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Veiled Lady

March 21st, 2011

veiled lady stinkhorn, Dictyophora indusiata

In a clearing among thick brush under ceiba and palm trees, Quiriguá archaeological site, oh about 25 metres west of the ballcourt plaza. This may be the nicest mushroom picture I have taken. Look at the texture in the full size image. D. indusiata appears in tropical regions all around the world. In China it’s cultivated for cooking. I did not eat this one because I had no idea what it was at the time, and even if I had, they were blanket-gassing banana fields with pesticides on the other side of the forest.

But of course I’ll eat those bananas later.

Happy equinox.

   Banner, Environmentalism, Fungi, Guatemala | 1 Comment »

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

January 1st, 2011

Sitta canadensis, Arnold Arboretum conifers section

This guy is a bit north of his range for the season.

Happy new year.

   Banner, Birds, Winter | No Comments »

False Solomon’s Seal Berries aka Treacleberry

September 17th, 2010

Smilacena racemosa, Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain, MA

White flowers in late spring/early summer, berries in late summer. When the berries turn red they do taste kind of treacley–molassesy/woody/fruity, with a tart skin a bit like a concord grape skin in texture and a slick white seed.

   Banner, Fall | No Comments »

The Caiman Waits to Eat the World

March 15th, 2010

Caiman crocodilus

This caiman lives in one of the network of ancient, man-made reservoirs that once supplied drinking water to the Mayan city of Tikal–number three, I think, on this map. He’s little, only three or four feet long, and he spends his days pretending to be a log (pictured), in hopes of preying on the egrets, rails, ducks and other marsh birds that venture too close–and when he can get them, probably on those chihuahua-sized, tailless rodents I kept seeing scurrying about in the underbrush.

For this, my last piece of Guatemala ranting at least for now, it seems appropriate to bring back my favorite Mayanist quote about the end of the world:

“The word for eclipse in Maya is chi-bal-kin, literally “bitten sun’, and it was the ancient belief, which persisted until fairly recent times, that at the time of an eclipse the sun was bitten by a serpent.”

The City of the Sacred Well: Being a Narrative of the Discoveries and Excavations of Edward Herbert Thompson in the Ancient City of Chichenitza T.A. Willard, 1910

An awesome book, by the way, which can be had for free on los eeenternets, here.

Next week, it’s back to chilly, wind-blown New England.

   Banner, Guatemala, Precolombians | 2 Comments »

Eye Tree

February 6th, 2010

   Banner, Guatemala, Trees | No Comments »

Expatriates and Homebodies

January 17th, 2010

A coati in the gardens outside Tikal.
Nasua narica

So I went to Guatemala the other week.

I don’t get to travel that often. Travel costs a lot, and my life strategy has been to spend just barely enough of my time working to keep myself alive, so as to have as much free time for writing as possible and not much else. I have heard this strategy questioned more than once exactly on the basis that it doesn’t permit me to travel. “How can you have anything to write about,” goes the conventional wisdom, “when you haven’t done anything?” My college advisor asked me that, among others. It sort of pissed me off. I’d like to give more credit than that to the imagination: sure, you can’t write compelling fiction in a vacuum, and yes, uncountable great writers spent their lives wandering the earth. But it’s a matter of how you look at the world, not what you’re looking at. Thoreau never left New England. Emily Dickinson barely left her house. There are new and unique things to see, even in things you’ve looked at a hundred thousand times.

That said, every time I do manage to abroad, I come back with ideas spilling out my ears–like what happened when I went to Yucatan. The conventional wisdom isn’t wrong, it’s just narrow. And it presupposes a certain level of financial independence, doesn’t it? Travel is hard–not just emotionally and physically (as I have well learned), but financially. So is writing. Just ask Nabokov, Lord Dunsany, or Anthony Bourdain: it’s a lot easier to bum around the world telling awesome stories when you don’t have to worry where your next meal is coming from. But nothing beats experience.

Upon returning from Guatemala, I have gained the following:

  • Exactly 25 angry red mosquito bites, mostly on my ankles, hips, and the backs of my knees, that will not f’ing go away.
  • Stomach parasites.
  • A persistent, atmospheric lightheadedness that, for a few moments before waking, makes me believe I never left. Or else that I’m entering the preliminary stages of a mushroom trip. Whether this has something to do with the aforementioned parasites, maybe in the style of those freaky bugs that alter the personality of rodents to make them more inclined to commit suicide by cat, I know not.
  • Enlightenment.

Was all of the former worth the latter? Yes.

So for a little while, this blog is going to turn into a travelogue.

A colossal ceiba tree that grows at the gate to Tikal.
Ceiba pentandra

More next week.

   Banner, Guatemala, Hedonism, HM, Trees, Visions, Writings | 5 Comments »

No Parking

October 28th, 2009

Is what this sign used to say, before I messed with it, when I found it in the woods full of bullet holes and being eaten by this tree:

Not sure what I’m going to do with it now. Already got a perfectly good, conveniently scalable mossy skull for graphic purposes. Probably not going to change it, if ever I get around to designing ye blog theme v.3.

So. Anybody got a noble cause for which they might require a picture of some words, any words at all, on a bullet-riddled street sign getting eaten by a tree?

   Banner, Design, News, Trees | 2 Comments »


October 3rd, 2009

   Banner, Fall, Stones, Visions | No Comments »

Fire Wheel Burning in the Air

September 14th, 2008

   Banner, Summer, Visions | No Comments »

Mud Season Gothic

March 13th, 2008

Occasionally, as a matter of probabilities, one must expect to find himself in a snow-fogged graveyard.

   Banner, Horror, Visions, Winter | 4 Comments »

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