Learning Archeology In Situ At Chan Chich Lodge

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We recently posted a brief description of this program in the events section on the Chan Chich Lodge website, and here we provide a longer description written by the program organizers. The photos are from recent years of the program. I am looking forward to welcoming Professor Houk and his team of archeology students to Chan Chich Lodge few weeks from now, and especially looking forward to the opportunity guests of the lodge will have to join the evening lecture series, discussing the history of the location and particular discoveries from the site:

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Guests of Chan Chich Lodge are the most recent inhabitants of the ancient Maya city of Chan Chich. Abandoned around AD 900, the once proud buildings, plazas, courtyards, reservoirs, gardens, and fields were gradually reclaimed by the jungle for over 1,100 years… Continue reading

Big Day Pledge

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As we have in past years, in solidarity with our friends and colleagues at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, we are sharing the pledge drive as far and wide as we can, and look forward to doing our part more specifically in a couple weeks:

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On May 9th, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s top birding team will begin the long journey to the Yucatan Peninsula for Big Day 2017. Big Day is an all out midnight-to-midnight birding event to see who can identify the most species in a 24 hour period. Team Sapsucker hopes to find the most birds yet — by identifying 300 bird species. Continue reading

Escapist Noir

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In Melville films starring Alain Delon, cops and robbers feel interchangeable. Illustration by Malika Favre

In these pages our norm is to give visitors reasons to escape urban life and immerse in nature, join conservation initiatives, support communities at home and in faraway places alike. When we need a brief getaway from all that, we occasionally do it in reverse. In places where we can be reminded of mankind’s occasional flashes of genius. One of my favorite critics has me thinking about being in a big, dark room in New York City in the coming days:

This is how you should attend the forthcoming retrospective of Jean-Pierre Melville movies at Film Forum: Tell nobody what you are doing. Even your loved ones—especially your loved ones—must be kept in the dark. If it comes to a choice between smoking and talking, smoke. Dress well but without ostentation. Wear a raincoat, buttoned and belted, regardless of whether there is rain. Any revolver should be kept, until you need it, in the pocket of the coat. Finally, before you leave home, put your hat on. If you don’t have a hat, you can’t go.

Melville was born almost a hundred years ago, on October 20, 1917. The centennial jamboree starts on April 28th and ends on May 11th, followed by a weeklong run of “Léon Morin, Priest” (1961), starring Jean-Paul Belmondo in the title role. (Thanks to Godard’s “Breathless,” released the year before, Belmondo was at the time the coolest Frenchman alive, so what did Melville do? Put him in a dog collar and a black soutane.) In all, the festival, which after New York will travel to other cities, comprises twelve features and one short. Only a single work is missing, a rarity entitled “Magnet of Doom” (1963). Continue reading

For The Wordies In Our Midst

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A galley proof shows some of the work that went into adding “ginormous” to Merriam-Webster’s 2007 collegiate dictionary. Charles Krupa/AP

We care about the meaning and use of words about as much as we care about the specific themes words are used in these pages to evoke in all manner of variation: conservation, community, collaboration, food, etc. Among us are perhaps some repentant grammar scolds, so thanks to the Atlantic’s Megan Garber for this review, which I was led to read after listening to an interview with Kory Stamper (click the image above to go to that podcast):

The Case Against the Grammar Scolds

The lexicographer Kory Stamper’s new book, Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries, is an eloquent defense of a “live and let live” approach to English.

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Does The Margay Purr?

 

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Thanks for this photo go to a mom and daughter team who were out every day recently from pre-dawn until late evening, absorbing all on display at Chan Chich Lodge and its surrounding forests. Their last night, sharing the night safari with the family who contributed here, was a golden opportunity, so to speak. This margay looks so content, and intent, in a feline way, that I cannot help but wonder whether these wild cats purr.

Skip The Machine, Skip The Packs, Come To Where The Juice Is Fresh Every Day

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Do You Need a $400 Juicer?

Anything that can be labeled “the Keurig of” makes my skin crawl. Thanks to Ellen Huet and Olivia Zaleski at Bloomberg for pointing out more anecdotal evidence of the genius of PT Barnum. Why put juice in plastic packs? Why then squeeze it from a machine, let alone such a pricey one? Why not take a week off grid, let us pluck the fruits and vegetables of your choice, and have it served as often as you like as a refresher on the back to nature idea? From many cities in the USA, you can buy a round trip ticket to Belize for the same cost of a machine that will squeeze juice packs for you. Juicero will set you back, while Chan Chich Lodge will set you forward:

Silicon Valley’s $400 Juicer May Be Feeling the Squeeze

Two investors in Juicero were surprised to learn the startup’s juice packs could be squeezed by hand without using its high-tech machine. Continue reading

Cavafy, Ithaca

cover_cavafy_pbIf you already read this,  you likely treated yourself to the poem the author referenced. I continue to lean on Kazantzakis but perhaps the best outcome for me of reading what Daniel Mendelsohn published in the current issue of the New Yorker was a direction to his translation of Cavafy:

An extraordinary literary event: Daniel Mendelsohn’s acclaimed two-volume translation of the complete poems of C. P. Cavafy—including the first English translation of the poet’s final Unfinished Poems—now published in one handsome edition and featuring the fullest literary commentaries available in English, by the renowned critic, scholar, and international best-selling author of The Lost. Continue reading

Team Sapsucker, Looking Forward To Global Big Day In The Yucatan Peninsula

We are looking forward to Andy’s arrival in Belize, with his team mates from the Lab and others from Belize. When I say “we” I am referring to the entire staff and community at Chan Chich Lodge.

As Global Big Day draws closer, it is time to introduce Andrew Farnsworth, Captain of Team Belize. We love the idea of the healthy competition among the 3 teams that will spend their Big Day birding the Yucatán –  and the Chan Chich guiding team especially looks forward to assisting the Lab team. Continue reading

Foraging Classes

HornFarmCenterLogoStacked-72-540x540WhiteBGA mushroom dropped in on my life, in an unexpected manner, and now I find myself wandering to unexpected places, such as rural Pennsylvania. I am sharing here mainly as a record of how I have come across the resources that inform how we approach bringing foraging to Chan Chich Lodge.

So, bravo and thanks to our friends at the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education, which is my latest find in these wanderings. I particularly like their clearly laid out information on the educational resources they offer, most notably this section on foraging classes: Continue reading

Odyssey’s Everlasting Allure

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The title had me at Father, and again at Odyssey (Final, not so much). My first encounter with Homer was in an advanced literature course in my last year of high school. As a father now, with a son who found his way back home to another Ithaca, after his own odyssey, I could not resist jumping right into this story. But half way through, I stopped reading it. I will not say why I stopped, but I mentioned it to Amie, who I consult on matters of an aesthetic nature, especially when they intersect with matters of a familial nature, and she had already read it to the end. She said it was important to read it all the way through. I now understand why, and must recommend the same now, whether or not you have read the Odyssey:

A FATHER’S FINAL ODYSSEY

My octogenarian dad wanted to study Homer’s epic and learn its lessons about life’s journeys. First he took my class. Then we sailed for Ithaca. Continue reading

If You Eat Canned Tuna, Consider This

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We check in with EcoWatch regularly, and from time to time Greenpeace has a surprising piece of content featured, like this 20 Canned Tuna Brands Ranked: How Sustainable Is Your Brand?

StarkistWarn.jpgWhat is surprising to me is this pop up call to action, which echoes back at least three decades for me to the first time I heard of Greenpeace, which was also the first time I heard of any issues related to canned tuna, which was also the first time I looked on a map to see where the Gulf of California, and Baja California Sur were situated. It is surprising because on the ranking above, this same tuna is not the absolute worst of the worst. Even more surprising, in its own way, is that Trader Joe’s is even worse in this ranking. Go figure. Anyway, thanks to David Pinsky, Greenpeace, and EcoWatch for this: Continue reading

Margay Jump Start

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In the post where I mentioned this margay sighting I did not yet have any photographic evidence. Now I do. Prior to their departure, the same Los Angeles family mentioned in this cat-sighting post handed me the memory card from their camera and I was able to pull these images. In the rush of the holiday weekend I had forgotten these until now. Above was the first, taken as quickly as the camera could be lifted to follow the spotlight. Below, an enlargement of the cat. Continue reading

Margay Sighting @ Chan Chich Lodge

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Persistence does not always pay off. But, it is often a great trait for its own sake. We all admire people who set out to do something, and stick with it long after there is reason to continue hoping for that something. And, if you are like me, you cheer the underdog, hoping they will at the very last minute get that something. Continue reading

Dismantling Protection, Effectively & Efficiently

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How is it that an Administration as disorganized as Donald Trump’s has been so methodical when it comes to attacking the environment? PHOTOGRAPH BY JOE RAEDLE / GETTY

I committed myself to not name the name, because it adds fuel to a flame that is already out of control. But if you have read any of the posts in our model mad series the name is clearly implied.  Plenty of others name so well that it is best just to link their work. One of the best namer of names when it comes to our environment, and failure to protect it, is Elizabeth Kolbert. She occasionally points out that we do not simply fail to protect, but willingly allow the named to dismantle critical protections. We are sadly impressed that Dame Doomsday doesn’t disappoint with her latest contribution:

Next week, millions of Americans will celebrate Earth Day, even though, three months into Donald Trump’s Presidency, there sure isn’t much to celebrate. A White House characterized by flaming incompetence has nevertheless managed to do one thing effectively: it has trashed years’ worth of work to protect the planet. As David Horsey put it recently, in the Los Angeles Times, “Donald Trump’s foreign policy and legislative agenda may be a confused mess,” but “his administration’s attack on the environment is operating with the focus and zeal of the Spanish Inquisition.” Continue reading

Family, Editorializing, Persistence

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A front page screen shot of Iowa’s Storm Lake Times, which has won a Pulitzer Prize. Photograph: Storm Lake Times

There seems to be a tradition in the field of journalism in the USA whereby one publication celebrates another’s victory in the Pulitzer awards race. Thanks to the Guardian for its shout out, from across the water, to this little publication. As a member of a small organization with multiple family members working together; an organization that editorializes about food as much as anything else; an enterprise that persists against the odds; I particularly like the David & Goliath ring of this:

Tiny, family-run Iowa newspaper wins Pulitzer for taking on agriculture companies

Art Cullen owns the 3,000-circulation Storm Lake Times with his brother John. His wife and son also work at the paper Continue reading

Happy 20th Anniversary, Meg!

543092After posting this quick thought about foraging, I sent a link to Meg, and she reminded me that she had not only been to Belize but that there is a book about her time here.

As I explored the book I realized that it was first published 20 years ago, incidentally the year when I first visited Belize. I also discovered that the book is in wide circulation among educators in the USA, for hopefully obvious good reasons:

Journey along with Dr. Meg Lowman, a scientist who, with the help of slings, suspended walkways, and mountain-climbing equipment, has managed to ascend into one of our planet’s least accessible and most fascinating ecosystems–the rain-forest canopy. “Fresh in outlook and intriguing in details, this book will strengthen any library collection on the rainforest.”–Booklist Continue reading

Newtonian Moment At Chan Chich Lodge

ForageCCL.jpgEach morning at dawn, and then again at dusk, I walk the trails at Chan Chich Lodge. The walks serve multiple purposes, but they also serve no particular purpose; and when I get that just right, ideas present themselves.

This tree, not a standout in any way I can see, is a marker for me now. It is on a trail where I have had some wonderful wildlife sightings, the best of which, camera-less, was with a tapir. More recently, a troupe of peccaries was snouting around the base of this tree.

And most days there are two species of primate in the vicinity, each challenging the other for territory in their own way–one with grunting howls and the other by shaking clusters of branches vigorously to appear more intimidating than their common name, spider monkey, would imply. Yesterday, a Newtonian inspiration, tailored to my own interests, came to me right here. I saw these bursts of light on the tree trunk at the same moment that I heard a plop in the leaves on the ground right in front of the tree.

ForageCCL2Instead of an apple, and instead of my head, it was some sort of a fungus, a cluster of mushrooms by the look of it, that fell from the canopy into the ground cover. Gravity already having had its heyday of consideration, I instead turned my thoughts to the possibility of a new dimension to the Chan Chich Lodge food program.

I had never heard of mushrooms growing in the forest canopy, but why should I not expect such a thing? I know from our friend Meg, among others, that the vast majority of biodiversity in a rainforest is concentrated in the canopy. So, hmmmm. Is it an edible one?

I snapped these photographs and sent them to one of the two fellows who I always consult on these matters. Answer: too dry to make a positive id. Don’t eat. Of course I will not! But, and here’s the closest I will get to a Newtonian moment of inspiration… Continue reading

Utopia, Dystopia & Options

852ad6386c912e57e5ddca3d6602a1da.jpgI just listened to a conversation with Mr. Bregman, and as he explained the premise for his book I was struck: times like these are exactly when the seeds for utopian thinking are in the most fertile soil. The book itself is not likely my cup of tea, but I am impressed by this man’s effort to bring us this, now.

Cory Doctorow’s essay, over at Wired, is a perfect read to continue the thoughts on choices we make related to utopia versus dystopia:

…The difference between utopia and dystopia isn’t how well everything runs. It’s about what happens when everything fails. Here in the nonfictional, disastrous world, we’re about to find out which one we live in. Continue reading