Tuesday, February 19, 2013

she walks in beauty like the night

Every beautiful thing is beautiful in its own way.

Travelers know too well the temptation of comparison.  Attempting to tamp down the new into a familiar box.

It's human.  It's natural.  We need devices to make sense of new experiences.

The problem with comparisons is the failure to stretch our existential envelopes.  If the Great Wall of China looks like Uncle Ernie's back yard fence, we may be missing something.

Monday was our day to experience the Sumidero Canyon and the Grijalva River that runs through it.

The canyon started forming just about the same time the Grand Canyon began its giant erosion project.  In the case of the Grijalva, it started trickling through a crack in the area's crust on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.  Proving that the hardest rock is nothing more than sand and water -- and will crumble over time.

I have seen impressive combinations of rocks and water.  The Rhine.  Norwegian fjords.  The Columbia Gorge.  They are all beautiful in their own way.

Just as the Sumidero Canyon is beautiful its its own way.

The Grijalva starts as a wide and shallow stream running through agricultural land.  Shallow enough that you can watch fish swimming beside the boat.

But it soon takes on almost Tolkien proportions as it approaches the mountains it long ago defeated.

Towering rocks on both sides of the river reduce the viewer almost to insignificance.  Well, significant enough to be the computer that processes the cliffs and river into beauty.

Where there is not awe, there is whimsy.  Such as a sea horse stalactite.  I have never seen one look that vicious in the wild.

Or a calcification that conjures up thoughts of a Christmas tree.  Complete with fluttering green vegetation.

Topped by an "angel" that looks like an apocalyptic steed to my eyes -- pictured at the top of this post.  I wasn't aware there was going to be a Rorschach test.

Along with a multi-colored grotto dedicated, of course, to Mexico's national saint -- Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The pink, gray, and green colors are produced by rain dissolving minerals and then soaking through the surrounding rocks.  Leaving behind this colorful mural.

And lots of wildlife.  Especially, birds.

Black vultures wintering over from The States.

Brown pelicans guarding the approach to the dam and hydroelectric facility.

Shadowy monkeys.  We hope to see more later this week in Palenque.

And did you think I would leave out the crocodiles?  We saw several.  But none of them as photogenic as those in my back yard.

In Chiapas, beauty is everywhere.  Not just in nature. 

I promised you a daylight photograph of the cathedral in San Cristóbal de las Casas.  As Kurt Vonnegut would say -- here it is.

Some call the facade flamboyant.  To me it is as whimsical as the formations in the canyon.

The colors represent local neighborhoods.  All of the art is stylized.  European in form; Indian in execution.  Even the Moorish designs take on an embroidered effect in the hands of the Indian craftsmen.

There are several well-constructed gold altar pieces inside.  But what impressed me the most was the intricate ceiling.

Norm asked me to photograph the Indian women who wear black wool dresses -- woven roughly enough to look like sheep skins.  Here you go, Norm.  Amongst some of our group.

And there is an interesting tale there.  At least, to me.

When the Dominicans arrived, they needed a method to easily identify the various tribes -- of which there are many in Chiapas.  So, the priests designed distinctive clothes for each tribe.  Clothes that reflect the facade of the cathedral.  European in form; Indian in execution.

I could not close this essay on beauty and whimsy without sharing a final photograph with you.

I had seen four young Mexicans earlier and correctly concluded they were Mormon missionaries.  Here, the two elders are photographing the two sisters in front of one of the most beautiful churches in town.

I simply started humming my favorite tunes from The Book of Mormon.

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