Monday, April 13, 2009

Ruined for Life

I’d been in the field for nine days and we
come out with a car full of people to return to the city of Flores and to the
other cities nearby where the biologists live.



While staying in Flores I learn the history
of this island, once known as Tayasal. It was the last stronghold of the Mayan
people before being entirely conquered by the Spanish with their military and
missionary tactics.  We too retreat to it
as a stronghold of conservationists, for it is the home of the Wildlife
Conservation Society, Guatemala and ARCAS (Asociación de Rescate y Conservación
de Vida Silvestre – Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Association).  They both have toiled for over 15 years to
keep birds free in their natural homes, and to liberate those imprisoned,
including the human heart.



 (Captive raised Scarlet Macaws getting ready to produce the second generation - ARCAS)

It is Semana Santa (Holy
Week) and a time when the country basically stops for vacation, going to the
playa (beach), eating fish, and watching the processiones. (parades).  Each day here and in towns
all around the country people walk around their cities carrying large platforms
of carved characters that play out the Easter story according to Christianity.



Here we see vestiges of more ancient rites
as the streets are adorned with artwork (alfombras) made up of painted sawdust, fruits and
vegetables, and plant material.  When
asked, one Mayan woman told me her art was an offering of gratitude to
God.  These are walked over by parade
participants, ruined perhaps as a sign of the transitory nature of life and an
offering of God’s gift of life in the presence of so much death and decay.



 (Before the parade - photo by Merlina Barnes, WCS Volunteer)


(Same art after the parade)

I spend my Easter morning traveling out to
the Yaxhá Mayan Ruins.  I am seeing parrots
everywhere, in symbol if not in reality for one guide tells us that the parrot
chicks are stolen from the nests here. 
The symbol of the park is Mayan art of a macaw and we spend time
puzzling over the Stela de Pájaros, a huge stone monolith with carvings of
birds all over it. I ask our guide what this means and what birds meant to the
Mayans, and he cannot say.



 (Bird Stela)

As we scramble up and down pyramids, I
cannot help but wonder how the Mayans loved over the millennia and if their
lives had joy and meaning, and how they translated this into their treatment of
each other and the mundo (world) around them. 
We see evidence of the rise, fall, and rise again of these people who
built city states in the forest, warred with one another, and over populated
their environment beyond sustainability. 
This doesn’t seem so far removed from the reality today with the drug cartel strongholds sprinkled throughout the forest which is reported to be 50% to 80% desparacidos (disappeared) depending on with whom you talk.





We have rested up during our four days here,
considered alternative strategies, and return today to my last week here where
I hope we can climb as many Scarlet Macaw nests as possible in a relative small
area where they have retreated. Still it will take us hours to get to some
nests and the weather promises to be over 100 throughout the week. 

I wonder if some time in the future those
who inherit the ever hotter winds of this forest will walk along paths of our
ruins, marveling at conservation stations, artificial nest boxes, and engraved
signs with scarlet macaws on them.  What
stella do we leave behind for others to puzzle over what birds and bosque
(forest) meant to us and why we warred so much only to lose what was most
precious to us?  Will they find evidence
of how we loved and discover a pattern of how we connected our values to our
treatment of all species, especially the ones that are the hardest to love,
those of our own species?

Let this part of the Reserve not be the
last of its kind, but a flowering that gives seed to the birth not of nations,
competing drug cartels, or fortressed family homes, but of a home for all
beings.  May our desires fall like ruins about our feet, for the sake of all life.



(I’ll be gone to the field, so catch
updates on the nest climbing on Twitter – you can sign up here on this site)

No comments:

Post a Comment