Caye Caulker, Belize

Caye Caulker Belize 13_feistyharriet_April 2017

Want to hear my version of paradise? You better belize that it involves a tiny little island in the Caribbean, one so small that there are literally only three named roads: Front Street, Middle Street, and Back Street. Those roads aren’t really “streets” at all, but white sand packed hard from years of bare feet and beach cruiser bicycles taking residents and visitors from beach to bar and back to the beach. There are fresh fish tacos and shrimp ceviche and whole white fish with fins and eyes and everything still attached for sale at every restaurant, most food has some kind of Mexican-Central American flavor, or maybe a Chinsee-Arab-Kriole infusion that is both familiar and completely out of this world. The pace of life in this paradise is much, much slower than anywhere you’ve been before; the island motto is, literally, Go Slow. Also, this particular paradise is located in a country with an advertising campaign focused on how many ways you can use Belize as a pun for believe. Frankly, it is unbelizeable how much this word-nerd (points at self with both thumbs) swooned over ridiculous puns in paradise.

Caye Caulker (pronounced Key Caw-ker) is a tiny island off the northern coast of Belize and located just inside the barrier reef that runs along the Yucatan south towards Panama, it’s the second longest barrier reef in the world (and not to be confused with the Australian Great Barrier Reef, capitalized because that is it’s proper name). Caye Caulker is famous for being perfect for backpackers, a little rough around the edges with an unpolished tourism scene, and overall ridiculously low-key. Honestly, it was a perfect place to start our trip and I would go back in a heartbeat.

Caye Caulker Belize 21_feistyharriet_April 2017

Caye Caulker Belize 5_feistyharriet_April 2017

This? This is the busiest street on the island, Front Street, at 2:00 in the afternoon. This sleepy island did so much to help me chill out, relax, and just go with the very laid-back flow.

Caye Caylker Belize 7_feistyharriet_April 2017

Caye Caulker Belize 10_feistyharriet_April 2017

On the days we weren’t diving along the reef, we spent a lot of time riding bicycles around the island, lounging in the shade, and trying to decide where I’d get my next burrito and pina colada. It was REAL rough, ya’ll.

Caye Caulker Belize 9_feistyharriet_April 2017

Caye Caulker Belize 24_feistyharriet_April 2017

The only downside to Caye Caulker was the humidity, I mean, it’s a sub-tropical island in the Caribbean, OF COURSE it will have humidity. I actually didn’t mind it too much until it was time to go to sleep, despite an AC unit in our AirBnB it was always a little muggy and too warm for my taste. But hey, if that’s your only real complaint? Frankly, sounds like a lovely way to spend a week, right? (Answer: you better belize it!) (Sorry/NotSorry)

Caye Caulker Belize 22_feistyharriet_April 2017

Caye Caulker Belize 23_feistyharriet_April 2017

I think our two favorite restaurants were the Rainbow Bar & Grill, and Habanero’s, which had the most amazing Caye Lime Pie of my entire life (see? More puns! I love Belize!)

Caye Caulker Belize 20_feistyharriet_April 2017

Caye Caulker Belize 15_feistyharriet_April 2017

Caye Caulker Belize 16_feistyharriet_April 2017

I’m still sorting through my pictures of our SCUBA diving adventures, which I’ll post soon! Caye Caulker was amazing, you should definitely go visit at the next possible chance!

Petroglyphs National Monument, New Mexico

Petroglyphs National Monumnet_feistyharriet_2016

Over the summer Blue Eyes and I spent a long weekend exploring New Mexico, I did a lot of research on what adventures we could pursue while we were there and when I came across Petroglyphs National Monument I 100% knew we would be stopping by. This preserved area of volcanic rock has tens of thousands of glyphs scratched into the black stones. Literally, they are EVERYWHERE.

Petroglyphs National Monument_feistyharriet_2016 (3)

We wandered around on a few short trails, gawking at the ancient art, trying to get some photos that would reflect how incredible these images were while battling a super hot sun and crazy reflections on the stone.

Petroglyphs National Monument_feistyharriet_2016 (2)

It was a super hot day, with zero shade, and a lot of black rock soaking up (and radiating) extra heat, so we didn’t stay long or attempt some of the longer trails, but I am still baffled at how MANY pieces of art were just, you know, laying around on the ground.

Petroglyphs National Monument_feistyharriet_2016 (4)

Of course, people tend to ruins stuff like this, and there were plenty of graffitied pieces, “So-and-So Was Here” crap and “Cory + Rhonda, 2014” stuff, which is ridiculously unfortunate, why do people have to do that!? Anyway, if you’re ever in Albuquerque, I highly recommend giving yourself 45 minutes (or, you know, 4 hours, if it’s not hella hot and sunny) to check out these ancient drawings.

harriet-sig

When you can't see the trees from the fire in the forest

Kings Canyon NP_feistyharriet_2016

Earlier this summer I took myself on a detour-road trip on my way to San Francisco for a wedding. As I drove through King’s Canyon National Park I was stunned and terribly saddened by the devastating damage from a recent forest fire. The photo above was taken at the end of May; there should be carpets of green covering everything, tender new shoots and leaves everywhere. Instead, everything was charred and dead, it seemed like the fire had consumed as far as I could see. However, when I got out and started exploring, there were thousands of wildflowers peeking up through the ashes and burned stumps. Maybe they stood out more to me because of their charcoal background, but in that setting they were absolutely vibrant in a way that could only exist with the fire scars surrounding them.

Sequoia National Park_feistyharriet_2016Later that day, in Sequoia National Park, I wandered for miles through the giant trees; there was a particular little spot where most of the trees had been gutted and scarred by a forest fire (or twenty); it seemed like every tree had gaping black gashes on it’s body. Yet, even with so much lost to the blaze, these trees continued to grow, putting out new branches and needles. I read at the Ranger Station that some Sequoia trees had survived dozens of forest fires in their hundreds of years in the forest. They have adapted to be able to absorb the flash-point heat of a quick-moving fire, and some even need that heat in order for their seeds to germinate. I spent a lot of time in one particular grove, trying to capture these giants with burned out canyons rising twenty or forty or sixty feet up their bodies, charred bark to their heart, deep enough to swallow my length of my arm.

Sequoia National Park 2_feistyharriet_2016

And yet, the forest continues to grow; the forest is healthier because of the fires. The necessary adaptions and evolutions of the trees in order to survive for hundreds of years is the reason places like Sequoia NP and Redwood NP exist. Sequoia trees are some of the oldest, largest, and strongest living creatures on earth, able to withstand heat and cold and fire and drought and earthquake and any other kind of natural disaster (or man-made disaster) that has been thrown at them for thousands–literally, thousands of years. Those trees are thriving, with the yawning black cracks likes badges of honor.

This last little while as I’ve been both reeling from my own personal fire, and also feeling sorry for myself (yes, I’ve been wallowing), I had forgotten about these trees; I’d forgotten how long I wandered among their burned trunks, putting my hands in the scars and trying to wrap my head around how they were still alive and growing and expanding. I had forgotten. I’m not sure what jogged my memory, but I’m glad it did. Everything may be on fire, but it won’t always be on fire. The flames will die out, the smoke will clear, and the coals will eventually stop smoldering. And yes, I’ll probably carry some scars from the experience, but I am a fucking Sequoia: a fire cannot destroy me.

Harriet sig

 

 

 

P.S. Thank you to all who have reached out in concern; I haven’t responded to many, I’ve literally been just trying to breathe. Last night’s epiphany about the Sequoia’s was an a ha! moment for me, a crisp, swift breeze that brought me hope I haven’t felt since this whole thing started. Yes, I’m being vague. I’m sorry. Actually, I’m not sorry. This is my little corner of the internet, and I use my writing as therapy. You’re the weirdly voyeuristic part-stranger who is reading my therapy sessions for recreation.

P.P.S. THANK YOU, all you voyeuristic weirdos! You are My Tribe.

P.P.P.S. ooxxooXoXXx

On cactus, and living in the Valley of the Surface of the Sun

Purple Cactus flower_feistyharriet_April 2016

In my short time as a resident of the American Southwest I have come to appreciate some of it’s thornier and more beautiful parts: the desert plants that thrive under the harshest of conditions. In the early spring I loved taking my camera with me on walks through my neighborhood to photograph some of the spikier and thornier specimens in people’s yards. Then, you know, temperatures soared and I retreated back to the air conditioning, where I have stayed.

Agave teeth_feistyharriet_San Antonio Botanical Gardens

I see my northern neighbors celebrating cooler temperatures, the coming of fall fashions, pumpkin spice everything, and exhaling that the heat of summer has passed. Meanwhile, it’s still 100+ every day here and my cabin fever continues to rage. Locals keep telling me that Arizona’s fall is coming, and looking at the weather patterns I only partially believe them. It will be in the 90’s through October before finally cooling off to temperatures where I can breathe, but for me, 70 degrees is a perfect summer day, not appropriate for November and December. I truly don’t know if I will ever fully adapt to life in the low desert; the high desert where there is frost and snow and plummeting temperatures at night? That I can do. But without the elevation of those ancient plateaus, Phoenix and the surrounding suburbs just bake, and bake, and bake, for MONTHS on end.

Red spike cactus_feistyharriet_April 2016

The soul-sucking heat, the neverending blistering sun, the subsequent cabin fever…it makes me anxious and irritable and, in general, makes everything worse. I somehow feel that a few days of truly cold temperatures would solve a fair number of my internal turmoil, the cool temperatures calm me and help me think more clearly. I am sharper and more logical, more productive and happier when my body is not fighting itself and my surface-of-the-sun environment.

Hairy Agave_feistyharriet_April 2016

I have had to negotiate a lot of adjustments since I moved to Arizona: new work routine (which just changed again), new dynamics with Mr. Blue Eyes and his kids, new dynamics with my own family and friendships to accommodate the distance, and new relationships with friends and colleagues here. Those are the pieces that keep my going, the beautiful desert bloom, the cactus flowers…but the damn heat is the always present spikes and cactus spines, the constant that must be negotiated multiple times per day. When walking to the mailbox has the potential to give you heat stroke, the weather doesn’t just disappear into the background. Perhaps it does for those who are used to the fire-breathing sky, and perhaps in time I will adapt. If my love of Charles Darwin has taught me anything, it is that species will always adapt to their surroundings (or they will die out, but let’s not focus on that option, mmmkay?)

Harriet sig