Currently in Belize – then back again! Week 19 + 20. Missed some of Plants 365 and want to catch up? I recommend starting from the beginning with week 1.
Hi! I’m Jenn – botanist, CEO, potty mouth.
This is my “plant diary”, where every day for the entire year I will log my experience with plants. I’m not sure what that’s actually going to look like, but it doesn’t really matter – I just want to talk plants.
But first, here’s a little context about me: I fucking love Champagne. I don’t really like reading fiction but can digest it in the podcast form. I listen, read and observe a lot. I happily overeat carbs. I call myself a botanist because I have been a professional (as in, I pay my bills by) horticulturist for the past 15 years. The past 4+ years I have been researching plants with indigenous Mayan and Garifuna cultures in Belize – mostly focusing on organically farmed Cacao theobroma and jungle-grown Yam root. This means lots of time spent working on family farms, lots of jungle hikes, lots of eating weird things and even a bot fly in the arm (I dare you to google bot fly). Vanilla planifolia and Crocus sativus are my jam right now. My hands-on background is florals, farming, herbalism, horticulture and jungle growth. I’ve dabbled in greenhouse growing (3 years in community college, greenhouse management degree), grafting and stone work. I’d like to practice bonsai more. I’m terrible at grammar. I love holistic approaches, but loathe buzzwords and “internet experts”. I could spend less money on crystals. I should do more yoga. I am meditating more. I get angry at Terry Gross, but then fall back in love each week. Reality TV shows are a must. Woodford on the rocks with a twist and a cherry. Hip hop keeps me human. Kale is king.
Why write this? Because I want to remember and reflect on the time I spend with plants.
Ok. Here we go.
Thursday, May 7th 2015 – Placencia, Maya Centre, Belize
Another day on the beach in Placencia. This location really is lovely.
It’s amazing how you crave spicy food and rum and juice – or at least I do. I could easily have a Rum Punch by 10am. I brought one of my 4 oz. Peppermint face + body mists with me on this trip. I’ve been covering myself in a light veil of the mist everyday – like, 20 times a day. Luckily, the bugs don’t like it, plus it cools me down. Managing heat is a full time job in the dry season here.
We all packed in the car and drove together to Maya Centre – I arranged everyone to be involved in a Mayan blessing ceremony with Aurora and Ernesto. First we hiked around Cockscomb basin, a breath taking sanctuary that has my favorite waterfall, called the Mayan massage. You hike about 40 minutes through the jungle to a section of the mountains where the cliffs part and you find a small pool of water. The waterfall is only about 20 feet high, but the water comes down with a decent force. Exactly underneath the waterfall is a large square boulder you can sit on – hence the massage. There’s something about the smell of the wet stone, mineral rich water and surrounding foliage. It feels primal and exotic, but comforting and for some reason… Normal, like you should be there.
The waterfall and cave is an indulgent space. You are hot and tired and ready to get away form the mosquitoes by the time you come across it. Which is fine, since all you need to do is strip down and jump in the water. The depth and darkness of the water is frightening and comfortable all at the same time. It calls out – I’m here! I’m not fake. I will embrace you and you will be safe.
Around 3pm we hiked out and drove the red dirt road down to Aurora’s for the blessing ceremony. It was surreal to be back at the altar where Matt and I shared our wedding vows only a year earlier. The altar is a simple concrete… planter box, I guess you can say. It looks a little lonely when unattended. But when Aurora prepares for a ceremony, she adornes it with banana leaves, cacao pods, ginger and bougainvillea flowers and a smoldering lump of sacred copal. The space comes alive and feels warm and intentional. The backdrop is the jungle, so palm and mahogany trees whip around in the wind.
We participated in the ceremony with Aurora and Ernesto, Dustin and Erica. It was deliberate, articulate and heart felt. Ernesto always surprises me with his gift for grounding all of our intentions in spoken word, seemingly totally off the cuff.
The copal burned. The wind whipped. The black smoke was almost too much – smudging all of our faces with sout. The banana leaves sindged.
I teared up when Ernesto blessed us, while describing a universal intention of – “we all just want to be nicer to people – because when others prosper, we prosper.”
We left the ceremony and wandered back to the herbal center to enjoy Cashew wine with our generous hosts. Friends with the same problems, same intentions – but a very different lifestyle.
Afterwards we drove home and we got drunk. Like, really drunk. And I slaughtered at playing Jenga at the Pickled Parrot. Then we got mostly naked and swam in the ocean around midnight. I woke up with seaweed in my hair and sand in the sheets.
Friday, May 8th 2015 – Placencia, Belize
I took time today to mediate and actively slow my brain down on the beach. I walked down the narrow concrete walkway past the cabanas to the beach. There are a few huge Plumeria shrubs along the way and I snagged a flower for my hair, like a proper tourist. I remember walking on hot concrete sidewalks with bare toes when I was little and my family used to stay in Calistoga for the summers. I knew it would be hot walking down to the pool, but I didn’t like bringing “extra stuff”, even at 10 years old. Now I really don’t like bringing extra stuff – and I rarely stop to weight the risk of burned feet sans flip-flops. I grab my book, my water and run out the door and down the pathway.
My feet make that silly flapping sound. Matt looked at me and laughed.
It was nice to remember a quirk from when I was young – and I mentally pictured my Grandma yelling out to me – “It’s too hot! Put on some shoes!” as I ran past her holding as many R.L. Stein books as I could carry down to the pool.
Sometimes it got too hot and I’d have to stop under some shade and stand in dirt, somewhere off the concrete. Now I can run faster with longer strides but still ask myself why the fuck I don’t just put on the flip-flops?
I’ts nice to think of my Grandma while I’m in Belize. Does she “see ” me here?
Saturday, May 9th 2015 – Placencia, Belize
I’m working on the school garden. Digesting my time spent with Aurora and drinking at the Pickled Parrot.
I’m feeling tired and sick from the bug bites.
Sunday, May 10th 2015 – San Igancio, Belize
Today we drove from Placencia to San Ignacio. We said goodbye to the little beach town and sped back up the Hummingbird highway – my second favorite highway to drive. I worried less about my guests and felt comfortable to listen to some podcasts and an audiobook in the car during the 3.5 hour drive.
We arrived in San Ignacio around 2pm. It was pretty dead, with very little people out. San Ignacio is fun and small and a series of streets that run from tight, residential roads to cobbled or paved streets leading to shops, bars, restaurants and pharmacies. Most everything was closed, but Matt and I stole some time and drove the neighborhoods because I love seeing where people live. There’s a town called Seine Beight, which outwardly, is pretty rough and impoverished. It’s home to some amazing artists and beautiful beach front cabanas. One room houses with wind-honed wood and bright curtains reaching out of the window for the sun. It’s a door, a window, and piece of wood that you want to capture on film – or, at least on your iPhone. I’ve always wanted to walk around and take pictures but there is something hugely lame about taking pictures of other people’s houses – especially people who live very simply. I didn’t want to knock on a door and interrupt dinner to ask, “can I take a picture of your wooden door?”, like a supreme asshole.
So we just used our eyes and left our phones and cameras in the car.
Monday, May 11th 2015 – San Ignacio, Belize, Houston, Texas
United Airlines is terrible.
Tuesday, May 12th 2015 – Houston Texas, San Jose, CA, HMB
United airlines is terrible.
Wednesday, May 13th 2015 – HMB
Happily home and the BB roses are still in bloom!
Tired. Happy to see and feel fog. Happy to see my animals. It’s always so nice to come home to the doggies.
Thursday, May 14th 2015 – HMB, Hillsborough
Dealing with client’s who are clearly off their meds.
Friday, May 15th 2015 – HMB
Back in the shop – remerching with my Belize stuff. Yay! Feels good in here.
Saturday, May 16th 2015 – HMB
The roses need dead heading but I’m delaying gratification.
Sunday, May 17th 2015 – HMB
I should grocery shop at some point this year. I miss my own Kale… The snails stole them.
Monday, May 18th 2015 – HMB
Back at work with normal, high-functioning clients. Very happy to be clipping Roses, Nepeta, Armeria and Poppies. I’m not using the hedge trimmer with the Camellia because I want to get close and do it by hand… It’s just, I’m short!
Tuesday, May 19th 2015 – HMB, Hillsborough, Burlingame
Moving and spreading 73 bags of organic, aged compost today.
Wednesday, May 20th 2015 – HMB
I’m loving my garden right now – it’s happy despite my being gone for a bit. The Borage is going bananas!
Last year a house down the street from us went up for sale. Matt and I waited until sunset and then scoped it out, walking through the backyard like it was our own. The property is a generous size for a normal residential lot and it slopes down to the creek and to a cluster of happy Alder trees. The shear size of it is impressive and lovely… But then there’s the Boxwood. Facing the backyard to the left, is a dirt path tightly lined with long, winding rows of old, old, old Boxwood. I don’t have a picture yet, but I’ll post it, because it’s enchanting. Recently, the new owners came to the shop to inquire about landscaping services… it turns out we worked together years ago on a home they had in El Granada. Kismet.
I went for a consultation and walked the backyard again. It’s hard not to hug the old, neglected Boxwood, but I don’t want to scare off my potential new clients.