylon, or a polyester combo. They're all the same length. It is the width and the weave that make the difference in quality. The more threads in the weave the better. A 'familial' (literally big enough for a family) size hammock or a 'matrimonial' (double) is more comfortable than a 'doble' (single) or 'individual'(just barely there). The trick in sleeping in one is to lie diagonally. The hammock supports the spine nicely if you manage to get yourself situated in there correctly. It takes some kicking and pushing and pulling for me to get it right, but I can get there. Pablo is a pro.

The other most comfortable sleeping position is crosswise, like this:

Russell concentrates on a creative moment sitting in the hammock. If I am going to sit in mine, I usually grab a couple of pillows to support my back, get my feet up, and put my work on my lap.

A hammock cools you off in the heat. Air can circulate through the weave. Add a few fans and you are in a pleasant comfort zone. A hammock keeps you up off the floor where humidity, mold and PESTS abound. The mosquitoes however use the hammock to their advantage. I believe they use the grid pattern to zero in on my most vulnerable parts!
In the cold you can wrap in a blanket and the hammock around you like a cocoon. If it's really cold you can have someone put hot coals underneath you which generate heat up through the cocoon. Try doing that with a bed.

Remember, 90% of all Yucatecans are conceived in, born in, spend most of their lives in, sleep in, and die in their hammocks. It's a fun statistic and often a conversation maker.
I like the hammock concept so much that I have other hammock furniture. Below is a hammock chair for the house. We used them outside for a year but had to have them restrung and the wood revarnished, so just a wise tip, keep them inside and they will last forever. This is a small chair, just my size.

Some of the kitties like hammocks, some don't. Moka and Mokito love them. The other cats don't feel secure in them at all. Kitten Mokito played a part in the destruction of the chair pictured above during the height of his kittenhood. He is sitting in one of the bigger models. The larger chairs are great for sunbathing or laying back. But they shouldn't LIVE out in the sun either. They are in for repair now. This repair wouldn't have been necessary if foresight was 20/20.

Don't think that I quit there! Below are two hammock stools. Mike picked up the one on the left in Tixcocob and I found the one with the folding backrest when I took the chairs to be repaired. These are great for indoor and outdoor use, but they live indoors.

There are hammocks for your personal items. These hammocks are not strangers to anyone in the boating community. Here they are easy to find and inexpensive. I like to use them in a variety of places.

Last but not least are the hanging hammock chairs. There are two outback on the patio behind the pool. You can stretch out and put your feet up, and I had a great photo showing exactly that, but it was accidentally deleted. If you had any idea how long it took me to work on this hammock article, you'd understand. I do own some regular furniture. There are a couple of beds, several tables and chairs, and accoutrements, but a visit to my house is definitely a trip to Hammockville.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Feels like 147.2°F!

We are not enjoying a normal rainy summer. It wants to rain but the clouds seem to dissipate. We get a good soaking now and again, but it is supposed to be raining every afternoon. Lightning and thunder and a tropical downpour. Anyhow, this isn't the first time I posted about the weather. The last time I thought it was a mistake when the forecast said it would feel like fifty something °C, and I thought it was funny. Just to let you know, it wasn't funny, it was stifling hot. Much like yesterday and today.

Today on Weather Underground, Merida, Mexico, it says: Today there is a 60% chance of rain. The heat index: 64°C. That translates into IT WILL FEEL LIKE 147.2°F. I will let you know what it feels like if we end up sitting around in a pool of boiling sweat.

The good news: today is opening Sunday for NFL FOOTBALL! The family has a pool again this year, with a few new players, and in just two hours Pablo and I will be hammock bound watching every game we can find. We'll put out the two helicopter fans, and a few others, and get horizontal for the better part of the day. The entire neighborhood will be able to hear the crowds roar and announcers shout; the volume turned way up to overpower the loud fans. I will roast chicken and veggies; if the oven is on it only makes the kitchen FEEL LIKE 130°C - so that won't be noticeable.

Lately I have been more addicted to this computer than the television, but my favorite shows are returning so that may change. Every Sunday through December is now Football Sunday.

I am excited about the fourth season of LATIN AMERICAN IDOL. I discovered it in season two. The contestants are from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America. The celebrities who work with the kids each week are singers unknown to me, so I can really learn a lot about Latin music watching this show.

I am anxious to see the new season of AMAZING RACE. This year it airs on the Discovery Channel. It is a Latin American Amazing Race, and it's going to be good. The show premiers on Sept 20th (probably during a football game). This is the first time they have produced this show with Latinos all around Latin America.

Well, ok, we are also taking a little trip to the Caribbean side, but that is a good story for another day. Have fun baking in the Sauna City today!

Hammocks and Malaria: NYT July 12, 1881

Please indulge me to blow you away with an article I dug up while researching hammock history. If you live in the Yucatán, most likely you have and appreciate your hammock(s). You may find this interesting even if you don't have a hammock or live in México. It is long, but what could I possibly cut out? The first paragraph makes it sound like a horrible disease! It just gets more and more bizarre!

The New York Times, Published July 12, 1881


The hammock is steadily diffusing itself over the piazzas and the front yards of our country. A few years ago the hammock was rarely met except at the South, where it is endemic all year round. A few isolated cases of hammock occasionally manifested themselves in Philadelphia, New York, or Chicago, but they were too few to create any alarm. Now we find hammocks wherever we go, and they are ruining the health and morals of the American people at a rate which must make every intelligent man tremble for the future of the Republic.

The hammock is, perhaps, fair to the eye, but it is deceitful above all things and desperately crooked. No matter how easy and luxurious it may seem during the first five minutes that one occupies it an aching back and weary legs are the sure result of lingering in its lap. It is more treacherous than any beast of the field. Unless the greatest care is taken it never fails to throw its occupant out. Nature has mercifully constructed woman with back hair, as a protection against hammocks, so that when she falls out of a hammock and alights on her head she seldom sustains injuries that are fatal to herself; but even the strongest man who walks down a street bordered by Summer cottages and listens to the dull, monotonous sound of female heads striking on the piazza, and has his helpless eyes dazzled by red, pink, or parti-colored flashes that shoot into the air like the swift and evanescent auroral streamers, cannot but have his holiest feelings harrowed to a most painful extent. When a full-grown man drops from a hammock he is either stunned, in which case his wife rushes out and begs him to tell her if he has hurt himself, or he rises up and expresses by implication his strong disapprobation of the introduction of that unsatisfactory word "Hades" into the revised edition. Children who have read Capt. MARRYATT'S novels and have thus learned that one of the principal duties of a Midshipman in former days was to place a pile of cannon-balls on the deck immediately under the hammock of a fellow-Midshipman and then to cut the hammock lashings, frequently practice this feat of seamanship upon their brothers, sisters, and grandmothers, substituting piles of stones for cannon-balls. It is, perhaps, a beautiful but certainly a demoralizing sport, and the hammock is plainly responsible for thus affording lessons in cruelty and murder to the rising generation.

The worst feature of the hammock is, however, its agency in producing what are usually called malarious fevers. In former days physicians believed that in warm, damp countries, where a lack of drainage existed, an invisible poison, called malaria, developed itself and produced disease among men. This theory has not endured the test of time. Year by year malaria is spreading into districts where what were formerly considered the necessary conditions of malaria do not exist. It is found in the Rocky Mountains and among the granite hills of New-England. Dr. CHADBOURNE was recently asked to explain why malarious diseases have latterly appeared in Berkshire County, Mass, and he has just written a long letter in which he lucidly explains that neither he nor anybody else knows anything about it, and all that can be said on the subject is the old theory of the causes of malaria is untenable.

Now, in the growing use of hammocks we have a full and sufficient explanation of the cause of so-called malarious fevers. They exist only where hammocks are found. The home of these diseases was originally in the tropics, where the entire population spends its time in hammocks, if the pictures in the primary geography are to be believed. All over Central and South America the women never get out of their hammocks, and the men only rise from theirs at intervals of a week or two, in order to take part in a revolution. In our Southern States malarious fevers are only less common than they are in the tropics, and it is notorious that hammocks have been popular in the South for generations. In New-York and Philadelphia the spread of alleged malaria has kept pace with the spread of hammocks, and in New-Jersey, where the natives have long used the hammock as a place of refuge from the ferocious mosquitoes that lurk in the grass, chills and fever is the normal condition of these people. Summer boarders from the cities have carried hammocks and malarious diseases to New-England country towns, and miners who sleep in hammocks in order to avoid the company of rattlesnakes have introduced the same diseases into the Rocky Mountain regions. It is the hammock and not an imaginary malaria that is undermining the livers of our fellow-citizens.

Why is it that the hammock produces a class of diseases all of which are intimately connected with a disordered state of the liver will be evident if we remember the attitude in which the hammock compels its occupant to lie. It forces his body into a curve, thus compressing the liver between the diaphragm, the waist-band of the trousers, and other contiguous organs. The consequence is that the liver, squeezed and bruised, declines to perform its functions, and some one of the various fevers hitherto called "malarious" attacks the unhappy victim. Where hammocks are used "malaria" exists; where hammocks are not used "malaria" is unknown. Instead of dosing people with quinine and arsenic, let us adopt the prophylactic measure of casting our hammocks into the fire, and we shall preserve our health and our morals.

Published: July 12, 1881
Copyright © The New York Times

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cat Commando: Busmo & Weasel

Busmo is a gentle giant of a cat. He is like one of those big guys who look real tough but are all tenderness inside. He was the fastest cat to grow big, and the slowest one to grow up. I think he was confused, being half tabby and half Siamese. He doesn't look like any of his siblings, and he is twice their size.
He loves the other side, but I think he is more the explorer than the adventurer. He rarely brings home any creatures. He has a quiet squeaky voice that he doesn't often use. He is a lot like Buster, who he enjoys playing with. Buster is the only other cat his size!

In the heat of the summer he spends his afternoon sprawled out in the coolest location he can find. Sometimes he is out under the shaded roof of the pool. When I found him sleeping on the bed(below), I'd left a fan blasting and he seemed to make the most of that.

He is as laid back as he looks here.

Busmo enjoys playing in the garden but he stays pretty close to home most of the time.

Here is Weasel. He keeps the rest of the cats young with his youthful playfulness. He doesn't often meow, instead he communicates with a rolling gutteral sound that is very communicative. I swear I heard him roll a NO yesterday. You may remember Mokito made friends with him, but once he taught Mokito what he needed to know, Mokito dropped his friend Weasel. I guess he just didn't need him anymore. Weasel took up with Busmo and they remain best friends. Weasel doesn't mind it when Busmo plays a little rough, he just hops around and makes up new games for them. They are a riot to watch.

Friends who like to do everything together.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Just Another Quiet Sunday

Pablo and I wanted to spend a relaxing Sunday together after a hectic month. I suggested we revisit the ruins of Xcambo, where I thought I might write and he could play his tambor or the pajaritos (whistles). We had an easy drive up to Progreso and headed east along the coast. There were flamingos wading in the water near the shoreline as we drove through the marshland area. We saw some in flight in the marshes on both sides of the highway toward Xcambo. Wow! The colors: black stripes under their bodies and wings in contrast to such bright pink birds. At the gravel road to Xcambo, we made a Uturn and decided we would rather eat fresh fish.

We headed into Telchac Puerto and found a popular spot on the beach, one we hadn't seen before. (I forgot to take pictures.) We chose a table down in the sand, our table was in the shade, and the seabreeze was refreshing. We had a couple of cold beers and split a whole fried fish. They brought other seafood botanas. The ambience was relaxing and we sat there a long time . We enjoyed the families playing in the water close to shore on the last day of their official summer vacation.

On our drive back, Pablo chose an offroad that passed a marina, and led to the passage where the inland marsh water headed out to sea. Like a river seems so odd to describe one since there are so few above ground rivers in all of the Yucatán.

The road was a perfect dead end, its sides collapsed by some past gushing high water event, so we parked the car on the partial road and ourselves on the beach.

The water was moving at a good clip toward the gulf. The warm sea was crystal clear and other than the current it was very calm. There was a family enjoying this spot down the beach from us. You can see a lighthouse on the point.

A pensive Pablo, probably trying to figure out how we will obtain our own strech of beach some day! Lost in thought, at any rate. This shot looks inland, but the road is still farther back.

These were interesting Nopal cactus full of tuna (fruit) all along this stretch of beach. They are a hearty plant. I didn't risk injuring myself by taking any of this plant. I already have a little nopal, and a little goes a long way.

All in all it was a nice getaway from the city. It was a relaxing and scenic drive. We found good food to eat at a great price, enjoyed some time on the beach, not even making much conversation. It is easy to appreciate all the beauty surrounding you on this coast, and we really enjoy these mini-adventures.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cat Commando: Lorenza

Sweet Lorenza. She is tiny and delicate, quiet, shy and yet independent. She is the tiniest of the litter, and she has a different personality than the Siamese. Lorenza can usually be found sleeping in this corner (below) in the basket where she was born,
stretched out on the floor near her basket,

or on a cushioned seat next to me when I work at the computer. Lorenza isn't as demanding about her affection as the others. When she wants to be petted, she starts licking my hand. So she is more of a give and take cat than the Siamese. She loves junk food! Doritos, Chicharrones, Cheetos, Chips, Cookies! All of it! She hears one CRUNCH and she comes running. She enjoys her trips to the other side, and more often than not she returns with a lizard in her mouth, ready to play.
She has had a few medical problems, but she has taken the treatments and medications in stride. This is another NON-Siamese trait! Lorenza spends more time hanging out with Buster and Mokito than with these two, Moka and Sak Boox, the fearsome duo. What's with the stink-eye?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Marigolds - Never Again

Several months ago my housekeeper brought me some flower seeds. She said there were two different kinds of pretty flowers, and that they would only bloom once, so it would be important to harvest their seeds. I picked some random areas in the patio and planted some. They sprouted quickly, and grew like weeds. In fact, they were very weedlike and downright unsightly. Before we knew it a few of them were nearly six feet tall. Finally after what seemed an eternity, they sprouted flowers and lots of buds appeared.

They were colorful marigolds and the butterflies liked them. Were they worth waiting five months or more for them?

The general concensus was that this would be their only appearance in the garden. I tried to let them go to seed but Mother Nature interfered (or simply solved the problem).

They were so tall they got top heavy. And with a bit of wind and an afternoon rainstorm, gravity got the best of them and they went down. All the way to the ground.

You can see them leaning here. I didn't get outside quickly enough to get a shot of them on the ground. Pablo had always seen them as an intrusion to our lovely garden. He was the happiest of all to see them go... he cut them down as soon as they bit the dust.

And the other seeds, you might wonder? They are still growing giant leaves. They look more like comfrey than a flower. Maria called them barra de San Jose, which means nothing to me. I am interested to see what they are, and really, how much longer can it take before they decide to flower? This is the largest one, and the one most improperly planted, because it has stunted the growth of the noche buena (poinsettia) behind it. The noche buena will probably make it, but it is dwarfed next to its two relatives , barely visible behind the non-flowering plant.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cat Commando: Mokito

I have to open with this photo series. Mokito is the master of cuteness. He was sleeping in this box last night. Usually they play with the grocery boxes a few days before we recycle them. If you put empty boxes outside your gate, they are mysteriously recycled. This box was standing upright after the housecleaning the other day, but he made it comfortable for him.

He is so photogenic I can't stop clicking sometimes.

He was in a dead sleep in this weird contortion.

Who'd have taken Mokito for an addict and a killer? He is addicted to adventure and THE OTHER SIDE. He comes home to eat, sleep, and to receive his required petting. He's the bravest killer of the litter! Although the slowest kitten to learn to climb or hunt, he has improved drastically. Last week he brought us a big rat. He left the rat in HIS play corner. We noticed he was meowing more than usual but didn't realize he needed to present us with a gift. I'll be more attentive because a two day old rat...oh never mind, it is just plain gross. Two days after that he brought us a very unlucky bird. This time he left the gift in OUR play corner, the foot of the pool entrance.

He looks too sweet to be the tough cat in the hood.

This is his mug shot.

Like Buster, he has a savage appetite. If we don't make him a plate of our food, he harrasses us until he gets his way. He jumps onto the kitchen table prepeatedly. None of the other cats are so rude, except Moka who feels she has to inspect even the kitchen table, but she is usually not begging.

He hypnotizes me with those bright blue eyes and his little bandit mask and I end up opening a can of tuna for him, a staple he has decided must be in his daily diet. He's a brat, but it is impossible not to love him.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Celestún - Great Day at the Beach

Celestún has miles of beautiful beach, the best seafood, and the most relaxing atmosphere in the Yucatán. It was particularly calm and blue the last time we went, two weeks ago.

Our first stop is always Los Pampanos Restaurant on the beach. There are several cozy spots like this, and I imagine the seafood is equally fresh and delicious, but once we tried Los Pampanos we never strayed. They have the best white conch ceviche! The fish is always fresh. Sometimes we sit there for hours just enjoying the view. We have also been known to spend an entire day there playing a game of Risk or Dominoes.

Walking out to the water in front of the restaurant, this is the view to the left, looking south.

Lots more beautiful seashore looking to the right, or north.

Looking at our spot from the water's edge. The plastic tent added on to the palapa frequently accommodate a busload or two of Europeans for a quick lunch along their tours. European tourists are always a source of comic entertainment. Two weeks ago Sunday, there were no tour busses.

After lunch we found this road to the sea. The gray blob you see in the background where we turned onto the beach road is a makeshift home for a group of several squatter women. They invited us to come back and camp out there. Tempting.

Personal parking stall right up at the beach. This would be a great location for some Cadillac camping!

I am walking in the distance, shuffling my feet in the white sand and piles of seashells, occasionally avoiding tábanos (annoying flies that bite!) by walking in the water.

I remembered that if you cover yourself in sand, the tábanos will leave you alone. I look like one of the mud people from Papua New Guinea, but I am comfortable and not being harrassed by nasty green flies with bright orange menacing eyes!

There is no doubt that these are the good old days.