On Full Moons & Mornings

November 8, 2014 in Guatemala, North America

San Marcos Morning

The drums pounded late into the night.

I sat on the porch in the deep darkness feeling the heat of the afternoon sun radiate back up beneath me, released from the terra cotta tiles, and I listened:


The speed and intensity continued to build as the voices of more and more drums added to the chorus. The night, alive with beautiful chaos was measured out in the metronome of hot palms on smooth skins.

The lady moon seemed to know the celebration was in her honor. She spilt the clouds like giant theater curtains and stepped through onto an ink black stage wearing her best party dress; the silver one, hung with sequins that glitter in the reflection of the water like flashing fish scales. The one that makes her look more like a nubile young goddess than the ancient mother of the night that she is. She curtseyed deeply, slowly, and then, she lifted her ruffled hem and on shining bare feet she began to dance. A cheer was raised from the drummers as she whirled across the sky, their hands never missing a beat. I cannot drum, but I keep the full moon in my own quiet way, and she knows this. She always nods to me as she frolics past.

Dawn is breaking in a rabble of pink and lavender party streamers, floating down haphazardly from the remains of the full moon party. Her footprints still echo in the valley, and a few sequins, shaken loose from her skirt, are still floating on the surface of the lago, but the tops of the volcanos are stretching into the sun already. The party has moved on. Hopefully someone in Hawaii has remembered to pull out a drum and keep her dancing as she travels west with her chours line of stars.

I don’t know why I wake up so early here.

It is only here.

Our lives have never really been measured by the clock but seven thirty has always seemed, to me, the absolute earliest a civilized person should show her face. It’s not unusual for a certain Man to not roll out until 8. Teenagers emerge like little moles from dark caves as late as nine or half past. Time is not of the essence to us. But here… here I am up with the sun. 

5:30 a.m this morning found me laying on my back considering where my pet spider, Walt, may have stationed himself this morning for maximum stealth and surprise. We have a game afoot, in which he does his very best to make me shriek at least once a day and I do my very best to remain blasé about his presence. The score is all tied up at the moment, but I’m hoping to turn the tide today. The children are rooting for Walt, of course, although they insist on calling him (and all spiders of his particular type) “Bob,” because that’s what we named the biggest one last time we lived here.

“No, he’s Walt,” I insisted over cheese bread and beef stroganoff last night, “Because he hangs out near my books, and I’m quite sure he likes to read, so I’ve named him for Walt Whitman.” I have recently renewed my interest in poetry. I think the old naturalist would be happy enough to have a Guatemalan arachnid named for him, don’t you? They rolled their eyes, as teenagers are wont to do, drew out a long, “Mooom….” and continued to call him Bob. His name is Walt. I am firm on this point.

By 5:45 a.m. I was on to considering the couple of things I’d let fall between the cracks this week for work, the finishing touches I need to add to an interview for Monday morning, and whether my friend on a weekend trip to Amsterdam is having a nice time, so I gave up and got up.

It’s like this every day here. I wake, fully rested, before six and take up residence in the wicker chair by the enormous front window, rearranging the uncomfortably flat and worn red cushions to suit my back and I watch the big droopy tree flicker through every shade of green, and the twin volcanos across the lake shrug off their hand woven blankets, in every shade of crimson to blue-black, before they wash their faces in the morning sun. A cup of tea steams on the sill. My Thai blanket greets me with a quiet, “sawadee-ka,” and I come alive with the world.

This morning is extremely quiet, for San Marcos.

The birds are tittering in the coffee and bamboo, but the dogs are not barking. Perhaps they lost their voices singing along with the drummers last night. The loud speakers have not yet begun broadcasting mass, that starts at 7:00 a.m. Only one mortar has exploded, and that only a few minutes ago: 6:25 a.m. is awfully late for the first celebratory bang.

Juan, our night guardian, stood at the edge of the lake, barefoot in the grass, for a long while, his back to the house, surveying the lago with the air of a man whose job it is to keep the entire valley in order, not just one little yellow house. Like the mountains, he knelt and washed his face for the morning, and then turned and walked up the hill, but not before stopping to check on the progress of the pink and white rose bushes. His work here is done. His son-in-law will take his place in an hour.

I love the hour between dawn and stirring.

I love the quiet space for my thoughts to creep out from between my ears and take shape in the room, stirring about and reorganizing themselves without fear of being frightened by noisy boys or an eager girl. They are skittish things, my thoughts, but when set free in solitude and sheltered by the gloaming of twilight, they are friendly companions. They whisper to me the things they cannot say under the harsh light of day.

I am listening to the hum of the refrigerator and praying that Mario, the little wizard who walks over from San Pablo twice a week to fix it, has finally managed the whole job this time. The first boat of the morning is marring the surface of the liquid mirror, ferrying the eager towards the other end of the lake. A rooster is crowing in the distance and a child is sniffling in the other room. My magic hour is drawing to a close. The ghosts of my thoughts and the companions I’ve conjured to join me in the silence are looking at one another with knowing eyes and beginning to retreat. My the last swallow in my teacup is cold.

It is time to greet the day.