Saturday, November 14, 2009

Huck Finn Summer in Yucatàn

I feel I was fortunate growing up mostly in Alaska, where I was able to spend a lot of time outdoors, enjoying the experiences and type of education that only wild or remote country has to offer. This kind of living is something increasingly uncommon in our developed, interconnected world.

I now live in the city, but often sneak away to places where I can breathe a little more freely. From time to time I visit my friend Jonathan Harrington, a writer from the States who has a hacienda southeast of Mèrida, where he lives by himself in a large old house set in the midst of a lot of land. One reason I like to visit is that Jonathan's place provides a complete break from the city. There are few roads, fewer people, there's no electricity, and there is no noise beyond the natural background that birds, animals and wind in the trees provide. When last I visited, in August, Jonathan's twelve-year-old son Trevor, who lives in New York City, was there enjoying the waning days of his summer vacation.

Jonathan looks forward to Trevor's summer visits, and they spend their time exploring, traveling around Yucatàn, and just hanging out on the hacienda. Trevor is a city kid, but has been coming to Yucatàn for years to spend time with his Dad, understands a lot of Spanish, and seems to fit in naturally at the hacienda and in the nearby pueblos, places like Tekit, Mama, Teabo and Chumayel. You would never guess that much of the year he lives, plays, socializes and goes to school in Manhattan.

The second morning of my visit, while Jonathan was busy Trevor and I decided to go out and take a walk. He was going to show me a grove of bamboo, which is an interest of mine, and we wanted to try to find a flock of wild turkeys he had spotted the day before. Trevor slung an old rifle of his Dad's over his shoulder and readily led the way through the brush, just like a native. It reminded me of the way of life of many kids who grow up in rural Alaska, with confidence, maturity and responsibilities that their urban counterparts often lack, at least until they are older. Trevor knows how to handle a weapon, find his way around the bush on the hacienda and safely maneuvers the old stick-shift pickup on rustic roads within the property. I am sure he has his moments, just like anyone does at his age, but this kid doesn't seem the type to complain much about no TV or computer, tàbanos (biting horseflies), or about time spent hauling up water, bucket by bucket, from the deep well when it's time to take a bath and the windmill that normally pumps is on the blink. Not to mention gathering firewood, no hot water, no shower, or the pale, wriggling, multi-legged "aliens," crustaceans or insects that live in wells and cenotes and sometimes come up in the bath water. Trevor is a guy with whom you can converse just about as you would with an adult, and he is good company.

Anyhow, Trevor and I went out, walked around the monte and talked and looked at things for awhile. We didn't locate the turkeys. When we got too hot we came back to the house and started hauling up wash water from the well. We counted the "aliens" in the bucket as we threw them back. Nothing really happened, but it was a great morning.

Jonathan's hacienda, San Antonio Xpakay, is itself worth another story or two. I'll work on it.

1 comment:

  1. wow, this is lovely. i feel fortunate to have had one of those outdoor-oriented childhoods. lucky Trevor, and how rare for a child of Manhattan. it makes me sad to see so many kids growing up inside their homes, schools, the mall, wherever. what will their grown up lives be like as nature-deprived human beings? hard to imagine.


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