I didn’t even know to imagine that a thatched roof has a scent, but it does. And for a North Carolina native, it’s distinct and familiar. The moment I entered this tropical cabana my nose dragged me three thousand miles and thirty years backwards to the tobacco barns that dotted my Appalachian childhood. An air-cured leaf smells like an air-cured leaf, no matter your latitude, apparently. It smells like September.
There have been few other surprises. Learning that the mosquito netting on my canopy bed isn’t purely decorative shouldn’t have been one of them – what, given that I am basically sleeping in a tree house that is only sealed against primates without prehensile tails, ladders, or sufficient motivation. Any living thing that is not lazy but is smaller than a Saint Bernard may come and go as he wishes. So far, this has limited my visitors to reptiles and winged creatures, but Cheryl saw a mouse. A mouse means there are no cats on the property. I was told there were cats so I would not need to worry about snakes. Of course, if there were snakes, there would also be no mouse, so I’m not sure where my sensibilities fall concerning the rodent sighting. I’m inclined to suspect she was pulling my leg – or maybe just herself mistaken, but I won’t outright accuse her of that; that would be rude, and I’m still hurt that nobody believed Laura and I saw a donkey on the ride in.
I’d like to say I figured it out on my own, but it was Cheryl who told me the mosquito netting is functional, though I think hers is serving a dual purpose and acting as a mouse barrier as well.
The first night I slept with only the screen door to my balcony closed. I thought I imagined things touching my face all night, but after sleeping with my netting closed, I realize that wasn’t my imagination. Those face creepies were real. Currently I’m weighting the benefit of bug protection against the blockage of Caribbean wind on my sleeping body. I’m not sure at this time which is going to win. More research is needed.
Also on the first night, I thought I imagined the squeal of the lonely ceiling monkey jolting me out of my almost-sleep. It turns out that was real, too, but it was a gecko in my rafters, not a monkey. By the time I hit the sack again last night, that was just one of the many ambient sounds of the jungle that I don’t even notice now.
There are monkeys in Mexico, as it turns out. It’s very unlikely I will see one. Spider monkeys, long time victims of the illegal pet trade industry, have become something resembling refugees in their own land. In the early 2000’s, a monkey sanctuary was opened by a retired native of Chicago. A couple of years ago, though, he was killed when a camel he kept on site escaped from his pen and sat on him; probably not how he ever imagined he would die. That sanctuary closed, and there is another in its place. Probably the same one, under new name and management, but either way, I’m not going to make it there on this trip, so my chances of monkey spotting are very low. In all likelihood, the squeals and squawks that I mistook for monkeys are reptilian or avian in nature.
Yesterday morning, I took my coffee on a short walk down into the Sian Ka’an, on the beach side. I didn’t see another human being, but could not shake the feeling that I was being watched. What is the Sian Ka’an anyway? Why is there a fence, especially one that looks electrified, keeping me from wandering into its jungle? Surely it isn’t the secret hide out of drug lords; too conspicuous. It could house a secret laboratory where scientists from all over the world are either creating biological weapons, or cures for them, but again, the placement is suspect. Why would you put one of those in a tourist town? That makes it ever more likely that it’s just a posh vacation destination for the über wealthy.
As it turns out, it is rumored to be all of those things, and it is guarded heavily by an armed militia. That feeling I had that I was being watched? It wasn’t imagined. I couldn’t see them, but they most assuredly saw me. God, I hope I didn’t pick my nose.
By dusk, we were all ready for a walk into town – such as it is – for dinner. We stumbled upon Nomade, a hotel / restaurant / purveyor of health service oddities. The staff was clad in peasant attire made from sheets of gauze; the women in white, and the men in shades of grey. Things were more complicated than necessary. There were at least two different menus handed out to our party, and judging from the fare we saw delivered to other tables, there was at least one other different menu floating around this establishment as well. After forty minutes and our third request to please take our order, we were obliged. Poached spider monkey wasn’t on any of the menus we were given, so I asked for the lamb, but they were out. I ordered the Sea Bass and they were out of that, too, so I pointed to Kitty and said, “Just bring me what she’s having.”
That turned out to be a smathering of fungi and the steamed roots of the roadside vegetation served on a bed of risotto made from local sand. The sandwich board out front did not display a daily food special, and after that meal, I can’t really blame them. Instead, it informed us of the activities going on inside of their gratitude tent this week. Because of course they have a gratitude tent. Don’t you?
Monday is essential oils. I don’t know if it’s a lecture, or a baptism. Tuesday there is a talk titled, “Intro to Energetic Lovemaking.” And as tempting as that is, we aren’t going back until Wednesday.
Wednesday is Sound Healing. There was some excitement among those in the know in our group about this. I didn’t understand, but Anne described it this way: You know what a hummer is, right? It’s just like that, but you’re the dick.
But I already knew I was a dick, so I kind of feel like my imagination failed me yet again.
Cloud cover moved in, but I suspect the palm canopy over the road would have blocked any celestial light, anyway. The first quarter of our walk back home was lit, albeit dimly, by the candles and low-voltage bulbs at the entrance to other boutique properties and I wondered if any one of them might serve a decent taco or a margarita made with plain old lime juice, not the pulp of some exotic, furry fruit and simply rimmed with salt, not chipotle seasoning. Probably, I’ll never know. But once we passed those other establishments, it was the darkest of dark and in no time at all, I felt again like I was being watched. I frequently turned around to try and catch what I could feel stalking us and wouldn’t you know it? I found it.
A four legged beast was sneaking up behind Key, so I shrieked an obscenity. In the time it took her to throw her cigarette at it and run, my brain registered that it was canine, probably el chupacabra, or it’s mother was, that I frightened it and it had a collar with tags that made a tinkling sound as it slinked off. Immediate guilt rushed over me “I’m sorry, baby. I didn’t know you weren’t going to eat us.”
But he’d had enough of our shit and left us to walk the rest of the way home, alone and unprounprotected against the jaguars, panthers, and crocodiles. I lost the chance to make a new four legged buddy and I chalk that up to another failure of my imagination.
This morning, right outside of my bedroom, there is a man with a wheelbarrow on the beach, picking up seaweed with his hands. Where’s he going to dump it? His efforts are futile; the ocean is depositing more of it with every wave. I can’t imagine why he’d even bother, but I do wonder what he lists under ‘job’ on his tax returns. Does Mexico have tax returns?
Tulum is definitely a place of wonder and awe, but it is impossible to let my imagination run wild here. Nature and culture is always several steps ahead of me. Every bizarre or unlikely thing that my brain can conceive is just everyday life.