Tag Archives: Heart-to-Heart

Magic in the Marietas

Cable and Pacific

Weaving’Wonderful’ on the Bay of Banderas

…As our sailboat neared the Marietas Islands, schools of jellyfish amended the captain’s chosen snorkeling spots twice. Just as well. While I wouldn’t trade memories of an accidental swim through tiny diaphanous sea jellies a few years ago, I remember with equal clarity the lingering stings along my upper lip.

Beach; Marietas Islands

My solitary week in Nuevo Vallarta had etched some bold new strokes into who I knew myself to be. I had flown through jungle canopy on zip lines, negotiated city buses and explored Puerto Vallarta on foot. I had kayaked in the Pacific Ocean and run miles along the golden crescent shore of Banderas Bay. Talking to strangers had yielded vibrant vignettes of lives far removed from my own, and lively music had set rhythms in my heart that made hope dance in directions my feet longed to follow. And now, I floated toward rocky protrusions called the Marietas Islands.

Other-worldly. Agave and other similarly scrubby brush covered craggy masses punctuated by arches and overlooks. The cliffs seemed a breathing being beneath the constant motion of landing and launching sea birds —most with specially coated feathers for ocean plunges. Frigates, not so biologically well-equipped, added drama by thieving fresh fish from the mouths of successful divers. As we slowly made our way around the largest island to a safer snorkeling spot, I spotted my first blue footed booby bird and then several more of the stumpy birds perched on the boulder tips of outer islands.

Marietas rock from beach

The Marietas Islands, popularized by Jacques Cousteau and now protected as a national park area, is volcanic in origin and surrounded by coral. We dropped anchor near a steep beach nestled amongst its cliffs, and a dinghy took us in range of the coral and marine life. Our guide kindly broke the rules and allowed me to remove my life vest to free dive down into fish range. The water was clearer than I had expected; I followed one fish after another until it was time to relax on the postage stamp of a beach. A few of us explored the unspoiled island in our bare feet, ducking under arches to find still more caves and overhangs, wandering a splendid twisting geological maze.

I didn’t want to leave.  I wondered how long it would take —climbing
Marietas Islands off of bowthe rocks, feeling sand and sea swirl between my toes and watching fluttering sea birds —before the passage of time would matter again. As the boat slowly backed from the islands, stark yet lovely with their swirled caves and arches, I cradled the moment. I breathed in every sensory bit of it and wondered how it could all be so perfect when there was no one to “nudge” or share it with. It was revelation to me that a tree could fall within its forest and that my ear alone could be enough to hear and mark its sound. And, it was pure freedom to know that bliss could wrap its arms around me, just me. It didn’t have to be a group hug.

We soaked in the music and salt air on our sail back until that group from Appleton, Wisconsin grabbed onto the cables on the side of the boat and began dancing. Before long, someone grabbed my hand, placed it firmly on a cable, and I was dancing too

MORE:  “Weaving’Wonderful’ on the Bay of Banderas”

“Beyond the Bay (The Marietas Islands)”

“A ‘Photo Hike’ through Puerto Vallarta (Part One)”

A ‘Favorite Day’ in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco (Part Two)”


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Weaving “Wonderful” on the Bay of Banderas

Horses along Bahia de Banderas; Nuevo Vallarta, MX

It happened on the day I broke my own primary rule for solo travel.  It was pivotal.  It was perfect.  And it was all mine.  I told an old friend about it over lunch last week and sailed through the splendid memory all over again.

I was in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, reweaving my life into something that would fit for the next several years.  My kids were vacationing with their dad, and I was utterly alone -with thoughts, a few personal goals and the Bay of Banderas.  I had already done a lot of exploring: both inside and out.  I had navigated city buses to Puerto Vallarta, zip lined through lush jungle canopy, run miles and miles along a beach that sparkled gold in the sun and spent evenings tapping out page after page on my laptop.

The one thing I hadn’t done was dance.  For years, now, it seemed.  At this point in my life I danced only at wedding receptions.  Usually with my sisters —and there had been far more funerals than weddings lately.  It seemed a small and silly thing to miss, but the unlikeliness of opportunities did not diminish the desire.

Against my better judgement on one of the last days of my stay, I signed up for a sailboat trip to the Marietas Islands.  This wasn’t the first time I’d traveled alone, and experience had steered me toward blending within larger groups whenever possible.  It felt safer, it provided more options, and ultimately felt more comfortable.  But, my more reflective pace had cost me a spot on the larger catamaran tour; my only remaining choice was an intimate sailing excursion with thirty four strangers.  In the end, my curiosity about the Marietas Islands was stronger than my fear of discomfort.  I packed a book and journal along with my sunscreen and camera and hoped for “OK”.

More about an afternoon that included whales, schooling dolphins, blue footed booby birds and… my pivotal moment: “Magic in the Marietas:

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My Travel “Essentials”

At Tulum

My travel “essentials?” I’m so glad you asked…

Running shoes, a bikini (if there is even the remotest chance of water and sunshine), my current journal, and my camera. Now, don’t get the misguided impression that I’m a carry-on only traveler. Not the case. Ever. But these are the “specialized items I’m not going to find in an airport kiosk or roadside shop. I’d rather forget necessary phone numbers than my running shoes! And perusing swimwear on vacation time sounds torturous as my interest in anything “retail” flags once I’ve purchased souvenirs for the folks back home.

So; how is it that I found myself camera-less in Akumal, Mexico (Ooh. I’m cringing just writing those words…)?

I could blame it on the passport frenzy that ensued when international travel requirements were updated to reflect present day realities. The kids’ paperwork was on its way well before the media grabbed the story in the spring of 2007, but when subsequent applicants expedited their passports; my three children were apparently relegated to the back of the tourist line. My Congressman Pat Tiberi’s office was responsive and helpful, but our margin to departure had dwindled to two days before our mail gal happily waved the envelopes at me from the end of the driveway. Maybe that blew my focus a little?

The sad reality is that when we arrived and I reached for a fresh camera battery, I suddenly remembered plugging my battery charger into an outlet by the garage door where I couldn’t possibly forget it. And I couldn’t remember unplugging and packing it.

With the dying battery light already flashing ominously in my camera screen, I checked out the options. Heather and Hannah before morning runThe Wal-mart in Playa del Carmen was my distant oasis of hope, and we didn’t plan to be near the city for several days. Thankfully, my more organized daughter had brought her camera, spare batteries and charger, and was displaying more than a casual flair for photography (Still haven’t figured out how she got both the creative gene and the organizational one; seems a little unfair…). She was annointed the trip photographer as I stingily snapped the odd photo, conserving what battery power remained.

Center of palm frond

Our eventual Wal-mart expedition was “educational”. I’d had a humorous Wal-mart experience previously in which my limited Spanish landed me my desired bug repellent only after a helpful employee first escorted me to the deodorant aisle. This time, we gathered Spanish language magazines and Mexican candy (“hot” chewy Skwinkles) for ourselves and friends at home. But when I asked about replacing my fading battery at the photo shop, I was informed that my closest possibility lay in Cancun to the north. Big sigh.

It was one of those “recheck your priorities” moments. Spending precious vacation time driving and shopping for something we might not even find in order to chronicle our happy adventure had the tone of an oxymoron. Another big sigh. Then, I resolved to maximize what was still available to us.

Tulum ruins

My daughter graciously considered my suggestions on “must-have” photos as we explored Mayan ruins and allowed strangers to snap group shots of us with her brand new digital camera. And I focused on capturing some mental snapshots and videos, because photographs are only one method of preserving memories…

I’ve written about my so-called “perfect moments”. They virtually save themselves into our internal data base, but with intent, they can become almost a transport point from days ahead to moments long behind us. It’s a matter of hitting your own “pause” button and then gathering in the messages that are nudging your senses. Like the stirring of a breeze as it ripples skirt against skin and hair into disarray. The lingering fragrances of sunscreen and ocean-salted children. Bubbling laughter layered over the rhythmic track of the tide… When deeply inhaled, these fragments fuse into a tangible place you can revisit within yourself.

Do I wish I’d had a working camera? Of course. Did it ruin my vacation? Never.

*Photographic credit goes to my daughter Hannah and a couple of anonymous passers-by.

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