Saturday, February 11, 2012

Contentment: Surprises and Small Pleasures

Photo by Eric Chaffee

Thursday my friends Eric, Paul and I decided to take a drive out to the coast and visit a favorite beach area not far from Mérida.

It was an uneventful but, as always, interesting drive. As we meandered through small pueblos where motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians vastly outnumber the cars, we slowed to eyeball roadside fruit stands, searching for hard-to-find tropical varieties that are uncommon and costlier in the city. Passing through stretches of countryside between pueblos we watched the changing scenery and identified a couple of rustic side roads that looked interesting enough to draw us back on some future exploration.

Soon we sensed the rich, organic aroma of the sticky black mud in the brackish lagoon. Suddenly on both sides of the road there was water, shallow, dark and dotted with clumps of mangroves, snags and the forms of various wading birds.

We were nearing the coast but still surrounded by the lagoon when we saw it: a scattering of dark specks against the blue sky, as if a giant had hurled a huge handful of black pepper into the blue. Eric stopped the car in the road and we jumped out to look.

The specks took shape, forming into straggling, irregular lines as they neared us. As they grew in size, the dots suddenly transformed into silhouettes revealing shades of hot pink in the morning sun.

We were watching a flock of flamingos, which had been flying along the coast and suddenly veered inland above us, making toward the lagoon we had just crossed.

Photo by Eric Chaffee

This flock passed over, and as it did so, another appeared in the distance, rising over the palms. This wave, too, took form and color and passed gracefully overhead. While it was still in view, yet another appeared. Then another, and another, each cluster connected to the preceding by a thin single file of birds. From looking at some of Eric's photos afterward I estimated that each wave consisted of between one hundred and two hundred birds. We saw at least seven or eight separate groups, which leads me to conclude that over a period of perhaps ten or fifteen minutes, we saw probably between one and two thousand flamingos.



The high point of the day had come early, but the rest of it was not a letdown. After spending an hour or two wandering and observing in a nearby nature reserve, a virgin coastal strip which includes beach and lagoon (and according to warning signs, is home to crocodiles), we came back to the pueblo to wander through the centro and go to a favorite seafood restaurant.

The waiter always remembers us and greets us with a smile and a handshake. As usual, the ceviche and fish filets were superb.

The sound system played Louis Armstrong singing, "On the Sunny Side of the Street." Palms and flowering trees swayed in the gentle, mild breeze. I savored my coffee as we sat under the palapa and talked the afternoon away.

Finally, we walked a meandering route back to the car, through a neighborhood inhabited by fishermen, along the beach, and out onto the pier, where we proceeded hats-in-hand, due to the strong breeze. We talked with two boys selling jewelry and utensils made of shells.

As frequently occurs around here, a day begun without a specific goal turned out to be one of surprises and small pleasures. A day of good moments. One of the best kinds of days.

17 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Winn. When you have something interesting to write about, the posts just flow.

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  2. Ah, the uber secret beach destination! Sounds like you guys had a great time!

    Debi

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    1. Yes, Debbie, you know the spot. We did have a great day, and hope to be making another trip out there with you and Tom some day soon.

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  3. As usual, interesting post, Marc. I'm going to discuss the verb "improvisar" soon with my Spanish teacher--for I believe it's what we might say for "wing it." I have concluded that we succeed best here when we do "wing it", both for the unexpected lovely events, such as your flamingo sighting, as well as the others, such as massive traffic jams.

    Being flexible helps for sure.

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    1. You are absolutely right, Alinde. Flexibility and the ability to improvise are a huge advantage, and make living, no matter where you are, less stressful and more interesting.

      We'll have to get together soon...

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  4. Well told, Marc. And a good time was had by all.

    ~eric.

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    1. Yes, Eric, it was one of those very nice days which, fortunately, it is possible to have quite a few of around here. Thanks for driving (and sharing the photos).

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  5. Agree with you that unplanned trips--just wandering around without any rush or set destination--can turn into the most delightful experience. A couple of years ago we roamed around on the way to the town where you get the ferry to go to Holbox and it was a wonderful experience.

    al lanier

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    1. Al, it's especially nice here in Yucatán because it's safe and secure. You can still wander off on backroads without worrying about stumbling into areas where it might be unsafe. And people in the country here are very friendly. It's always interesting exploring rural areas and isolated pueblos and haciendas.

      Funny, I still haven't visited Holbox after years of living in Mérida. It's high on my list. Maybe I'll get over there this year.

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  6. Nice post. Brought back many pleasant memories I have of doing the same thing....without all the flamingoes! The Yucatan is a pleasant place just to meander in and explore. I love coming across the little wooden signs for out of the way cenotes that only the local kids know about. Thanks for sharing with us.

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    1. I agree Wayne, it's one of the greatest places I've found in all my travels to just wander around and discover things for myself. It's wonderful to be living near so many interesting things. I never seem to run out of new discoveries...sometimes in my own back yard. Thanks for commenting. It's been awhile since I've run into you.

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  7. Great post and photos. The marsh shot is stunning.

    john

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    1. Thanks, John, as always, for your fine comments. We'll have to take a drive out there the next time you are in town.

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  8. I love a day like this and it has been too long since I've had one of them. This post is a reminder to make time to explore without an agenda.

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    Replies
    1. Billie, it's one of my favorite things to do. I love the unexpected.

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  9. This: rich, organic aroma of the sticky black mud in the brackish lagoon

    And this: The waiter always remembers us and greets us with a smile and a handshake. As usual, the ceviche and fish filets were superb.

    The sound system played Louis Armstrong singing, "On the Sunny Side of the Street." Palms and flowering trees swayed in the gentle, mild breeze. I savored my coffee as we sat under the palapa and talked the afternoon away.


    You're killing me. And here I thought you were still in Florida. Deliciousness.

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