Mind Scraps: Night Runs Along the Surf

Just a quick note about my magical moment today:

I walk out of my apartment door and turn down the hallway until I reach the ramp that leads to one of my complexes three pools. Weaving between the shadowy palm umbrellas, I arrive at the gate that opens onto the beach. When my feet hit the sand, I break into a brisk run, crossing the wide expanse until I reach the foamy surf. Under the starry night sky, I skim over the waves like a pelican cruising for fish as they rush up the sand in rhythmic bursts, engulfing my bare feet. The salty air is cool and fresh upon my face. I run in the dark, occasionally slipping by other shadowy figures enjoying the sea’s special night charm. When I finally come upon the Thai Buddah, his golden hue sparkling from the light of glowing globes, I turn and begin my journey back… retracing footprints that have already vanished…

I wind down from my night flight by turning to my precious sea… wading deeper into her dark, eerie waves, so that she might give my steaming skin a cool drink. My thank you wells up from deep inside me. I let it out in one long gracious breathe. I stare out at the cloaked horizon, wondering what lies out there in the dark deep. Looking up, I see a the face of the White Rabbit peering down at me with a smirk. My emotions swell and swirl with the high tide… our wordless exchange full of startling thoughts and ideas.

Mind Scraps: UFOs over the Riviera Maya

The first night at my new beachfront abode… suddenly the five young men I would be calling my roommates for the next two months all became excited little boys. “Come out and look! Quick!” They were on the outside terrace where one can relax and drink in the stunning view of the gem-shaded Caribbean sea. But now it was dark, and their gazes were directed upward, toward the night sky. With a fine green lazer, one of them, whom I call Natural Caretaker, directed me: “Look. Look there. Do you see it?”

“See what? See what? I don’t see it!” I rattled, caught up in the excitement.

“The moving stars, the UFOs,” was his response.

“What??!” I marveled. “UFOs??!!”

Then, I saw exactly what they were talking about: A pinprick in the sky that would be a far off star if only it didn’t zigzag around the darkness in random bursts and spinning trajectories. Too fast for a plane, too far and too random of a movement to be a bird. Something strange was definitely moving in the sky.

“Oh my gosh!” I exclaimed. “What IS that?? How did you guys first see this kind of thing?? Oh my gosh! This is crazy!! But I see it! What magic! How exciting!”

I shivered with eerie intrigue. If it had been just one other person, I might have doubted our eyes… but all six of us were out there, marveling. Then we spotted another, and another and yet another.

“Wow. The activity is really crazy tonight,” Natural Caretaker said.

“You mean you don’t usually see this much??” I prodded.

“Never,” he responded. “It’s never been this active. Usually we spot one or two, maybe three in a span of several hours. This is the most activity I’ve ever seen.”

“Something’s happening,” another, Chihuahua Stud, said.

“They’re celebrating my arrival today,” I said with a twinkle in my eye. “Nah, I’m kidding. Hahaha.”

“No. Maybe they are… maybe you brought some magic,” Chihuahua Stud shrugged.

For the next few hours we divided our attentions between virtual distractions on our computer and extraterrestrial distractions in the sky. All the while, I marveled. I didn’t imagine that a group of young men that work for a company like Traveo would believe such things, let alone be so in-tune to spot something like that themselves. Life is constantly introducing me to the most surprising and intriguing people, I marveled to myself.

As things here on the Riviera Maya continue to eerily fall into place and become intriguingly stranger and awing, I can’t help but rejoice in knowing that I made the decision to follow the random call in my heart… Go to the sea!

The next night, the moving stars, UFOs, be what they may, were back…

Also spotted again tonight… my third night here.

Mind Scraps: Dreams and Life’s Sweet, Ripe Cherries

After a most promising and invigorating Skype conversation with the director of the photography agency I will be prospectively working for, I was eager to meet the highly-recommended man on the ground. The owners of this company, a Scottish woman and her French husband, operate from London. Another young French man, the same age as me, is responsible for running the company on the ground here in Mexico.

He called me Sunday, “We’ve made a reservation for lunch at a stunning beach,” French Photog informed me. “Would you like to join us? Can you meet me at 1:30?” More of a rhetorical question… who could turn down an offer like that?

When we arrived at Al Cielo, a relaxing complex of palm-thatched roofs, two other photographers – husband and wife – were there, excited about purchasing some new plant arrangements that someone had left for sale. The plants, which included the exquisite orchid and bromelia, were artfully mounted upon driftwood. “They produce their own nutrients,” the husband said. “They don’t need any soil or water.”

The husband is a fellow Gringo from Atlanta, GA. He has managed to build up quite the reputation, and now, couples from around the world seek out him and his wife to book them for their wedding. He is responsible for introducing “underwater photography” into the wedding photography package. I call him Wonder Boy. His wife, a striking Mexican woman from Guadalajara, is the Photog Beauty…

We sat at our white-clothed table, claiming the table with the best view of the sea that stretched along the small, protected cove before us. We ordered starters of sashimi, swordfish carpaccio and a decadent salad along with Chardonay as we began to chat and learn more about each other. The pure zest for life these three possess was most refreshing to drink in. They were all young and notably successful; yet still down-to-earth, appreciative and excited about the rich, sweet cherries life seemed to be hand-feeding each of them. That along with a passion for photography was our common ground and as we progressed on to our entrees (I shared the freshly caught fish of the day smothered in sea salt with French Photog) we swapped stories, dreams and ideas in a pure, bubbly excitement. We finished lunch on a most sweet note with espresso and a complimentary crème brule and coconut cream dessert. The photog couple was good friends with the restaurant’s owner.

After lunch, the sea beckoned us. Equipped with masks, snorkels and fins we dunked below the waves to observe what might lie below. Web-like plants gracefully swayed among massive brain-shaped coral. I watched an entire school of fish as it hovered in a protectiveoverhang of the reef, the fish rocking with the underwater rhythm of the ocean like one body, one unit. Further and further our fins propelled us, until we reached the rock outcropping of one side of the cove. On the way back, I lagged behind the others as two tropical fish wound around the reef before me, sucking up bits of algae. In length, they stretched from the tips of my fingers to my elbow and almost equal to that in height, yet they were both pencil thin. Their cool purple scales were accentuated with splashes of yellow and black.

When I reached shore, Wonder Boy had taken out his fancy toy – a high-end, globed encasement that transformed a pro camera into an underwater eye. The three of them were taking turns diving into the waves before the camera.

Finally, evening began to set and it was time to part ways. I left feeling absolutely enriched from my magical afternoon. French Photog had left quite an impression, introducing me to a local Playa del Carmen gem and treating me to a most unforgettable seaside experience shared with enchanting and inspiring company. I could see that French Photog possessed a beautiful spirit… he was absolutely reveling in the wonderful afternoon we were all spending together. It was fun to be around people who find life as magical as I do!

As far as work, we were both eager to explore how I might fit with the photog agency. Because of the low-season, the agency can’t offer me full-time work right now but that actually works out quite well. I had been exploring options with Traveo in Cancun and they had made me an offer: two months of work, photographing the activities and services the company provides, in exchange for dreamlike beachfront housing, food, transportation and substantial fun money. So it was agreed. I would take the two-month stint with Traveo, but find days to escape to Playa and begin training with the photog agency there. Then, in two months, I could be ready to go for the high-season and, perhaps, the new studio in another hotel that they were planning to open up. Life really seems to be pulling out all the stops… and for that I’m utterly grateful. Thank you from the depths of my heart and soul!!

View the Flickr album by clicking here.

Mind Scraps: Natural Symphony at the Sea

A musician in Chihuahua connected me with the Musico Magico in Facebook when he found out that I was headed to the Riveria Maya. Now that I had finally made it to Playa del Carmen, I called him up to see if his offer to rendezvous was still good. It was more than good. “Come with my friends and I to a local virgin beach,” he offered. I jumped at the chance. And it was at Paal Mul that I caught a glimpse of a most awing understanding of sound.

Musico Magico, as I call him, is a kindred spirit. Like me, he enjoys conversations about energy, spirit, karma and the magic of life. And like my friend in Chihuahua, he’s an accomplished musician. His story is an inspiring one. He originally arrived in Playa with nothing more than a backpack. Now, after six years, he has led successful real estate ventures and construction ventures, while also traveling substantially and performing in the local music scene.

When we arrived at the virgin beach accompanied by four others, I noted that Musico Magico’s eyes were the same color as one of the alluring shades of this seven-color Riviera ocean: a light, clear and mesmerizing sea green. Musico Magico has a potent presence. His gem-like eyes lock into yours, silently and reverently prodding your spirit to see who you might truly be.

I waded into the sea, a warm soothing bath that stretched away beyond the horizon. The slight rhythmic cycle of the waves rocked me comfortingly like a mother with her child. When people ask me where I’m from, I like to respond “del mundo” (from the world). I should start responding “del mar” (from the sea). No matter where I travel to on land, the sense of “home” always seems to escape me. But when I reach the sea… I feel it… I feel “at home.” As I frolic in her waves near shore my thoughts always wander further and further out to sea. What if I just started swimming toward that elusive horizon? I often take long swims out past where most others go, always slightly toying with the idea to answer that call… Go. Swim further. Dive deeper. Go discover the underwater world of magic. Turning back toward the others, I rejoined them closer to shore. As we chatted, I dug my hands into the smooth sand below the water. Gasp! Just centimeters below the surface a chilly sensation! “It’s the cenotes (underground rivers),” the others explained. “You can feel them emptying out into the ocean.” I quickly became entranced by digging various pockets into the sand in order to feel the cool rush of sweet water mix with the warm, salty sea water.

Musico Magico and I escaped from the others for a short walk down the shell-filled beach. As we waded into the water, my feet were caressed by the finest, softest sand I’ve yet to encounter. Musico Magico grabbed a handful and began rubbing it on his skin. “Smell it,” he said. “You can smell the sulfur. This sand is full of healing nutrients.” Following his lead, I slowly smothered the sand upon my face, marveling at how some people pay big bucks for such natural elements in spas.

After the impromptu sand facial, we both fell into a peaceful trance. Floating on our backs, we each got lost in our own thoughts, our own emotions, our own spiritual commune. That’s when the world of sound suddenly began to open up for me in a way I had never experienced before. All at once, my consciousness seemed to register the crystal clear notes of the natural symphony around me. Further out at sea, I heard the waves breaking upon the reef that lay just below the surface of the water. I became attuned to the waves breaking upon shore; not just in front of me, but also to either side of me as the coast slightly curved. Each position of the breaking waves held its own unique tone. The water lapping up against my skin rang out in a higher note. The caressing breeze that swept past my ears a soft, beckoning whisper. Two birds calling out from land… I heard each element of the natural world music as if I was surrounded by a massive sound system precisely set up for optimal acoustics. Eyes closed, utterly captivated, the water rocked me silently and I just listened… with ears and soul.

View the Flickr album of Paal Mul and Playa del Carmen by clicking here.

Mind Scraps: Powerful Women on Isla Mujeres

Cancun, a young city with just 40 years, is highly commercial. High-rise hotels, giant malls, flashy clubs and luxurious houses line the coast. More clubs, touristy restaurants and local food stands alike and lower class houses interspersed with the occasional luxury house make up the city center.

Across the sea, less than 60 minutes away, lies a bohemian escape. Isla Mujeres has its luxury, but the flashy ritz is much more subdued. Artwork and handmade goods spill from the colorful shops that line the few main streets. Restaurants boast a breezy chill atmosphere, each creatively unique and often providing tropical musical beats that swirl around the clientele. Bongos and fire dancers. Artistic expression. Balmy, salt-saturated air. Swaying palms. Serenading waves. A sea colored in at least seven shades of aqua, turquoise and blue. Paradise…

French Beauty and I were ready. Ready to completely indulge in this tropical escape. We arrived at our hostel Pocna (first hostel in Mexico… ever) vibrating with anticipation. We dropped our bags and went out to wander, bubbly greeting any new face along the way. Our hearts guided us to the beach though it was dark. We stopped to drink in the tropical bliss, feeling the fine white sand below our feet before dipping them into the cool water. ¡Que Rico!

Back at the hostel, we grabbed our complimentary piña colodas and picked our perch for enjoying the nightly entertainment. Salsa… dancing… new friends. Together, with our pure spirit for spreading fun and joy, we wooed everyone that caught but a glimpse of us. People stopped us just to say “hi” and pass on their compliments. The band began singing directly to us… calling out our names… fueling our dancing furor. Spinning… twirling… laughing… in the sand. Just a few bold men were brave enough to join us. The band invited me to dance on stage. Then one musician came down to dance with us.

When the music finished, the night was just getting started. The band invited us back to a private house on the beach. Finely constructed, yet the owners lived simply without electricity. A series of round wooden rooms topped with palm thatches, each standing apart from the other; connected by wooden walkways. We were a small gathering. Three of the band members. The owner of the house and her son. Two hostel mates and French Beauty and I…

Bongos. Men singing. Women dancing, dancing, dancing. All by the magical, flickering red light of the bonfire.

I escaped to the sea, bathing in the wake of the moon as its light shimmered off the dark waters. My moon forming the glittering runway. My sea rocking me gently back and forth, back and forth…

In the wee hours of the morning we finally fell into a light sleep, right there on the beach. A little after dawn, French Beauty and I caught a cab back to our Pocna.

We slept just a few hours more at the hostel before eagerly rising to enjoy another day in paradise. French Beauty wanted to doze under the sun. I went to meet one of the musicians – whom I’ll call Caribbean Musico – for lunch. We dined on the beach, eating fish caught and grilled that very same hour, watching vacationers, gypsies and locals alike enjoy the gem-colored waves.

French Beauty eventually joined us and the three of us decided to rent motor scooters and tour around the island. Caribbean Musico was an excellent guide, bringing us to his friend’s house for a quick dip in the pool before navigating us from one end of the island to the other. We were the three musketeers, reveling in bliss, harmoniously enjoying each other’s company. That night, back to the private house. Wiped from the nearly non-stop excitement, this time French Beauty and I relaxed, sipping wine as the men and their bongos once again joined the calmly lapping waves in a seaside night serenade.

French Beauty, Caribbean Musico and I took it easy the next day, enjoying a cruise through the island for the last few hours with our motor scooters. A dip in the sea and refreshing piña coladas. A heart to heart: each one thanking the other for sharing such magical moments. French Beauty and Caribbean Musico moving me to tears, when confessing that, for them, I am “una luce,” a light. “A joyful spirit full of energy.”

“I only reflect what I encounter before me,” I told them gratefully.

Thanks to Caribbean Musico, we indulged in a free 15-min massage on the beach before the setting sun told us it was time to go… and catch our ferry back to Cancun.

¡Hasta pronto! my magical island… see you again very soon.

View the Flickr album by clicking here.

Mind Scraps: Beauty and the Beauty

Alone in Stud Photographer’s room, I was caught up in an internet trance – a phenomenon common to my generation. Catching up on emails, editing photos, writing, skyping with friends, and facebooking all at once. Stud Photog had gone out… for what, I wasn’t sure. My plan was to head to Playa del Carmen (about 1 ½ hours away) that night. I had been in contact with a photography agency there and was eager to meet them and explore any work opportunity that might exist. Still, I had plans to return to Cancun the next afternoon in order to be involved in Stud Photog’s personal photo project he had organized. Then, I would return to Playa del Carmen once again in the evening….

Her form was slender and elegant. Smooth, caramel-colored skin with springy spiral curls toppling over smoky café-colored eyes that shimmered with just a hint of green. She was beautiful… and yet didn’t seem to really know. Smiling brightly, she introduced herself with an unassuming air. The French woman with a notably Arabic background would be Stud Photographer’s next couchie. I was being replaced so soon!

…When beautiful women encounter other beautiful women the insecurities and jealousies can start crackling like oil in a hot pan in milliseconds. Women naturally want to be princesses. They want to revel in the limelight. If another beauty is around… that threatens their chance to shine… or so they often think. Many women experience these feelings and that’s why it can often be hard for women to unite in pure friendship. If women do act as “friends,” the friendship is often inundated with secret jealousies and insecurities. I know this because I’ve felt it many times. I felt it within me personally. I felt it directed toward me from other women. It doesn’t help that society continually tries to pit women against women. “Be more beautiful than her” the subliminal messages say in ad campaigns. “There’s only room for one beauty, so do whatever it takes to be her!”

As I encountered this theme time and again in life, I started to feel a nagging loneliness. It seemed I had as many male friends as there were stars in the sky, yet a true female friend seemed to be the most rare find. A female friend that I felt loved me sincerely, celebrated who I was and supported me no matter what. And I her in return. In fact, for a significant while my step-mom was the only woman I considered to be a true female friend. But she couldn’t come romping the world with me in my travels. I began expressing to her how much I longed for a true female friend!

I started to meditate and pray, inviting a deeper female friendship into my life. And, with this heart plea, slowly my approach toward women began to transform. Before, I admit, the internal commentary when meeting another beautiful woman went something like: ‘Oh no! She’s beautiful. Warning! What are her flaws? Find her flaws to make yourself feel better! Ah there. I have a better this. Or a better that. Yeah, um, I’m more beautiful.’ or ‘Oh no! She’s so beautiful! Way more beautiful than me! Ugh, compared to her I’m disgusting. Ugh, I feel horrible about myself!’

But little by little the internal commentary from before was becoming dominated by a new appreciative and welcoming approach. Slowly my thoughts transformed with each encounter until the internal commentary went something like: ‘Wow. What a beautiful smile. Look at how her eyes sparkle. She’s so generous.’

Since this transformation I’ve found the female friendship I was longing for. In addition to my step-mom, I now have two absolutely dear friends in Guatemala and two in Chihuahua, MX. Here in Cancun I’m meeting yet more absolutely stunning women…

When the French Beauty walked in, I felt the old commentary sharply poke and prod me, trying to pull me back into my old mental routine of insecurities and jealousies. To me, she was that beautiful. But I didn’t let the old ways win. The annoying nag simply fueled me to find yet more than the obvious beauty about her. Stud Photog had to take off for the gym, so I was left with the French Beauty alone. Having found a comfortable rhythm with Stud Photog’s family I took the role of sub-host with honor and showed the French Beauty where she could leave her things and where she could bathe after her long bus ride.

I already had plans to meet up with local couchies that afternoon and I invited her to join me. She obliged. She was new to Couchsurfing I found out. I got excited, explaining to her that I had met many of my closest friends through CS over the years. I then began raving about the wonderful people I had already met here in Cancun as we navigated our way to the homemade ceviche gathering.

That evening a confusing exchange of miscommunication about transportation resulted in me staying another night in Cancun, instead of heading to Playa del Carmen. Oh well, I was already planning to return for the afternoon photo shoot anyway. I could crash with another CSer – The Protector – in Cancun since the French Beauty would be taking my place at Stud Photog’s. (I’ll be writing about The Protector soon…)

The next morning, French Beauty and I decided to head to the beach before the afternoon photo shoot. Unfortunately, a rare gale was sweeping like sheets across the beach. The sand became trillions of tiny airborne pellets that attacked every little crevice of our bodies. Our hair fiercely whipped our faces. Our sun dresses threatened to strangle us. “Aaaaah! Let’s gooooo!” The French Beauty pleaded in one of her charmingly goofy voices. We had quickly found a joyful comfort around each other and were already acting like two little girls who had been friends for life, utterly reveling in the marvels of the world together.

When we mounted the public bus, French Beauty was surprised to find one of her former French students on board. French Beauty had been living much further south in Tapachula, MX offering French lessons to high school and university students. Now, she was hitting some of Mexico’s gems before heading back to France. The Riveria Maya was her last stop before returning to Europe.

The former student was a part of a big, spring break/vacation tour group being directed by Traveo. As French Beauty reveled in encountering her former student here in Cancun, a representative of Traveo began chatting with me. When I had explained that I had come to Cancun to stay in the Riveria Maya region for awhile, that I was a photographer and journalist and that I was looking for work, the representative handed me his card. “We need a woman like you,” he said. “Contact me.” Wow! Sweet! It was most random, but I had a strange feeling that something would come of it… (stay tuned)

During the afternoon photo shoot, Stud Photographer proved to be yet more studly. This young 19-year-old managed to summon 12 captivating women to house to be his photographic muses for the next few hours. Fearless, he directed each of us; compelling us to show him more than what’s on the outside… so that he might capture it and digitally freeze it… forever. I know grown men that wouldn’t be able to manage that many women at once. Impressive.

By the end of that night, the unknowingly beautiful French Beauty had charmed me into joining her to la Isla Mujeres – a tropical Caribbean island about an hour’s ferry ride from Cancun. We rushed out the door after the photo shoot to catch the late evening ferry…

View the Flickr album by clicking here.

“Laura Rico” Debuts in Guate Film

Check out the trailer for Aqui Me Quedo… you just might see a familiar face… for a whole 2 seconds!! Hahaha

The project was filmed while I was living in La Antigua, Guatemala:

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Mindscraps: Rooftop Serenade

In an attempt to catch up on some highlights of my two weeks in the Riveria Maya, I begin with my personal, rooftop serenade from two beautiful young souls…

The plan was to finally have a night out with my host, Stud Photographer. We started the pre-festivities at his house – on the rooftop with a slight, refreshing breeze – while we waited for a few more of Stud Photog’s friends to join those of us who were already there. By the time the friends arrived, our pre-festivities were well underway so we opted for card games and salsa dancing instead of going out. Eventually, some of us did end up migrating to a local bar for a change of scenery. It was good to see Stud Photog finally start to relax a bit. Impressively accomplished for his age, Stud Photog usually has at least ten things to do at once – rushing around here and there – to get it all done. Finally, he was starting to chill out. As the night wound down, Stud Photog, two of his friends and I returned to the relaxing ambiance of the rooftop by night.

Stud photog grabbed his guitar and momentarily fiddled with the tuning heads. Then, in the the brief flutter of an instant, clear notes began to tumble from the strings, rising into the warm and balmy tropical night air and lightly playing upon our ears before fading into the outer depths with the stars.

Then, my ears caught something else. A sweet sound… an absolutely angelic voice. Stud Photog’s friend had begun to sing… a voice so rich with male youth it compelled me to hold my breath. I did not want even my own breathing to muddle the sudden and delightful musical union.

The strong, pure friendship between these two young men, as they made music together, vibrated with an energy so potent, yet so suave. For a moment, I believed that if I would only reach out and extend my hand between them I would feel the connection, a soft silky sensation. I relaxed back into my chair drinking in the serenade with all my senses. A light smile danced upon my lips and then the tears began lightly trickle down my cheek.

Again, I was moved to tears. This time I felt more foolish than the my other recent, tearful experiences. I was as 24-year-old woman crying in front of a 19-year-old boy and his 18-year-old friend. But my tears only fueled their passion. The notes from the Stud Photographer rang with yet more confidence and heart. The Angelic Voice opened yet further, conveying a host of emotions all at once.

In turn, they took my hand, a grateful gesture to show they understood.

“You two are so captivating and beautiful,” I whispered to them. “Your souls are so beautiful. And they shine yet more brilliantly because of your deep friendship. I can feel the strength of your friendship truly uniting when you play together. Thank you… for sharing this with me.”

Mind Scraps: Is Humanity Beginning to Trust Itself?

Right now, thanks to Couchsurfing, I’m in Cancun, MX sleeping in a luxurious house. A 19-year-old photographer who has traveled nearly as much as I have and who’s photographic accomplishments surpass my own, casually hosts me – the wayward traveler – as if it is a widely-accepted, worldwide custom. In the morning I awake. My host’s mother greets me and introduces herself before leaving for her morning exercise class. This is beautiful and inspiring. Humanity is beginning to truly trust in itself again.

Several small parrots are housed on the back patio. Their joyful squawks echo throughout the house cheerfully. In the small pool, two sea turtles swim…

After returning to the house, my host’s mother comes down the stairs, elegant in her black and white patterned dress. We’ve spoken to each other for no more than a total of five minutes in our lives. “Laura, would you like anything to drink?” she asks. “Juice or anything?”

“I have a glass of water here, thank you.”

“Okay, I’m off to work. What do you guys have planned for today?”

“Well, I know Stud Photog said his cousin is coming into town with some friends. We’ll go to the airport to pick them up. Aside from that, I’m not really sure.”

“When you get hungry, there’s fruit and whatever else you’d like in the kitchen.”

“Thank you,” I utter, feeling those words so inadequate for everything I was feeling and wanted to convey.

“Have a good day!” I called after her.

“You as well.”