Except as noted, all images copyrighted by and should be attributed to E. Bourland Hawley.
I had become many eons ago a traveling literary gnome, inquisitive about places I had and had not visited,
walking the same paths of peoples from the past, through places once grand and still grand,
photographing images that now show me the places about which I still dream . . .

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

RUINS! Finally.

One of the tallest ruins in the Yucatan peninsula, the "Big Hill" stands approximately 42 meters.

The view from inside the pyramid.

The ancient Mayas built this structure to honor my favorite god, Chac Mool.

On our way to Coba, we stopped by a "cenote" and rapelled to the bottom.

We entered a cave that the ancients regarded as an entryway into the consciousness of Mother Earth. Visitors swim in the crystal, light green water found at the bottom.

The shops looked enticing to the people seeking souvenirs.

Two shopkeepers in Tres Rios take care of their accounting business.

We found two children feeding a crocodile, then despaired while they looked at us and not at the croc, whose maw had begun to open wide.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Cancun, Thrilling Cancun.

This voyage turned out differently than the one meticulously planned by Orvis Expeditions. Since I have been here, I have discovered the wonderfulnesses of Cancun. First one, it sits close to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1988. Yesterday, I visited the Coba group of ruins. My interest in visiting ruins -- any ruins -- distracted me from other details, such as other activities that Olympus Tours had scheduled for the day. I vaguely remember Gabriel, the nice fellow at the Hilton's travel agency, saying to me that I needed to take a swimsuit and a towel. I barely listened to him; I'm going to see the ruins, not swim, I kept in the back of my mind. I vaguely remember the mention of rapelling and zip-lining; I'm going to see the ruins, I kept thinking. Other people rapell and zip-line, not me.
At seven-thirty in the morning, I stood outside the lobby of the hotel, checking my camera, when Michel approached me.
"Hi, I'm your tour guide." I boarded a van with other passengers, otherwise known here as "pax-es," who seemed from the beginning like a jolly bunch. Michel had fourteen of us, every one from different hotels.
Our drive to our first stop, the Tres Rios cenote, took approximately one and a half hours. I felt mostly interested in photography, but became increasingly aware that I would rapell down the edge of the cenote. Without any contention, I stepped into the brace, then followed Michel and the group to the drop point. He gave us instruction on how to do rapelling, then reached over and clamped the clasp on my brace. "Oh, dang, well, I'll get it over with first."
The process of rapelling does not seem as frightful once you "sit down" and stretch your legs. The brace and the ropes gave me a sense of security that I kept all the way down to the bottom, where two men waited for me. I did not need any assistance steadying myself once my feet touched the ground. I moved to the side a few meters and took some photographs of the others in my our group, including Michel rapelling upside down.

We returned to the lip of the cenote by stairway. Not content with rapelling, we then zip-lined across the opening of the hole, about three hundred yards. Michel again clamped the clasp on my brace first, before anyone else, and gave us instruction on zipping down the line. More importantly, he told us how to break. He added that the heavier people will go down faster, and encouraged them to pull the break steadily enough to slow them down toward the end of the ride.
It feels odd to zip-line. I focussed like an eagle on my destination. I felt aware of my surroundings, but I dared not take my eyes off the end of my line, where several men waited for the rapellers. Next time, I will look down and all around me at the bottom and the walls of the cenote.
From there we boarded the van again and made our way to a mangrove. I sat in the same kayak with Michel, and left the dock the last ones. He paddled behind me while I took photographs.

Around the bend, we found Marianne and Steven. Steven is hopelessly and unabashedly urban. He's also a ham and a comic, a lot of fun to have in one's company. They had become stuck at a tight curve in the canal. "I was never a boy scout," said Steven, while Marianne tried with her paddle to extricate their kayak from their odd angle in the waterway. Michel paddle up to them a rope to the bow of their ship, then towed them all they way to our destination.
From there, we walked through the forest to reach a cave. The Mayans believe that the cave represents an entryway to the consciousness of Mother Earth. A man named Pedro blessed us and spread Frankincense incense all around us. The photograph below shows my attempt to record the inside of the cave. I managed to capture the Tyndall effect, though it looks a little blurry. We crouched to enter through the small opening at the top of the stairs (right).

Climbing back up through the opening, I became entangled with my camera strap. Thankfully I avoided injury, but sacrificed my sunglasses instead of my body. I watched them disappear into the darkness below me. I sat outside in the sun figuring that leaving something behind inside the consciousness of Mother Earth cannot seem too bad, when Michel popped out of the opening with my glasses in his hand. Oh, well, Mother Earth returned them knowing I would need them.
Visitors can swim inside the cave. The water looks beautiful in its crystal light green.

I'm pretty sure we had lunch right after the swim in the cave. By then I felt plumb tuckered out and antsy about seeing the Coba ruins. The food, I do remember, made by local women, tasted fresh and healthy.
Finally, though, we arrived in Coba. The larger pyramid stands two kilometers from the entrance. They provide bicycles and bicycles with large seats driven by men. I chose a single bike, and somehow made my way to the pyramid. They have many paths, and they all look similar. My bike fell over just before I opened the shutter to photograph the path.

I have heard on a number of occasions the question, "What was she thinking????" I started asking myself what in the world was I thinking when I began to set foot before foot, hand before hand, on the steps of this very steep, very tall pyramid. Only twenty steps up sparked an uncomfortable sense of vertigo that only felt worse as I climbed each step. From below, I heard Marianne saying, "Save your energy. You'll need it on your way down. It's worse coming down." Next to me, Steven grunted his way up the steep steps. "Keep going, Elizabeth," he'd say. The comments he made often, even under his own duress, seemed comical, and I laughed in spite of my vertigo, all the way up to the top.
Then he made me laugh as we crawled back down, me backwards on all four, and he on sitting down from step to step.

In the meantime, the two little girls in our group climbed the pyramid, passing us at least twice on their way.

On My Way to Snorkeling Over the Second Greatest Barrier Reef in the World

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Iggy and a Walk Around the Hilton Cancun

Iggy came out of his home under the sidewalk to greet the day and say hello. After chatting, he climbed up on the grass to have his breakfast of freshly caught insects.

At the very end of the lobby, I found this wonderful fresco.

To the left of the carreta, the building appears to lean due to lens distortion; the carreta itself leans to the left, too.

The water seemed unusually choppy this morning, so much so that some of the people in jetskis returned to the shore.

Saint Peter, Would You Let Me on the Plane?

Sitting in the Spices restaurant at breakfast this morning, I sipped coffee and looked around me. The place seemed a bit noisy with so many people having breakfast. I realized that I sat among a crowd of happy people who had come to Cancun on purpose. Except for a moody adolescent, a crying child, and the vacation-weary tourists hovering over the bellhops, I was the only one here who did not want to be here.

Aerotaca has put me on their stand-by list for today's only flight. I'll sit at the gate until moments before the plane leaves for Flores. I will know then, at 2:00 pm, if I will remain here or move on to Tikal. In the meantime, I try to enjoy my time here, looking at the beautiful ocean on one side, and the beautiful golf course on the other side, and try not to become emotionally involved in whether I will board today's flight or not. If I arrive in Tikal today, I will feel thrilled; if not, I will have to make the most of it and try not to feel any more disappointment than I already do. If I have to stay here, I will think about playing a few holes of golf.

But what about the money I've paid the Orvis Expedition people? What are my rights as a customer and traveler? If I have to remain in Cancun, I'll have plenty of time to research those questions.

But not on the golf course.

I downloaded msn chatroom to my laptop last night. My nephew was there, and we chatted. That was a highlight of my stay here, in Paradise. The other highlight came in the form of emails from my hubby, my everything. I suggested he download a chatroom, too, and so we can communicate less expensively. I could kick myself for not having thought about that before I left our home.

And I capitulated with the phone prices. I paid a huge phone bill because I had to hear his voice -- worth every penny because his voice sounds so sweet. Feeling as disappointed as I do, it perked me up a lot to interact with him.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Art that When Looked Upon Can Soothe Souls

Ysabel has updated her blog: www.ysabeldelarosa.blogspot.com

Art in Terminal D at DFW Airport

For a while I’ve thought of visiting every work of art displayed in Terminal D at DFW Airport. Mission accomplished this morning, having arrived early, checked in and then walked around looking for the artwork. A nice fellow at the information desk told me that they allow photography of the artwork, but not so much of the airport. He asked me to photograph discretely and purposefully so that the guards would not have to stop me. He also gave me a small pamphlet that guided me around the terminal to the location of each piece.
Lighting challenged me, for they have above and all around fluorescent and incandescent lights of all colors. I did not bring my wide-angle lens, so I focused on details of the works, and sometimes combined the art with its surroundings. One mosaic in circles looks nice in the same frame with the long escalators nearby.
Photographing children at play in the harmonic labyrinth was fun, too. Next time, though, I’ll put the camera in Program mode and grab shots that way. The children engaged in so much action and so quickly that I did not have the time to adjust my aperture and shutter. Still, I think I can work with what I have in Photoshop or in Aperture.

On the way to the Admiral's Club, a cool hallway -- if you pardon the pun.

Athello Beck "Cypress Trees"

In green, at play, in blue. Children play in Christopher Janney's harmonic labyrinth.

Linda Guy "Dance! Don't Walk"

Richard Zapata "The Highest Power"

Ted Kincaid "Untitled"

Stranded in Paradise

My flight from Dallas arrived an hour and a half late to Cancun, and my connection, the only flight to Flores, left without me. Maybe I feel grumpy, a little bit -- and perhaps a nice glass of chilled wine will ameliorate any unusual feelings -- but I have had a quarrel with the way transfer passengers have to go through passport control and customs in Cancun before continuing to another country. I would have made my flight to Flores, I think, if they arrange things to better serve transfer passengers. Perhaps I would not have to remain overnight in a resort. Thankfully they had a room for me during this busy season. That's good news number one; good news number two is that I have my bag; three is I have my laptop and access to the internet, and to emails from my Mr. Mallory.

So here I am stranded in Cancun until my flight tomorrow. This place qualifies as "paradise." The beach and the water have truly remarkable shades of white and blue, especially when the rays of the sun pass straight overhead. The hotel I stay in, the Hilton Cancun, seems utterly contrived, as much as Disney Land but in a more subdued way. Oh, I sound so, um, snooty, I know; but, really, this is my first visit to a "resort," and there seems a bit of culture shock to attend to for a person who has grown accustomed to natural habitat-type places -- places where the architecture follows the shape of the land and soothes the soul; places where pelicans have cackled as they fly overhead for hundreds of years, undisturbed by great machines that structure the earth. Here, it seems bulldozers razed the land to erect a cookie cutter structure. At first I could not imagine anyone staying here on purpose; wouldn't it seem better to spend their hard-earned money in a place that would soothe the soul? But as I walked around the pool, then felt the sand under my feet, and then dipped my toes into the ocean, I sympathized with the people who come here. Guests can lay about the pool, snorkel, scuba, swim, paraglide, play golf in a tropical landscape . . . engage in activities they normally do not do, and spend restful time away from the toils and stress of work back home, then return home refreshed and better prepared to face their world.

The travel agency, International Expeditions, responded to my emergency phone call. The voice on the other end, John, told me he would take care of things. My main concern, sitting here in the middle of paradise, consisted of Nathan, who no doubt wondered why I had not arrived in Flores, where he waited for me with the rest of the group. I hope I don't miss anything too important tomorrow: I seem to have left our itinerary at home with my wonderful hubby, Mr. Mallory. Oh, well, perhaps it's best I don't know.

Here, the phone charges seem so exhorbitant, I think they give new meaning to the expression "highway robbery." Rather than incur greater cost, I will count on him checking his email and responding to my messages. I will lurk at my laptop every hour, checking my email. I think I will do fine without interacting with my hubby, my everything, the first day away from him. Tomorrow, though, I will yearn to hear his sweet voice, truly music to my ears.

I met a new friend, Iggy the Iguana. Here is a photo of him. He eats pizza. He is shy, too, like me. We talk a lot.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Signs of Spring

Sitting outside with Mr. Mallory is a sure sign of Spring, and it includes Kisses reaching her paw out the door, or sitting on a table looking up at the bird feeders outside her window.

I consider Spring my favorite season, for leaves begin to emerge, and the flowers begin to bloom; House Sparrows bicker and chatter noisily over future mates; squirrels chatter in trees. I note, also, a sense of triumph over the harshness of the cold during winter. Here in Texas, winters seem mild compared to other locations, though, we seem to have just the right degree of cold for me.

The Pecan trees look wintery, still, until you look closely at the branches and see tender buds emerging from their tips.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Our Symphony Orchestra

A remarkable cellist came to town last week. I already adore the sound of the cello, but when she struck the first note I felt enthralled. I left the auditorium wishing I had speakers that could sound as remarkable as this artist and her three-hundred-year old cello.

I still haven't figured out how to take photographs during the performances. The white balance seems the greatest challenge. The stage seems to have a compilation of every kind of light known to humankind. Furthermore, I want to remain unobtrusive, and in the darkness the automatic focus lights up the seats in front of me, so I turn it to manual, which leads to blurry photos.
Still, this one photo serves to remind me of how beautifully the cellist performed Elgar's work. She seemed to become one with her instrument and the music. Russell called her nutty. I would say so, too, for perhaps only someone with a certain degree of nuttyness could have the ability to play as she did last week. She seemed playful, too. Ocassionally she watched her fellow cellists, our regular players in the orchestra, whenever they played in unison. Other times, she smirked. She enthralled me.

Spring Ahead One Hour

Hodge has not become accustomed to rising an hour earlier in the mornings. He goes outside and walks around sleepily, sniffs, does doggy things, then ambles back indoors. His legs need another hour in bed before he can begin to chase squirrels and birds around in the garden.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Global Warming

Thank you, David, at www.davidbourland.com, for the link.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

One Hundred Years Old

Last year's wild fires killed a beautiful tree. Estimated at one hundred years of age, I can imagine Will sitting under it, looking up into its foliage, daydreaming about Georgia.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gnome Meets Friends

Sitting outside the coffee shop on one of the first Spring days of Texas, I look up to admire the flowers on the Bradford Pear trees that surround me. The fragrance is strong, and I know only because every Spring the Bradford Pear trees announce their blooming -- their awakening, their survival over another winter -- with a strong odour; today I cannot perceive it for the smell wafting this way from the steakhouse nearby.
Meeting with the writers' group inspires me to write more routinely; not anything as strict as arising by four o'clock in the morning, or constraining myself to one thousand words per day. Simply jotting something down often will suffice.
My errands this morning put me here, at our meeting spot, about ten minutes earlier than I had thought, so I whipped out my little notebook, which I carry with me everywhere, to write these few words. My few words may not seem like much, but writing them does serve as practice. I may even read this to my dear fellow writers.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Far From Him: Phoning and Part of Packing

I have begun to miss John. Two weeks before my trip I scour the cell phone company's web site for good deals on overseas phoning -- because the sound of his voice will sound like music to my ears. I hear Max Bruch's Violin Concerto #1 playing as I speak to him: The violin cries, and the piano responds; each in turn cooing, playing touching notes to the other, breathlessly. It sounds just like us.
I know what will happen in Guatemala and Belize, and I know because I've experienced it before: My schedule will differ from day to day and so I won't know exactly when I will find time for phone call; more importantly, when I do find a moment to phone home, I'll find myself at the mercy of the operator who may have stepped out for a cup of coffee.
The places I will stay, though, have high speed internet access -- Wee! At least I will dash into the lobby after each day trip and haunt the computer while it accesses my email. His words will become eye candy then, as I read his notes, first scanning quickly to take it all in at once, and then slowly to relish each word, each letter; I picture each strike of the keyboard with his masculine fingers, cherishing every moment that I can grasp from reading a note from Him.
Packing has begun, sort of. I pack by not finding things to wear. I look into my closet and see it stuffed with dresses and shirts and slacks I haven't worn and don't want to wear. My eyes grow wide, my jaw drops, my stress level rises. (I only have two weeks before I leave! How can I ever get started packing if I don't have anything to pack?) Overwhelmed, my next step is to remove the things I don't ever intend to wear and to set them aside for the Faith Mission. I fling more and more garments on the floor; the more stuff that comes out, the bigger the pile becomes to cart to the mission. My third and last step for the day: I throw the back of my hand against my glistening forehead and say, "Fantods! No more!" Years of clothes subsequently go into plastic bags and loaded into the car.
In a couple of days -- an appropriate period of recovery -- I try again, this time a little more easily, of course, since I hardly have anthing to wear. Packing then becomes simple, light, and non-fantodical. I know, for I have become an experienced traveler; I went through the same thing before the Viking Tour and the Expedition to Ancient Eygpt. I know the short cut to the Faith Mission downtown; I know the guys by name; I chat with them and josh with them while they unload my trunk.
For Guatemala, I will need hiking shoes, light clothes, LOTs of mosquito repellent, a hat with brim, camera, light rain jacket, snorkel gear, my laptop, and a sharp eye out for a telephone.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


And I'll have frequent visits by insects. I don't like chemicals, but I don't want insects to feast on me, either. DDT is not for me. Off I go in search of a "natural" bug repellant.

What to Take to Guatebuena.

Camera and snorkel gear. Laptop. Two pair hiking shoes -- it'll be muddy. Hat. Asthma meds. Oh, of course, passport, ticket . . . credit card for emergencies -- cash in small denominations for ease of exchange and for tips.

What? Skip Class? Me?

Not like me. Not at all like me. Pigs would fly first before I missed a class. I had to be hospitalized before not going to class. Maybe I have caught what is known as senioritis. I still have some qualms about not attending, but only because for each absence the count-down begins toward a non-A. None-the-less, I'm skipping classes and going to see the monuments in Guatemala and Belize.
I planned this trip, though, three months ago before I learned how wonderful art class would be with Nancy, my new art professor. I sit in class and it goes past in one blink of my eye; so now I call it "sacrificing" class rather than "skipping" class. I have started to wonder that if I had taken art class three years ago I might have switched majors from English and Spanish. Ah, life throws curve balls at ya when we're growing up that fill our sweet heads with questions and thrilling hope.
Orvis had an ad in my email about visiting the monuments. I did not hesitate about replying to it with an enthusiastic yell: SIGN ME UP -- studies and classes notwithstanding.
I still do not feel sure about this trekshare thing. I tried to upload photos from my Egypt trip and not much happened. Normally, we can chalk it down to user error, so I'll keep working at it.
In the meantime, check my pbase.com/ebhawley site where most of my photos are posted.

Let Lovely Turn of Phrase Begin

Give Me a Kiss to Build a Dream On

Listen, will you? I think that . . . literature, poetry, music and love make the world go round . . . while mathematics explains things; I fill my life with them, then go walking in snowy woods.
Let us go then, you and I
like two etherized patients floating
through life, together feeling prufrockian.
DDB Jr. makes my world go 'round; during his absence, Pachelbel fills it up.
One summer I sailed across the Atlantic Ocean, then through the Gulf of Finland to reach Saint Petersburg; I pursued Joseph Brodsky in its alley ways. I dream of making that two summers.
I read “Biking to Electra;” found my way in a Jaguar car, and glanced at the flashing steel grasshoppers at sunset. I’ll follow K.O.P.’s footsteps after he followed N.Scott Momaday’s; find warmth and inspiration on a rainy mountain.
Throw chinese coins for the I Ching.
Save the whales, the spotted owl, the woman in toil.
Cast a fly for trout; my memories of fly fishing under the sunny blue Colorado sky remain; I yearn to build more . . . with more trophy Browns.
Listen for the swan’s calls on the Baltic Sea. Feel KKII's joy, his arms spread wide in Yazilikaya.
Good night, Jimmy Durante, where ever you are.