Running out of a Rut


Running in Sand @ Playa del Carmen

After running on sand for the last month, I take my first tarmac run today and float on a return-from-vacation-high. Gone is the white-sand-seaweed-covered-Caribbean-Sea-beach with fishing boats lolling @ Playa del Carmen…

lift knees, keep head up – focus on form not distance.  Feeling reinvigorated plodding in the sand with controlled footfalls and arms swinging gently at my side – as if I am a different person running. Remember to take in the surroundings. I look around to see the glistening water and squint at the sun in my eyes – look at the lifeguard tower and check for dogs.

I blink and now as I run along the seawall with mountains in the distance and freighters on the inlet, I am out of my running rut – running like a robot in an endless cycle of repetition along the same route, which equals no pleasure and no goal. Carrying a fresh perspective and wearing my blue ‘Boston Strong’ socks, with gloves and neck warmer, I think of Boston – on a similar crisp clear day starting the marathon in Hopkinton with excitement and energy.

My running goal for the new year is coming clearer with each step:

Marathon du Medoc is the plan for September (if I get in), and training – of the wine drinking variety – starts now! It’s a marathon through the Medoc wine region of France with wine tasting along the way while wearing a silly costume.

No PB in mind just fun, run and a Rothschild red!

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Tulum – A View to History


View of the Temple of Wind

If Chichen Itza has the impressive pyramid and carvings then Tulum has the spectacular view and setting. With a population of about 1,000 in its prime, the inhabitants must have had a comfortable existence: the sea for food (and transportation of goods), the stone walls for security and the early-warning view against incoming marauders.


Street View of Tulum

Dating back to the 13th century, the remains of the stone buildings (limestone and sand blocks) were for the ‘important people’ (rulers, priests) and the square stone foundations that held wooden structures for the ‘common citizens’ (farmers, teachers, weavers, stone carvers).

To understand a people is to see how well they created their living space and when walking along the flowing paths and simple structures, I sense that the Mayans of Tulum were in sync with their surroundings.

tulum_ruinsNot many of the carvings of deities, warriors or leaders survive, or the people of Tulum weren’t as prolific stone carvers as the Mayans of Chichen Itza.


Temple of the Frescoes

The one well-preserved carving on the Temple of the Frescoes proves their carving ability. Staring at the mean-looking guy, I conclude that he wasn’t someone to admire – maybe he was the god of intimidation. Did he want to scare people or just provoke them into working harder? Why such a severe looking image? Seeing that scowl everyday would dampen the peoples’ mood in this idyllic environment. Not sure of the psychology of such imagery.

When travelling, I take a personal survey of the type of natural and cultural environment that I would want to live in. I could see myself living in ancient Tulum rather than modern Tulum (set along the highway), which has been pushed away from the sea and towards the 7-Elevens, gas stations and hustle of the current era.

It’s probably not fair to compare the two Tulums, but is it possible to learn from the past and create more serene surroundings? Maybe…


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Holding My Breath Under the Sea @ Playa Corona (Cozumel)


Fan and Finger Coral at Playa Corona

See the fan and finger coral, with purple veins – rows swaying in unison with spots of sunlight glinting off the sand bottom – peaceful, serene sea on the southwest side of Cozumel
(island across from Playa Del Carmen).

Cozumel dive

Diving Down to Take A Closer Look at Life in the Caribbean Sea

Practising my snorkel diving – a technique that takes you closer to the bottom of the sea – I hope to gain better breath control.

Take a deep breath, hold, dive down and release 25% of air as you descend (but not too much or it feels as if you will run out of air) and calmly float around (too much excitement wastes air) and get up close and personal with a yellow striped fish (sergeant major). Hurry and take the picture – “oh, no he’s moving too fast and I’m running out of breath!”


Sergeant Major Swims Away from Camera

Click of camera – good enough picture before breath diminishes. Hard kick with fins up to the surface where I expel water from the snorkel tube and hopefully continue breathing without coughing.

Reach surface with aplomb and thrill of achieving goal of diving with ease. Distraction of taking photo helped with technique. Even though it was only a six foot dive, it felt like a big step toward future deeper diving adventures.


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Chichen Itza – Beyond the Ruins


Pyramid Kukulcan

My first reaction at Chichen Itza: “wow, that’s an impressive pyramid!”

An open expanse of grass flows out from the central Kulkulcan pyramid (91 steps on each four sides) – where during the spring equinox – the sun hits the north side hand rail and illuminates seven indentations that reflect light onto the stairs creating the illusion of a slithering snake making its way down to the carved stone head at the base of the stairs.

But after walking through a large rectangular stadium with stone ring goals attached to the side walls dedicated to a soccer-like ball game with high stakes – losers (sometimes) were sacrificed to thank the gods for the Mayans continued prosperity (a superstitious/religious ritual in the guise of a game), I wondered when science and math came to prominence.

I look up at the sky and imagine the first priest/astronomer observe and record the cycles of the earth, the moon and Venus around the sun. All visible by the naked eye, these tiny balls of light in the sky guided and added meaning to the lives of the citizens.


Haab Calendar

By studying the sky and calculating a way of keeping track of their lives, the Mayans designed the solar Haab calendar, which calculated a period of 5,126 years (August 4, 3114 BC – December 21, 2012 AD) and made me realize how scientifically advanced they were. Was the calendar a cycle of existence, growth or wealth? No one can say for sure what the end date meant (and since it has come and gone, it didn’t mean the end of earth).

How ingenious to calculate a period of time using only observation – what would they have used to do the calculations? (Obviously there were no computers, which makes it even more impressive.)

After wandering around the structures for a couple of hours, I came to think that order and structure were an essential part of life for the Mayans. We all need structure and a sense of time passing and the length of a day, which leads to the unpredictable calculation: the length of a life.


Wall of Skulls

Being in the presence of crumbled ruins transports me to the time when people lived and worked among the pillars and skulls – a wall adorned with hundreds of skull carvings. Supposedly, they were to frighten the citizens into following the demands of the chief or else! The archaeological evidence isn’t conclusive. Maybe it was to honour the dead and help people deal with the fear of death.


Eagle Represents Contemplative Thoughts

My thoughts were interrupted by tour guides with clear voices telling visitors the stories of Chichen Itza (a former city of 90,000 people in its prime) and vendors selling not-so-homemade crafts (artisans created original pieces while others sold manufactured goods). A mini modern economy had sprung up from the ruins.

The people of the Yucatan region are Mayan descendants who aren’t just resting on the glory of the past, but seem inspired to build on their legacy and begin the next 5,000 year cycle.


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Experiencing Xel-ha, Mexico

In the Jungle

In the Jungle

A theme park where Mayan culture meets water adventure activities. Set in southern Mexico, one half hour from Playa Del Carmen, the jungle setting (along with tiny black biting bugs) makes one feel as if nothing but water and trees exist in the world.

Well, except for the restaurants, gift shops and lounge chairs…  large-bellied people and small children, snorkelers, zipliners and tube floaters… where beer and margueritas pour while chicken mole simmers in clay pots and hammocks hang between palm trees – it’s remote.


Lounging Iguana


Can You See the Iguana?

Watch for iguanas roaming across the paths or blending in with rocks – not noticing until they slightly move a head or tail. It’s strange (and slightly unnerving) to watch animals behind glass (@ Toronto Zoo) and then meet them in their own setting – anything can happen. We got in the way of two ‘arguing’ iguanas who came running at us with the speed of scurrying squirrels (or charging bulls) – we leaped out of the way and let them pass. Lesson learned: a zoo acquaints you with animals whereas the wild makes you experience them.

But if you veer off the main path in Xel-ha, a plant nursery with rows of potted native plants reveals itself. As we make our way through the aisles, breathing the humid heavy air, we find a replica Mayan house waiting to be discovered. We enter the rustic abode and immediately feel the presence of the past within its walls.

Indio Cabin

Mayan House



A wonderful blend of beauty and ruggedness in Xeh-ha, Mexico.



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A Tale of Two Orangutans (and a little girl)

Toronto Zoo

The ropes dangle in the glass enclosure housing a group of orangutans (a species of orange ape from Borneo and Sumatra). Long-armed and spry, the smaller animals swing recklessly – doing the ultimate monkey bar maneuver: gently gliding along the ropes with bodies seemingly full of ping-pong balls.

A figure sits at the window leaning on the glass. A small girl notices and sits, touching the glass with her hand.

They connect.

The old ape slightly lifts her hand as if touching skin-to-skin through the glass with long fingers that seem capable of breaking a coconut, but the look in her eyes says she couldn’t harm a flea.


Girl with Old Orangutan at Enclosure Window

On the jungle-gym structure at the back of the enclosure, a young orangutan gets orange juice from a bucket with a plastic cup, which he holds in his hand. He takes a few sips and sticks his hand in the cup making the juice turn a murky brown. Then with hand in cup, he pretends to get it stuck – as if doing the foot-stuck-in-bucket routine – waving the cup around on his hand and making false attempts to pull it out. With no success, he makes his way up the jungle-gym directly behind old orangutan and girl. Sitting for a moment, he miraculously frees his hand from the cup while observing the touching interaction at the glass.

Not wanting to be upstaged, he starts rolling back and forth over a bench, popping his head up towards the larger crowd that gathers behind the little girl. Totally frustrated at not being the centre of attention, he ponders his situation for a few moments and then hurls the plastic cup at the back of the old orangutan, striking her in the head. She reacts with a slight twitch and continues to stare out the window at the girl and people beyond.

Young punky monkey seems to laugh through his eyes: he feels better.

Angry, I want to whack him in the head, but I could only stare at him with a look of: “if I could get inside the enclosure, you’d have a fight on your hands, buddy!”

He saunters off, dragging his gangly arms along the ground with his head held high, towards the other side of the jungle-gym.

Old orangutan is tired.

She slowly rises and moves to the ragged towels and blankets strewn on the straw in the corner. She picks up the pieces of cloth, places and carefully smooths them out while adjusting herself on top, and cradles a bundle of towel and straw in her arms as if it is a soft stuffy toy.

“It’s time to go,” I say to the little girl.

Walking away, we take a last look at the content orangutan…


Old Orangutan Cuddling a Towel





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NanoWrimo Inspires Once Again

NaNo-2015-Winner_resizedAfter 29 days and fifty thousand words, the first draft of my new novel is safely stored on a C: drive, an external hard drive, and a flash drive – call me technologically  paranoid.

And at the moment, brain drained and feeling askew by the idea of editing, rewriting and reworking. The process must go on… and I ask myself, why? Because I want to give the world something it doesn’t know it needs! (to paraphrase the NanoWrimo tagline)

My blog writing plans evaporated during the month since the energy it took me to write 1,667 words each day made it impossible to focus on any more words, which became immovable, monolithic structures that blocked my thoughts.

Writing flows, then stalls then falls apart, and I wipe it off the floor and continue, because I sold four more books of my first NanoWrimo novel – Growing Iris – this week. And the feeling of having people read my book – and relate, laugh, understand my characters is… motivating.

That’s why I finished another month of pure writing and a first draft of a sequel to Growing Iris.

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