Jueves, Nada Mas

No Thanksgiving here in Mexico. I could have gone to any number of restaurants to sit with a bunch of expats eating overpriced and inadequately sized portions of turkey and stuffing with no seconds. No seconds? What kind of Thanksgiving doesn’t involve loosening your belt and reflexively weighing yourself when you go to the bathroom?

I know, the story we were all told about the mythical First Thanksgiving is a bunch of whitewashed bullshit, but Thanksgiving nowadays is so far removed from that as to render it irrelevant. We should be recognizing the atrocities perpetrated on Native Americans every single day, not just on this day we reserve for fighting with our families over politics while eating yams and marshmallows mistakenly baked together 100 years ago and incorporated into the ritual to hide the error.

I missed spending the day with my family. I miss that every year, but what I miss even more is leftover turkey sandwiches with stuffing and cranberry sauce on Black Friday, while reading about all the idiots who crammed themselves into a Walmart to buy the same Chinese crap they buy all year long but at a 5 percent discount with bloody noses thrown in as a bonus.

Here in Oaxaca, people lined up for miles on Thursday to get vaccinated, while unvaccinated Americans congregated in snotty pods, sneezing in the peas and onions and playing touch football in the yard.

Here is a completely unrelated photo from Punta Gorda, Belize, more than a decade ago.

Headless Virgin

I have no idea how this virgin lost her head, or why she still stands behind bars in this niche cut into the aqueduct which runs through Oaxaca.

She is the Virgen de Juquila, famous because a 30 cm statue of her survived a fire that destroyed the entire village in which it was located in 1633. Since the 18th century, the statue has resided in Santa Catarina Juquila. Replicas like this one are found all over Oaxaca.

Thousands of people make pilgrimages to visit the Santuario de Juquila annually, presumably to ask favors of her or just to be close to the power they attribute to a miracle.

Why is it that we as humans have this need for something all powerful, something which can solve our problems, something which will maybe even save us from death?

Is it something born of our ability, unlike most animals, to comprehend the passage of time, the existence of a past and future?

Does our knowledge of the future, which inevitably contains our death, terrify us so?

I know that, as my past grows longer and my future shorter, I contemplate the inevitable more often. I long ago passed the point where I had lived longer than I was going to live going forward. I have most likely now passed the midpoint of my adult life as well. It is an interesting feeling for someone such as myself, having no belief in an afterlife.

Yesterday, I had lunch with an older friend who just lost her sister to cancer. She asked me if I believed in an afterlife, already knowing my answer. I said no, but anything is possible. That is the kindest way I can honestly respond to such a question. I could tell by her demeanor that she desperately wants her faith to be true, and for her sake, I wish it too, but I doubt that it is.

It is a blessing that we learn as children that there is no Santa Claus, no Tooth Fairy, no Easter Bunny. I think it is cruel that people are conditioned to continue to believe in a supernatural caretaker and an afterlife. Because of that belief, they never learn to face the finite nature of both our lives and our relevance to the universe.

Belief in an almighty God brings a life where many of your most vexing questions are answered for you, notably the question of what happens after you die. It also brings a life of confusion and disappointment, where you have to reconcile the many horrors of life on Earth with the supposed benevolence of a Creator, where prayers go unanswered, and where good people die young and evil people thrive. A world where justice does not often prevail, and few reach their potential.

It makes one wonder, did this headless saint worship a heartless God?

Seeds

This image was captured on my last visit to Mt. Lemmon, in the Catalinas, just outside of Tucson. I was using the nicest camera I’ve ever owned, a Sony full-frame mirrorless. I bought the camera for the Abuelos project I did in Guatemala in 2018. The image quality that came out of it was stellar, especially in low light situations. I was able to record high definition videos of the Mayan elders I interviewed, up to 30 minutes at a time. In short, it was the right tool for the job.

When I moved to Oaxaca, I decided not to bring it along, for a few reasons. First, it was huge. I hated lugging it around, and the lenses it used were massive as well. If I had wanted telephoto capability, I would have been buying a lens for several thousand dollars that was the size and weight of a 2 liter Coke bottle. Also, ever since my first DSLR, I have been using Olympus, who have a 4:3 format. I like it so much more than the 2:3 standard. I still use my Olympus OM-D micro 4:3 camera. It is light, small, has great macro capability, and I have a 600mm equivalent lens that is the size and weight of a 12 oz Coke can.

I don’t even carry my Olympus around much here. Not that I’m worried about it getting stolen. That of course is a possibility anywhere. It just doesn’t matter so much to me these days. I take lots of photos, just with my phone instead of my camera. Of course no matter how many megapixels your phone has, or how good its software is, a lens the size of your pinkie fingernail will never give you the kind of image you can get with one the size of the top of a Coke can, which in turn will never give you the results of one the size of a 2 liter bottle.

What it comes down to is a couple of things. I have moved on from photography, not in the way I have abandoned painting, but these days, all my images are going here or on Instagram (mostly the latter), so high resolution isn’t so important. I save my attention to detail for my writing projects. I still take a lot of pleasure in documenting my journey through life, and finding beauty in the decaying and the mundane, but I am no longer interested in making giant prints on fancy paper with a professional printer. I just want to share them on your phone or laptop and promote my books occasionally.

Maybe more importantly, I don’t want to be that tourist with his camera perpetually dangling from his neck, waiting to be aimed at whatever or whoever looks exotic. I live here now. It is less and less exotic by the day, This is a good thing. I am beginning to see the mundane more clearly. For the moment, I only take my “real” camera when I go out to historic sites or on tours. When I do tourist things, in other words. I use my phone to document the ever-changing art gallery of Oaxaca’s street art, and to capture whatever oddity or beautiful light attracts my eye.

When those seeds take off in the wind, they don’t know where they will land, but wherever that is, they will find nourishment, take root, grow, and thrive. I’m pretty sure I’ve landed. I’m feeling nourished. The rest remains to be seen.

Thorn Bug

It’s been quite a while. I’ve been busy exploring Oaxaca and the pueblos nearby, taking a two month road trip from here to Maine and back, and working on Ocean, the sequel to Atmosphere.

This image is from my 5th trip to Monte Alban. A friend from Tucson was visiting, who happens to be a biologist, so we spent much of his time here at spectacular archaeological sites, looking at plants and bugs. With one exception, I had already visited the places more than once, so I likely would have ended up photographing the mundane anyway. I doubt I would have ever seen this critter, though, had I not been specifically looking for bugs.

I suppose there is a lesson here, maybe something about perspective, or attention to detail. Maybe about camoflage, or adaptation. Or maybe the lesson is that even if you think you know a place inside and out, it will often surprise you.

You could apply that to people as well. You think you know them, or you think you’ve figured them out, when all of a sudden, they throw you a curve ball. I have come to realize that when I am surprised by someone, it is rarely because they were hiding anything from me. It is usually because I wasn’t paying attention, was making assumptions, or both.

When I titled this post, I thought I might make a reference to Greta Thunberg, who continues to stand up to world leaders in defense of the world itself. We would be foolish to not pay attention to her, or to make assumptions about her or her message.

The world is changing before our eyes, and at an accellerating pace. I’m sure nature will survive, and it is likely that a portion of humanity could adapt and or migrate in the face of rising temperatures and sea levels, but is that what we want?

When it comes down to it, I doubt many people prefer smoke filled skies, polluted water, and mass extinctions. I don’t have the answer, but Greta and her generation might.

80 Words

A while back, I entered Atmosphere in a writing contest. I’ll find out in February whether it wins. In the meantime, I’m getting constant invitations to enter other contests. Today it was one asking for an 80 word story. Turns out I have to subscribe for $10 a month to enter, so no thanks. (Entering my novel cost a one-time fee of $65)

So here is my 80 word story.

“Thank you,” she said, for what he wasn’t sure.
It wasn’t as if he knew what he was doing, or had some kind of innate ability. In fact, he was quite aware that he was painfully inexperienced and inept.
Yet “thank you,” was what she said.
Many years later, it occurred to him that he had been nothing more than a donor.
“You are welcome,” he whispered, and then laughed, in that dishonest way that terribly sad people often do.

Atmosphere & Ocean News

A few days ago was the one year anniversary of the debut of Atmosphere on Amazon. Ratings on both Amazon and Goodreads remain around 4.5 out of 5 stars, and the book has recieved some great reviews. If you have read the book but not reviewed in on either platform, please do. The algorhithms like reviews, and so do I.

Last week I released the harcover version, perfect as a gift for that science fiction fan in your life. Please consider it as the season comes around.

I entered Atmosphere in a first novel contest. I’ll find out if I win in February.  Because of my entry, I recieve weekly emails trying to get me to enter other contests.  Today I got one asking for an 80 word story. I wrote the story, but decided I wasn’t interested in a $10 monthly subscription just to have a chance at $100. Here is the story:

“Thank you,” she said, for what he wasn’t sure.
It wasn’t as if he knew what he was doing, or had some kind of innate ability. In fact, he was quite aware that he was painfully inexperienced and inept.
Yet “thank you,” was what she said.
Many years later, it occurred to him that he had been nothing more than a donor.
“You are welcome,” he whispered, and then laughed, in that dishonest way that terribly sad people often do.

Ocean is progressing slowly. I had to work out some issues with the science and lost track of my flow. Now I am working my way through the 33 chapters I have finished, partly to polish them up, but also to get my creative momentum back. I know where I want the story to go, but haven’t figured out how to get it there yet.  I had hoped to release it lat this year, but I may not make it until January.

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It will be really nice to have this in hand. I think Atmosphere is a good book, but Ocean will be even better. I highly recommend picking up a copy of Atmosphere so you have the background to fully appreciate Ocean.  You won’t be sorry. Just listen to what these people said:

B.K. – I was hooked from the word go. Well written, tightly plotted and such an interesting world. I don’t want to add any spoilers as the way the story unfolds is so engaging.
The characterizations are interesting and though we are just beginning our journey with them, you can already see them as well- rounded whole people.
Super excited for the next book.

J.T. – Whether you are a fan of sciFi or not, this book Is a totally enjoyable read; a vacation from reality. I genuinely look forward to the next book in this series. Kudos to David Scott Moyer. Well done!

S.J.L. – Tight plotting with an unusual thematic approach. Very engaging storytelling. Well developed diverse characters. Lush, rich, other-world flora and fauna depicted to draw the reader into the characters’ experience there. Departs nicely from pseudo-technical description of physics and spaceship operations found in many sci-fi novels. I shared it with two young adults who were very enthusiastic about the read.
Looking forward to the next one!

B.H. – I surprised myself on this one. I don’t usually read science fiction! But I was captured right away and fully enjoyed this playful romp through time and space. This book takes on serious issues but doesn’t weigh heavy. The characters are nicely developed and there are good surprises. A fun afternoon read – but leaving you with some things to ponder!

and my personal favorite:

S.K.C. – What a treat! The characters grabbed me from page one. I was impressed by the author’s ability to keep the many characters distinct and relatable. Each character was made into someone I could see and hear as I read. I felt like I knew them.
There were plenty of details, and yet never did I find myself skimming ahead to skip over an overly expansive description, because there were none (unusual for me not to skim ahead!). All the details needed were provided, but never more than were needed. Some very important facts were dropped like Easter eggs in an open field. They were there and obvious, but the author trusted his readers to pick them up, without making a huge fuss over them.
Science fiction by its nature is a balance of suspending logic and having believable (within the suspension of logic) situations and mechanics. This book nailed it!
Having met the author randomly under a giant statue at the confluence of two rivers in what seemed like the opening of a great book itself, I was excited to buy his book. I love reading “first novels,” and didn’t expect it to be this GREAT! I had to double check his bio to be sure I had it right about it being his first, because this does NOT seem like a “first novel.” It was more in the league of a Crichton or Koontz.
Nicely done! Now, I NEED that second book!
 

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The Coming Rain

Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico, 07-30-21

Which reminded me of this brilliant lyric by Bruce Cockburn:

All day the mountains rose behind a veil of smoke from burning fields
And road dust dyeing black skin bronze and the road rolling like a rough sea
It’s quiet now, just crickets and a dog fight somewhere in the far away
In my heart I hold your photograph
And the thought of you comes on like the feel of the coming rains
Hot breeze ran its fingers through the long grass of a thatched roof eave
They stuck me in the only chair they had while they cooked cassava
And a luckless hen
They asked for one well three lanterns and two hundred liters of fuel and
I said, “Who, me?”
And the time for planting’s coming soon
And the thought of you comes on like the feel of the coming rains
In the town neon flickers in the ruins
Seven crows swoop past the luscious moon
If I had wings like those there’d be no waiting
I’d come panting to your door and slide like smoke into your room
All day the mountains rose behind a veil of smoke from burning fields
And road dust dyeing black skin bronze and the road rolling like a rough sea
It’s quiet now, just crickets and a dog fight somewhere in the far away
In my heart I hold your photograph
And the thought of you comes on like the feel of the coming rains
And the time for planting’s coming soon
And the thought of you comes on like the feel of the coming rains

Mitla Again

I went to Mitla when I was here in 2019 and took all the requisite photos.  The place was nearly empty. When I took a couple of my neighbors there this past weekend, It was obscenely overpopulated.  None of the photos I took last time would have been possible. The Guelaguetza Festival is normally at this time, so a lot of Mexicanos take vacations here.  The festival was cancelled, but the throngs still came.  Anyway, I already had all the touristy photos, so I took these three.  There used to be a trash can in the third one, but thanks to the magic of Content Aware Fill, you can enjoy the view without distraction.

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Villa De Etla, Oaxaca

Went to Villa De Etla for their inaugural cultural festival.  It was nice, with the usual over-long speeches that any inaugural event in Mexico has, some music and dancing, a few tables sampling cane sugar alcohol and sweets, and a contemporary art exhibit which was the highlight for me. All of these photos are from after, when we drove into town and wandered around.

I’m not sure of the exact story behind this magnificent mistake, but the young couple we met out front told us that it was a magical building and that construction had been halted for some reason.

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Aqueducts are all over the place down here.  I’m pretty sure they predate the Spanish invasion.

The church here was way bigger than one might expect for such a small community.  I think there must have been mineral deposits here which made the Spaniards value the location.

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That second image was taken through a hole in the door.  The church was locked up tight.

villadeetla09smAir Plants on the power lines

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