Sunday, December 6, 2015

At Rancho San Benito

A spotlight of evening sun breaks through the gloom, minutes before sunset

In May I mentioned that I'd agreed to buy a parcel of old ranch land outside of Mérida. The transaction was completed in June.

Rancho San Benito has not had cattle grazing on it for close to fifteen years. In the tropical Yucatán climate, the result is that what once was open pasture now has trees on it whose trunks reach the thickness of a human leg. Large swathes of land are inaccessible due to dense thorny brush. Basically, although in the early stages of succession, the land has reverted to a form of jungle. A few game trails are passable if one is willing to swing a machete, and it's possible to walk around the limits of the place since the owners kept most of the lot lines clear. The back section, more than half of the property, although used as a wood lot has not been cleared in a very long time, if ever. Trees there are larger and the understory less dense but it's still not an easy place to move through.

Most of the progress I've made so far on the ranch has been in planning. Even in passable areas, the rocks and thorny growth do not allow for casual strolling. In order to learn more exactly what I'm dealing with in the area where I hope to build a dwelling, I've had some help clearing brush. This work continues, but slowly. I enjoy having people to work with, and often the work is lighter and goes more quickly with pleasant company. But I enjoy the quiet and think time provided by days spent working alone.

Working by myself allows me to hear and see more, like a small flock of wild turkeys that rose startlingly one morning out of the brush and flew low-to-the-ground to hide themselves out of my sight. Where they had just been, I found these feathers. On a daily basis I see quail, chachalacas, orioles, green jays, vultures and a variety of small songbirds. I've listed about 25 bird species so far, and have seen many more that I have yet to identify. Birds are my constant companions when I am out there alone. Other inhabitants include various small mammals, snakes, armadillos and a large variety of colorful lizards.

Working solo and quietly also means that I am more likely to see the deer that several villagers have told me are plentiful on the land. For some reason I haven't yet seen them, but as I go about my business it's only a matter of time until I do.

Days spent working alone at the ranch may be less productive in the sense of concrete accomplishment, but they give me a lot more information about the environment in which eventually I will live. And I enjoy having time just to enjoy the quiet and solitude there. I take breaks and just wander, or open the thermos on the tailgate of the truck and sit there enjoying the silence and a cup of hot coffee or icy lemonade.

This project is so large that it will never be done. There is no need to rush. The process is the project.

Text and images copyright 2015 by Marc Olson