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Have you ever…
Have you ever dreamed of doing something totally different? I mean crazy-risky…like, quit your job, sell everything in an estate sale, cross an ocean in a small sailboat, and live at the mercy of the weather? I have. And, we did.
Let me back up. Years ago, my husband and I dreamed of life on a sailboat, cruising the Caribbean. We devoured every article in Cruising World magazine; we spent weekends at a local lake on our Catalina 27; we wished Sunday afternoon would go on forever. Work? Hospitals and software bugs? Who needs them? We’re on the water, the wind is blowing, life is perfect. Go away world.
Of course, life pulled us back as the relentless Monday’s marched on. We sold the boat. Decades of weekends went by. We climbed our career ladders: big house with big salaries to pay for it. We worked, slept, and worked again. The dream? What dream?
Then one day, I was listening to a co-worker talk about her family’s sailboat, three hours away at the Texas coast. She talked about dolphin escorts and silver moonlight carpets stretched out over the water. Her stories ignited a small fire. We found a boat we loved and sailed it from Houston to Port Aransas. We rushed to our floating retreat each weekend, remembering snippets from our dream that had died while tasting small morsels of a life that could be.
My co-worker became my dear friend and fellow adventurer. She and her family set off to follow their own dream. We lived vicariously through them, soaking up their tales of living on the water and traveling to Central America. Sailing the Caribbean with its peaceful anchorages and terrifying seas was a siren song to my mate.
“Let’s go,” he said.
“Hell, no,” I said. “There is no way I’m going to risk everything at this time in my life to live on a boat!”
I was fine with our weekend getaways, thank you very much. My husband accepted my refusal. We were partners, always, and this decision required 100% buy-in from all participants. I wasn’t buying—I wanted the status quo. Despite years of knowing better, I hoped time would stand still in my thus-far well-planned, well-executed world.
Soon after my declaration, my Mom died; we had been very close. Everything shifted. I felt a sense of being completely alone. I wasn’t. My husband, sister, friends—all were there for me. It’s the kind of ‘alone’ that comes when the one person to whom you’ve been attached for a lifetime is gone. I felt like a boat whose mooring broke, sending it adrift.
As a nurse, I’d witnessed ends to lives that were full of regret. Intellectually, I had seen the pain as people realized they were out of time; I knew we should embrace every second. But, my heart realized it when my sister and I talked about how my mother’s desire to visit St. Augustine, Florida wouldn’t happen now. Although they had planned a trip later that year, time caught up with her, and she didn’t get there. She’d traveled the world—Japan, Hawaii, Washington, D.C.—but always wanted to see that historic little town. She’d dreamed of it for years. I realized—no, it was more of an epiphany—that if we missed our opportunity to sail away, we would always regret not trying.
So, we made the dream reality. Not by wishing. No dream comes about by just wishing. They are made with a large dollop of desire added to a cup of courage, mix that with pounds of preparation and hard work, and you have one dream turned into reality…maybe. Well, you have to have hope, too. And then there’s luck.
We spent a year preparing. Boat selection for safety and comfort (I am a bit of a princess when it comes to my hot water). Odd looks at the local grocery story as I provisioned for a two-year trip away from the USDA. Mastering weather and navigation charts. Operating the electronic equipment: battery chargers, inverters, water pumps, bilge pumps. Covering all the bases for survival on the ocean: life rafts, dinghy, motor mounts, gas cans.
The world of single side band radios—“Roger that,” “Over”, “This is Debi on Lyric, terrified and underway in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.”
And, have I mentioned weather?
We left the jetties at Port Aransas three months later than planned and sailed into the greatest adventure of our lives. Daunting? You bet.
We had many opportunities to turn back. We each gave up several times. Thankfully, we never gave up at the same time. We yelled, cried, worried, blamed, defended, and finally coped with the upside-down life of our choosing.
We found a balance, as all partners do. I was good at driving the boat, the SSB, finding leaks, and reading the diesel engine’s owner’s manual. My husband’s hero status grew each day. He navigated the reefs like Magellan, always knowing how to avoid dangers. He braved all the lightning storms while I trembled down below. He never lost patience when I was scared. He kept us safe, and without him, I would never have been able to enjoy this life.
We discovered a remarkable community of dreamers from all over the world. Living on a boat was a stretch for me; I’m proud of what I learned and accomplished. But, compared to the women I met on the water, I was lightweight! Some of these women were having babies, raising families, running businesses—all while taking their turn on watch. I remember watching one octogenarian couple from a fifty-foot catamaran, dancing on the deck of a beachside bar. They were fluid and graceful, cheek to cheek, as Frank Sinatra sang his tribute to the “young at heart.”
Achieving this distant dream, reaching this goal, has instilled in us the knowledge that dreams do come true. That knowledge has translated into courage to reach for a new future.
In this blog, I want to share lessons from my life and stories that inspire others to reach for their dream. I also want to take the reader on a trip to another world by sharing vivid snapshots of Maya life, both ancient and modern.
Join me as I reach for my new life—as a novelist. My sailing adventure provides the material for my first novel, JADE SKY. It is the mystery/crime/suspense/adventure category winner in the 2012 Novel Rocket Launch Pad contest. I am currently seeking agent representation. I have several novels planned that feature the fascinating world of Maya in Central America.
Thank for stopping by. I hope you enjoy the trip!
Have you ever…
Have you ever seen a jade mountain? To be honest, neither have I, but I know they exist. No, they’re not fantasy mountains, existing only in my writer’s brain. Nor are they a myth, conjured up by contorting history (as is too much of what we believe about the Maya). They are real. I’ve heard the tale. I’ve seen the evidence. But, they didn’t become real to me until a lovely woman from La Casa del Jade in Antigua, Guatemala placed a warm piece of lavender jade in my hand and changed my life.
Since you’re reading this on my website, you can see the pendant I’m describing. In Maya lore, the triple twist design signifies the feminine triad—Earth, Moon, Sea. To the Maori’s of New Zealand, it is the symbol of one’s connection to another culture. In my lore, it symbolizes a new life and is the inspiration for my writing. But, I’m getting ahead of the story.
In Guatemala, shopping for jade is an experience. The shops are designed to take the customer on a journey, and the sales staff transform into storytellers. Frankly, before walking into one of these shops, the source of jade, and the shades in which it is found had never crossed my mind. In some peripheral section of my brain, I remembered Antigua was known for jade, but it was nothing more than a blurb from my Lonely Planet.
My husband and I were on a road trip with two other couples (and two dogs—another story) stopping at Guatemala City, Antigua, and Panajachel before returning to the Rio Dulce yachting community we called home. Our three days in Antigua were done and we were heading west to Lake Atitlan. Antigua, the old Spanish colonial capital of Guatemala, is a treasure set among active volcanoes. The air is clear; the city square is a riot of vibrant colors from tropical flowers to the famous woven textiles of the Maya women. We were rested, full of excellent food, and packed with trinkets and table runners. As we were loading up the van, I noticed a jewelry store, specializing in jade, right across the street. Never one to miss an opportunity to explore the culture, I dragged the group over to just ‘take a peek’.
The day before, my husband had given me a lovely gift of jade earrings in a pale lavender shade. At that time, only a fragment of the story of jade was revealed. I wish I could claim that I immediately felt the magic of this stone, but no, not yet. I just thought a matching necklace would be nice.
We walked through the door, and the journey began. The first experience was a walk down a curved a hallway, lined with glass windows, behind which dozens of artists, hunched over magnifying glasses, carved the jade pieces. A sales person/storyteller provided a show and tell on the making of jade jewelry. Every wall was adorned with ancient artifacts juxtaposed with modern creations. Death masks and chest plates from ancient nobles stood guard over cases of delicate necklaces.
I mentioned that I might be interested in a necklace to match my earrings. The storyteller lit up. Since my ‘cultural investment’ fund was getting maxed out, my husband, wise to my methods, sensed an imminent overdraft and was on me like a bird dog. I browsed the cases, fingering purple jade rabbits and macaws. My husband and the saleswoman waited but nothing spoke to me. When I looked up from the display cases, his sigh of relief was a bit too loud—and premature. The industrious woman asked me to wait, ducked through a door into the work area, and returned with a pendant—still warm from the artist’s tools.
It was love—no, it was instant bonding. I was speechless, transformed to a little girl seeing her first pony. The synchronicity was undeniable. Karma was at work here. This was MY necklace.
The woman sensed a sale and unleashed the storyteller to captivate us with the mystery of Guatemalan jade.
In the ancient culture, the Maya treasured jade above all other possessions—even gold. The ancients believed the translucent stone was sacred, a gift from the earth, imparted with both power and protection. The most sacred of all jade—Olmec blue—a blue green shade prominent in ancient artifacts. Statues and figurines of Maya gods, death masks, earrings, neckpieces; many of the museums display skulls with a jade nugget implanted in each tooth.
However, there was one big problem with these archaeological specimens—there was no known source for Olmec blue jade. None of the worldwide jade sources produced this specimen. Even with extensive trade routes well into North American (and theoretically into the Far East), the chances of importing this stone were too remote to be a viable theory. Other theories existed: the source was Costa Rica and it had been depleted; it came from Far East; aliens brought it (love that one).
No one knew; few really cared. From time to time, after a big rain, jade nuggets would show up in the Rio Motagua. Locals screened the river and collected small specimens. Larger rocks or boulders initiated an intense, but brief, flurry of archaeological teams and geologists searching the area with disappointing results.
Then, in the early seventies, an archaeologist, Mary Lou Ridinger, armed with a Sherlock Holmes deductive style, geological data, and a theory, narrowed her search to jaguar country above the Rio Motagua. After months of exploration, she found the remnants of an old road. She followed the road up higher where she discovered a large outcropping of jade. Scattered around the site were tools—ancient tools used to carve jade—left in place centuries before when the site was abandoned, as though the miners had simply left for the day.
That visual stayed with me: tools, left behind by a young man who believed he’d be back the next day. A young man who walked away and never returned. Why? Why was this site abandoned so suddenly?
History provided the answer. The Spanish did not value jade; they wanted gold. So, most of the jade mines were left behind, to be buried by the jungle.
The outcropping discovered by Mary Lou Ridinger turned into the first four-thousand acre jade quarry in Guatemala. She and her husband Jay, a geologist, had discovered the mother lode of Mesoamerican jade. An area the size of Rhode Island, with mountains of jade, had been lost for nearly five hundred years, buried by the jungle. Today, the Ridinger’s have turned this find into an extremely lucrative jade industry, fueling the Guatemalan economy and supporting the indigenous people.
But, there’s more.
In 1998, Hurricane Mitch parked over the Rio Motagua river valley. Days and days of unrelenting rain tore vast chunks of earth from the mountains. Thousands of people were displaced; hundreds were buried under mudslides. Once the devastation cleared, huge veins of jade were exposed. More astounding than the quantity of jade, was the revelation that this jade source produced specimens in colors never before seen—anywhere: Rainbow-colored jade, lavender jade, Olmec blue, red, black, apple green. One of the most remarkable was the discovery of what they call Galactic Gold, black jade shot with precious metals like gold, platinum, and silver. Today, Guatemala is recognized by gemologist and geologists as the source of the finest jade in the world.
The saleswoman ended her tale. The spell had been cast and she knew it. She was poised to wrap it up. I gave the signal to my spouse. We both waited. He said…no.
No? What? No? What does that even mean?
Now before you think I’m less than a full partner in my house, I need to make clear that jade must be given as a gift. You cannot give jade to yourself. It’s bad luck. It’s like taking a piece of volcanic rock from the Big Island of Hawaii and thinking Pele won’t notice. Had it been any other stone, I’d just whip out my own credit card, but jade. No way. Myth? Maybe, but better not push it.
I was stunned; I thought he was kidding. The saleswoman looked at my husband, unable to believe she’d misread this sale. He wasn’t kidding. It was too much. Not this time.
I wish I could say I was big about it. I wasn’t. I was mad. We talked; I lost.
We had to get going and, since I was the one who spoke Spanish, I left to complete our hotel checkout. In an awkward silence, we loaded up the van and left Antigua.
Except, we didn’t leave Antigua. The guy who was driving kept getting lost. We went round and round, winding through the same streets and circling past the shop with MY necklace still in it. It was Karma. It was calling me. I let everyone know that if we got the necklace, we would be able to leave.
After the third drive-by (and my third, rather shrill, plea) my dear friend Cindy (the photographer who gave us that great lichen shot) turned around in her seat and said, “Will you please shut up about that damn necklace.”
I shot back, “Sure, easy for you to say, you got your necklace.”
But, she was right; I was irritating myself. Let it go, count your blessings, enjoy the trip, I told myself. It worked, I did let it go, and we found our way out of Antigua.
Once in Panajachel, a charmer hugging the shores of Lake Atitlan, we settled into our hotel room. The view was beautiful. Flowers were everywhere and the afternoon sun laid out a diamond carpet on the lake. My inner brat was still in a time out; peace had returned. I was thankful for the reminder of what was most important: let go of material desires; it was good to be alive.
Later that night, my husband pulled out a package from La Casa del Jade with my beautiful pendant. I was thrilled, humbled, honored, and ashamed. As he handed me his gift, he told me that in the shop, he sensed the synchronicity as well. He knew immediately it was for me and had always intended to give it. Had he purchased it at the time, technically, it would be a gift, but this was more genuine, more precious. He also revealed that everyone was in on the secret—no wonder Cindy had been a trifle irritated. Even the saleswoman/storyteller knew. He’d given her a signal when I was away pouting. God, I love that man.
As I said earlier, this gift changed my life. It’s more than a possession; it’s a symbol. I couldn’t forget the story of the jade mine: the abandoned tools, the mountains, or the people who lived that life. This inspired my first novel, JADE SKY. My life in Central America revealed so much rich history. The true-life mysteries of the Maya, ancient and modern, ignited a passion that I’m driven to share. My novels are dedicated to presenting these gifts wrapped up in what I hope are engaging and intriguing reads.
What other mysteries are out there? More than you can imagine. For example, did you know that one of the most sacred deities of the ancient Maya was a were-jaguar?
Thanks for visiting my site. For more information on Guatemalan jade, the following link will take you to a 2008 article in the New York Times written by William J. Broad.
Have you ever…
Have you ever been humiliated? I mean the let-the-earth-swallow-me kind of public humiliation that resides among our worst fears. You probably have. So have I—countless times, mostly in high school. Thankfully, those are easily forgotten over time, but we retain that deep in the gut fear of it happening again.
My latest public humiliation came not long after I began my new career as a writer. The scene: my first agents’ conference. The cast: ten eager writers waiting to pitch their novels and a very famous agent. We’ll call her Agent No. The plot: ninety-second pitch turns into five-minutes of misery and, despite my silent pleas, the earth refuses to come to my rescue. Happy ending? You’ll see.
Three years ago, I attended the Writers’ League of Texas Agents’ Conference in Austin. It was the last day of the conference and, thus far, I’d had a great experience. My pre-scheduled agent interview with my dream agent had gone quite well. “Best pitch I’ve heard so far,” said the agent. “Send me some pages.” Oh yeah, I was jazzed.
On a whim, I decided to participate in the last ninety-second pitch roundtable. Several agents each staked out a table. Writers were divided into groups of ten and herded into the room. We didn’t get to choose our table, but I was still happy to be with the aforementioned very famous agent. Agent No was seated next to me. She had her minute timer, a box of tissues (she had a cold), and a stack of business cards ready to go. She looked at me, flipped over the timer, and said, “Tell me about your story.” I was on.
I took a deep breath and started on my well-rehearsed pitch. Since my story revolved around an archaeologist, I chose a rather obvious comparison to a movie character—Indiana Jones. My main character is a young woman, so she became an Indiana Jones’ granddaughter type. The story is a quest for a sacred object that I’d named the Jade Sky Skull. Loved the alliteration, and what’s more intriguing than a skull? I began. “Imagine that Indiana Jones had a granddaughter. Meg Denton, archaeologist and hieroglyphic savant is thrust into a battle with the black market when she tries to recover the Jade Sky Skull…”
Agent No raised her hand, stopping me in mid-sentence. She turned to the other writers at the table, and said, “This is a perfect example of copy-cat writing.”
Oh, God. What is she saying? I didn’t copy anything. This was an original story based on my time in Central America: the story of the lost mother lode of Mayan jade. The last Indiana Jones movie I saw had Sean Connery and the Holy Grail. What was happening?
I’m felt flushed; my head started to spin. I heard her talking about how important it is to take writing seriously. I heard something about bored housewives who see a movie and write a book that’s nothing more than a knock-off. I heard her caution the other writers to avoid the trap of being a copycat. I want to crawl under my chair, or run away. For a moment, I thought, it can’t be that bad. Then, I caught a glimpse of one of my friends looking at me. It was that bad.
This I’m-making-an-example-out-of-you misery went on. I tried to protest. This was about lost jade, but Agent No believed she had me pegged and she wasn’t letting go. I felt my face morphing into that go-to-hell look that caused me so much trouble with my dad. I struggled to be professional. It wasn’t working; my big-girl panties were slipping.
Finally, it was over. She told me to either get serious or try another career. Then, she added, “But I’m only one agent.” Oh, thanks. That helps. She flipped her timer over once again, and went around the table. Everyone—everyone—received one of her cards but me. Everyone—everyone—received positive feedback. Everyone—everyone—tried to avoid looking at me when she requested pages.
After this torture was over, my friends gathered around me, and tried to be encouraging. It was only then that I learned that while I was living in the jungle, a fourth Indiana Jones movie was released with a young grandson type and a crystal skull. How did I miss that? Well, no TV or movies for three years, that’s how. Talk about bad timing. But, it was too late now. Agent No believed she’d flushed out a copycat and saved the integrity of the writing profession. She was pleased. I was pissed. Pissed at her, at me, at…well everything.
It was time to leave. The positive experiences were dwarfed by my last activity. Now, I’m a big girl; lived a long time and have experienced great success and some failures. But this one, this felt personal—personal in a way that threatened to de-rail my dreams—if I let it.
On my long drive home, I had an imaginary conversation with Agent No, saying all the things I couldn’t think of sitting around that table. As usual, alone in my car, I was brilliant. I had her apologizing for being so completely wrong about me. She practically begged for the full manuscript. “No way, Agent No. That bridge is burned!” Next, I dreamed of sending her a signed copy of my bestseller. I thought sending her the millionth copy would be a nice touch. Of course, it had to include a pithy note about the one that got away. Better luck next time, used-to-be-famous agent.
It took me a couple of weeks to shake off the experience—and the cold virus she’d given me. I watched the movie, and realized my story had too many similarities; if I sent it out to agents, it would be DOA. I had to admit, despite the pain, Agent No had given me a gift. So, I hiked up my big-girl panties and went to work editing my manuscript.
I had to find an icon other than a skull. I began the research and experienced a true “eureka” moment: a were-jaguar. Were-jaguars: mega-mysterious, an authentic part of Maya culture, and a powerful symbol. In fact, modern Maya shaman still conduct rituals where they transform and commune with their nagual, or spirit guide, and the were-jaguar is the most sacred of all.
My Jade Sky Skull became the Blue Jade Jaguar. Not the same alliteration, but it would work. This discovery gave my story new life: transforming one character transformed from a walk-on to a key player and providing a vehicle for sharing the rich shamanic lore of the Maya, ancient and modern.
El Yaguaro—one who kills in one leap—is a key figure in Maya culture. Unlike other big cats, it’s a strong swimmer. They wait in ambush, draped over branches above the water, and watch for fish. Then, they use the tips of their tails to agitate the water, attract their prey, and grab them with their powerful claws. They are loners, staking out territory covering several hundred square miles. Like many ancient cultures, the Maya were in awe of these powerful attributes and transformed them into god-like abilities. Ultimately, the jaguar morphed into the were-jaguar, the oldest deity of the Maya, dating back over three-thousand years.
The Maya believed day and night are two different worlds. Shaman must travel between these worlds: the daytime—world of the living and the earth, and the nighttime—world of the dead and spirits. They chose the jaguar as their nagual, the ultimate protector—as a bridge between worlds. Today, in Guatemala and Central America, shamans don the jaguar pelt to perform the same ceremonies of their ancestors. His name, Balam, and image are found throughout their culture: literature, art, textiles. The Jaguar Priest’s job description is a big one. He must: impersonate and invoke the deity; regulate the calendar; interpret omens; study the night sky; identify lucky and unlucky days; work miracles; predict the future; call the rain; end drought, famine, or plagues; read the sacred scriptures from the katun (calendar); design the stellae; and feed the hungry. Whew!
In Maya and Olmec art, the jaguar takes on distinctive, and surprising, attributes. One identifies the were-jaguar by a deep cleft on its head, almond shaped eyes, snarling downturned mouth, and fleshy lips. They are often depicted seated or crouching, with a human countenance on a cat’s body. Paintings on tombs depict warriors or shaman, dressed in the jaguar pelt. Archaeologists uncovered a string instrument—the only one known to pre-date the European conquest—that sounds like a jaguar’s growl.
Too often, we lose the treasures of ancient cultures. The Maya were and are a literate culture, rich with mystery, power, and knowledge. We need to remember that our knowledge of this culture is miniscule. Experts all agree that the unknown far outweighs the known. The Maya kept time in cycles. They believe that history repeats. We can learn so much, if we listen.
So, my moment of supreme humiliation turned into a fascinating study of the people that I love so much. My icon became more authentic, the mystery became deeper, and the story became richer. So, to Agent No, I say thank you. I look forward to sending you that signed copy of my bestseller.
Next post: Happy New Era! B’Ak’Tun 184.108.40.206 begins tomorrow. Don’t put off your holiday shopping, the end is not near. Thanks for visiting.
December 21, 2012
HAPPY NEW ERA!
Yes, the odometer of the Maya world is turning over on December 21, 2012 and the Maya are celebrating B’Ak’Tun 220.127.116.11.0.
But, you ask, didn’t they predict the end of time? No, I answer. They marked the end of one cycle and the beginning of a new one. So, in case you’ve put off you holiday shopping, I have some news,—you’ve been punked!
The ancient Maya were the ultimate timekeepers. Compared to the atomic clock, the most accurate in the world, their calendars were much more accurate that our own. According to atomic clocks, the earth takes 365.242198 days to revolve around the sun. The Gregorian calendar, the one we use every day, sets that time at 365.2425 days. We have an error rate of 3.02 days every ten-thousand years. The Maya calculated the earth’s rotation at 362.24229 days resulting in a much lower error rate: 1.98 days every ten-thousand years. How’s that for an ancient, “primitive” culture?
They accomplished this by studying the stars and planets and extrapolating time using elaborate mathematical formulas. Although they had over twenty calendars, they primarily used three: the Haab, the Tzolk’in, and the Long Count.
The Haab was referred to as a vague year calendar. It was based on the movement of the earth. It totaled 365 days and was used primarily for planting crops or other more mundane activities. The Tzolk’in was known as the sacred calendar and consisted of 260 days, based on the cycles of the Pleiades, or Seven Sister star cluster. This calendar was (and still is) used for divination.
Together, these two calendars make the Calendar Round. Imagine a set of gears. The smaller Haab was the inner wheel, encircled by the Tzolk’in. They moved together to mark off each day, marching on and on throughout the B’Ak’Tun, which equals 5125.36 years. The numbers are staggering, especially when you consider they had no computers or calculators—only diligent observation, counting, and recording.
The Long Count was established to record history. It was intended as a continuous record of time from an initial date: 0.0.0.0.0, or August 12, 3114 by our own system. December 21, 2012 is 18.104.22.168.0. This date has been misinterpreted to be the end of the Long Count or a prediction of the end of time. It is not the end of time; it is the end of a cycle.
For the Maya, each day is a gift—not to be taken for granted. Even today, every morning, a shaman performs the ceremony ushering in the day. Like a child, each day has a name; each month a patron god. The Maya were cyclical timekeepers. We are linear timekeepers. They believed events repeated: famine, plague, drought, wars, and natural disasters all came in cycles. It is our own perception of linear time that contributes to the doomsday predictions.
A recent archaeological discovery at Xultun in Guatemala’s Peten region, uncovered a room with twelve-hundred year-old drawings. The discovery is named the Saturno House murals, after the leader of the research team, William Saturno of Boston University. The walls are covered in numbers and hieroglyphs noting lunar cycles and their corresponding patron god. The scientists believe it was a system for calculating lunar years. According to Saturno, they believe these findings are “actual records kept by a scribe, whose job was to be the official record keeper.” He likened it to a Maya “geek math problem” and the walls as “blackboards.”
In addition to lunar cycles, they found calculations relating to Venus, Mercury, and Mars that indicate dates seven-thousand years into the future. Of particular interests was a list of numbers that indicated B’Ak’Tun well past 13, in fact up to 17 B’Ak’Tun. They believe this offers proof of time well past December 21, 2012.
Meanwhile, the modern Maya celebrate the winter solstice, December 21, 2012, as the beginning of a new era—a new B’Ak’Tun—one in which many of the trials of the last one will end for them. We must remember, the current B’Ak’Tun has seen the collapse of their ancient civilization, the Spanish conquest, the oppression of their culture, a devastating thirty-year civil war in Guatemala, which ended in 1996, resulting in hundreds of thousands dead. They hope the new B’Ak’Tun will usher in a renaissance for their culture.
So, just as we celebrate January 1 as the beginning of a new year, full of promise and resolutions, the Maya celebrate December 21, 2012 as a new era. And, just like people all over the world, they hope for a better tomorrow. So, celebrate a new beginning. And, if you haven’t done it already, better get that shopping done because we will all awaken on December 22.
So, my wish for you: Blessing in the New Era—Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.
Below are several links to websites for more information. Thanks for visiting!
Have you ever been forced into a detour? If you drive, chances are you’ve seen the dreaded signs sending you along an alternate route. We moan, we gripe, we look at our clocks, and make a call saying we’re going to be late. Damn detour!
What about life’s detours? We’ve all had them; I’m just now getting back on my path after a major detour. How do you react? My own reaction? Well, pretty much the same as when I encounter an alternate route on the road. I moaned. I griped. I looked at it as lost time. But, (there’s always a but) in retrospect, life’s detours can be filled with wonder.
What if we approached detours on the road as an opportunity to see something new. A new path. Exciting new scenery. Maybe we find an intriguing new restaurant—classy or a dive—with great smells coming from the kitchen. Or, maybe we spy a cool shop with something in the window that we’ve searched for, but never found. Maybe we stumble on a peaceful park with huge trees and places to sit and ponder.
My detour started when I picked up a random book and opened to a random page with the message, “Can you put your plans on hold for a while and trust me?”
Now, I’m someone who believes in signs. I don’t care how (or if) others encounter spirit. That’s a personal choice. But my life has been liberally sprinkled with experiences that defy a “coincidental” explanation. So, I believe in and watch for signs. This was one of them, and I wasn’t happy. I immediately asked, “What am I going to have to do now?”
I didn’t want to detour from writing my second novel. I was on a roll. I had the characters, the plot, and 20K words in the computer. I was querying and getting positive responses from literary agents. You want me to stop now? Are you crazy?
Just ignore it, some said. Just a coincidence, other said. I tried to believe others; it didn’t work. I knew better. I’d been here before and surrender is the only smart thing to do.
“Can you put your plans on hold for a while and trust me?”
While I believe in signs, trusting others is a stretch for me. I trust there is a plan in my life, but I’d like to see a copy, just in case I want to make some suggestions, you know, just tweak it here and there. I’m told I’m a control freak. Well, maybe not a freak, but I do like a little control.
So, after the initial struggle and countless conversations with friends, I followed the detour. It was scary, and frustrating, but eventually I discovered those beautiful new places. New people, new experiences, new challenges—all of which made me stronger, wiser, and deeper. All of which will make me a better writer.
One of those experiences took me back to my beloved Guatemala. In one short week, accompanied by an incredible team of twelve others, we travelled to La Maquina in western Guatemala. We were there to dig a well for a community who didn’t have access to clean water. We taught over six-hundred children about clean water, health, and hygiene. We spent time with village women—mothers, grandmothers—who thirsted for simple ways to keep their families safe and healthy.
In return, the community fed us, embraced us, and gave us so much more than we gave to them. It was pure service, pure love. Although I’d learned these lesson years before, it was reinforced by this recent trip. While the humble people in Guatemala lack our material wealth, they have blessings that our device crazed society has lost. Simple joys: celebrating with family and friends, music, laughter. They possess a generous spirit, one which freely gives a group of thirteen strangers their last egg, their best beef, their only chicken.
Now, my detour is complete. I’ve had a booster shot of inspiration: life in Central America, precious friendships and memories, a few new jade specimens, and some great Guatemalan chocolate. I’m ready to roll again and pick up where I left off, but this time, I’m more.
“Can you put your plans on hold for a while and trust me?”