Monday, September 22, 2008

September 21: Equinox (and a guest blogger)

Five years ago, the fall equinox--September 21--became for me a special day of the year.

Since we retired, Mr. B.E. is writing some of his favorite life memories. He let me share this selection (from a chapter of his hitch-hiking stories) with you:

In 2003 we spent a semester in Merida on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula as visiting professor/s of Central College’s (Pella, IA) experiential learning program. Billie and I had both received leaves of absence from our teaching jobs to join them. We had no car, but we were bound and determined (Billie more than I) to witness the twice annual celebration of the equinox.

In historic Dzibilchaltun archaeologists discovered the amazing celestial sophistication of the sun-calendar of Mexico’s indigenous. The Mayans constructed a remarkable ceremonial building. Only on the days of equinox (Sept. 21 and March 21) did the sun come up at the precise angle that allowed it to shine fully through its two narrow doorways. [Similarly there were windows, diagonals from one another, designed so that the same thing happened at the bi-annual solstices!]

We caught the earliest bus north out of Merida on Sept. 21 hoping to witness the event. That bus left us off four miles from our destination, however, and the time factor made it seem unlikely that we could hoof it there on time. After a mile or two, our chances dimmed even more as the sky began to lighten with the approaching dawn. Then a car came barreling down the narrow road in the dark and slammed on its brakes.

“Do you need a lift?”

Yes! We both squeezed into the back seat of the vehicle already carrying four hippie-type European youths who were on the same mission. We arrived at the site just in time for me to take a photo of Billie framed by the rising sun shining through the structure’s doorways behind her. It’s one of her all-time favorite photos.

Later, on the walk back to the highway where the bus left us off, the Yucatan state patrol (who normally appear quite officious and stern) offered us a ride; they even pointed the best spot to stand in order to wave down the bus from Progresso on its return to Merida from the Gulf beach. They seemed quietly appreciative of our interest in their heritage.

We don't know what this fall will bring. May it be a good one. I hope that a dream you risk to achieve will come true for you.


eProf2 said...

Paul, thanks for sharing your Travels with Billie story and photo. It's just amazing what the ancients had done and their knowledge of astronomy and science. We have the Casa Grande ruins just about fifteen miles from where we live and the ancients of this part of the world, likewise, built their big house with a window that shows the sun precisely on the equinox at the center. The Pimas (and other peoples of our area) lived here for more than 700 years and then disappeared about 1200 AD. No one knows exactly how or why or when they disappeared we just know they were here and did some amazing things. I hope you will post some more of your travel stories again.

Liberality said...

that was a cool trip you two had. color me green with envy. I'd like to travel and hope I am able to when we retire and are older but it looks like wall street has other plans for us.

Border Explorer said...

eProf, I didn't know about the Casa Grande ruins. How cool that its so close to us.

The indigenous disappearance is such a mystery, a fascinating historical event.

I always wanted to see the Pyramids of Egypt when I was a child. But when I saw the pyramids of Mexico and Central America, I knew that desire was satisfied in our own hemisphere.

Border Explorer said...

Liberality, we were grateful for that opportunity. Paul's backpacking ability has gotten me to so many places for so little money. I know what you mean with the retirement account worries. Who knows what an economic crash can/will bring? I really hope you'll get your chance to see other lands.

Robert Rouse said...

Crap! In the '70s I did a lot of hitching around the country. I suppose I'm lucky I'm still alive.

Border Explorer said...

No doubt! Mr. B.E. has stories from his youth that curl my hair. No more hitching. This event was an exception; we wouldn't have made dawn at the temple without help.
And, obviously, we weren't nervous about accepting a ride from the cops.

susan said...

Nice to hear from Mr. BE and a wonderful photograph of you.

I always wanted to see the Egyptian Pyramids too but I think I missed the best opportunity - by being born after the turn of the 19th century.

Missy said...

Oh, I'm jealous, too. Maybe one day I will get to see some bits of the world. :)
Guess I'm working on it.

Border Explorer said...

Susan, I can picture you on a camel in that khaki desert gear.

Missy, let's you and me and Susan head off some day.

Missy said...

Hell! That sounds like a plan!

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I enjoyed the story and the photograph. I didn't know about that building with the equinox doorways.

Border Explorer said...

It's lovely. Think it looks like it's wearing a fez?

I can't imagine how they did it.

enigma4ever said...

beautiful post....I wish the best for you with the change of the seasons ...namaste.

Randal Graves said...

Wait, I'm confused. Does this mean you're now the boss of autumn?

I'd love to get down there someday and check out all the Mayan stuff. Groovy story. :)

Border Explorer said...

Thanks, Enigma! "We are never broken." A rich and peaceful fall (esp Nov. 4!)to you, too.

Randal, I'll accept the Boss of Autumn title if that lets me cream the federal fuckwits and put whoever I want in charge.

Blueberry said...

Wow! They just don't build 'em like they used to. It's amazing how cultures have changed, and how such different things are valued when planning construction of something.

We used to hitch-hike all the time in the 60s and 70s. Met some real weird people (and not *good* weird).

Border Explorer said...

Blueberry, what a lovely point on changing values in construction. With "green" energy issues, people do consider the sun more of late.

Do consider a "hitchhiking" post/series(?). I'd love to hear your stories.