The Art of the Siesta

I’ve been here in Central America long enough now, I think, to have learned a few things about local culture that cross the borders of all three countries I’ve visited – Panama, Nicaragua and now, Honduras. Oh, there’s plenty of “very important” cultural things to be learning, absorbing and reporting back on. Another time for all that, thank you.

Today I want to write about what I’ve learned about not only about how to survive in the heat and humidity; but also about moving through my days more slowly, leisurely and at a pace that is far, far away from the one we Westerners have called contemporary life; namely lazing about in hammocks and taking mid-day siestas. For someone who doesn’t follow much of a routine – while traveling nor at ‘home,’ (wherever that may be these days) – I’ve taken to the habit of The Afternoon Siesta. And here’s the most important thing I have to say about it: it’s not just for children anymore.

Here’s how my days tend to flow: up early – around six or seven – and out and about before the heat of the day settles in and bakes everyone to a crisp. I spend the morning walking, swimming, exploring – whether that be the town or nature, the nearby Mayan ruins while I’m here in Copan – and sometimes just aimless wandering, maybe my favorite of all. Once I’ve either had my fill or the sun has worn me out, it’s back to wherever I’m laying my head and I have a relax. A big relax. In almost every place, there have been hammocks in which to partake. They’re the place to be in mid-afternoon and I’ve taken my place amongst the locals who do exactly that. While I wouldn’t want to spend the night depending on them to give me my daily ration of quality sleep, they do me just fine for my mid-afternoon snooze.

Like yesterday, for example. I was up and out and back at the Copan ruins at 8 am, this time with two women who were also staying here at La Posada Belssy. They – like most tourists who float through this town – were here for just two days and they jumped at the chance to go to the ruins with me and hire a guide together. It was perfect for me, too, because it gave me a chance to split the cost and have a day of deeper understanding of the ruins after the day I spent on my own in quiet silence and reflection.

I wish I could post some pics not only of the extraordinary Mayan ruins, but of what is becoming my beloved hammock-lounging. But my internet connection here at this sweet, small, simple, family-run place is very slow, so photos are out of the question at the moment. I’ll be lucky to be able to get this posted.

The hammocks are all locally made, in beautiful, bright primary colors of soft, soft cotton. I shimmy myself in, find my spot and then here comes the relax. Dangling, being held and suspended, as the soft air drifts in and up and around and I move gently in the soft breeze. I watch the clouds overhead, feel the warm sun on my body and read whatever happens to be what’s got my attention these days. In no time, the Kindle is set aside and I drift off into sleep. Often they’re just little cat naps and yet I awaken so refreshed and delighted, finding myself at such a sense of ease and comfort. Yes, hammocks and afternoon siestas. I suggest you run right out and get one and try this on for size. It will change your life, I mean it.

As the pace of this trip is divinely filled with plenty of down time, I’ve carved out places almost everywhere to find my spot for The Afternoon Siesta. Oh, and let me clarify, it’s not all about sleeping, the AS; no, no, no. While napping has its place, it’s also simply time to just be. Time for digestion, reflection, writing, reading and looking at the innumerable and fantastic photos I’ve taken to record the trip. How is it we’ve come to fill our days with constantly doing, constantly moving, constantly producing, with such little expanse of time for just be-ing? Not to romanticize life here in the 3rd world, because their lives are far from easy; but you will find people here, everywhere, taking plenty of time to just be. I think we can learn a lot about that from them. And so I am.

I create just the right seating arrangement (when I venture out of the hammocks, that is), arrange some tea or other drinks; and with computer, camera and kindle nearby, I’ve found my spot! At Guillermo’s in Granada, I had the whole colonial house from which to choose – sometimes in my gargantuan bedroom, oft times somewhere in the plant-filled courtyard. Guillermo and I read poetry together, listened to music and shared laughter and talk of love and life and culture. And naturally, we lazed about in hammocks.

At Hotel Mariposa near Léon, it was poolside doing much of the same. There, with the intensity of the overwhelming heat, I was in and out of the pool every few minutes. And then, it was back to the hammock or to the rattan chairs.

Here at La Posada Belssy in Copan, it’s on the rooftop terrace that has an expansive view over the entire town and the verdant mountains beyond. A small pool, a kitchen and yes, of course, the hammock. This morning for the first time in months, it’s cool and I am enjoying the relief from the often stifling heat.

That early morning routine I thought I was settling into – well, such as I am, today I’ve already changed it. I thought I’d head out early once again, but I woke up late and decided to come on up to the terrace and do some writing and then I realized, hey today’s the day to flip the schedule. I think I’ll spend the entire morning and early afternoon up here – with more of the same, reading, writing and hammocking – and then do my thing in the afternoon. I love following the whims of my rhythms, having no schedule and having only myself with whom to consult on how to create my day. Ode to Freedom indeed!

Today I’ve watched the Outer Cape Chorale’s recent concert of Brahm’s Requiem on the internet (stunning, I tell you, stunning, with some of my favorite people, including the extraordinary director, the one and only Jon Arterton! – watch it here if you like:, sent some emails and yep, you got it, had some hammock time. I couldn’t really imagine a much better way to spend a morning (well, sure, that, too; but that’s talk for another time).

Later, much later, it’s off to Los Sapos, some other nearby ruins where women play a prominent role (finally!) and then, it’s my last evening in Copan. I’ll head to Parque Central where the local people sit and chat, the children run around playing and I take it all in and have a chance to practice my Spanish with the very friendly folks who notice me as one of the few tourists within their midst.

Yes, I’ve found my stride on this trip, markedly different from a full itinerary of this and that and the other thing. I’ve had my share of sights and experiences and yet; I found that settling in and creating the simple, cozy comforts of home, resting and reflecting have been some of the highlights, too. Again I’ve learned the wisdom of listening to my body and letting it set the pace. Maybe it’s my time of life, too; oh yes, I’m sure it is. Jung, amongst many, many other great minds, speaks of the Stages of Life and as I move into my own afternoon and evening time, there are essential shifts which are required with which to meet this time.

“Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.”
~ Carl Gustav Jung

Ah yes, the afternoon and evening of my life – there’s something to absorb and savor.

After almost a week here, I leave bright and early tomorrow morning (6 am!) and head  – YIPEEEEE! – back to the warm, luscious, turquoise waters of my beloved Caribbean sea! Guess, just guess what I’ll be doing there!

And then this, from MK as usual, who found yet another perfect quote:

You are not here to verify,
instruct yourself or inform curiosity
or carry report. You are here to kneel…
~ T. S. Eliot

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