Creativity & Culture- Off the Beaten Path

In a discussion with chef Luis Valesquez, a local Honduran friend, about the artisan crafts he displays in his Gastro Gallery, he mentioned a town an hour north of Tegucigalpa that had larger-than-life street art covering its walls. I was intrigued. How could this be? I’d been here three years and never heard of this nearby museum outdoors.

Research revealed that this inspirational project in the historical town of Catarranas, founded in 1667 by Spanish rulers, stemmed from artist Javier Espinal. In 2011, he proposed to transform the city’s walls with art. With government investment from the San Juan de Flores municipality, and In collaboration with artists from Honduras, Mexico, Columbia, and Argentina, more than fifty vibrant murals depicting themes of light, peace, and the roots of Honduras were created. (Artists’ signatures are painted on their talented works).

Wanderlust propelled me to take my son out of school and go exploring. I live with perpetual fernweh: a German word meaning “a longing for unseen places.” Like a racehorse stuck at the gate, every so often, I have the desire to break away from daily life and reconnect with something bigger. A friend who home-schools her son agreed, and off we went on our field trip.

We drove the tree-lined, winding RN-25 route north of Valle de Angeles until we entered the tropical cloud forest in the mountains. Thick mist blurred the the two-lane highway until twenty minutes beyond, when the sun returned, this hidden gem called Catarranas, meaning “singing frogs,” appeared.

Walking to the main square to get our bearings, we paused to admire a few sculptures near the pretty iglesia. We were awe-struck by the innovation before us as we ambled through cobblestone streets to find a stunning trompe l’oeil painting “spilling” down the stairs. Another artist used a home’s door as a book shelf, and a narrow alley was shaded by a canopy of crayon-colored umbrellas. This town was wonderfully alive with magical details, surrealism, and movement in those brush strokes.

On the way home, we made a brief detour where my friend had taken a pottery class in San Juancito, which for a tiny village, was teeming with history. It was the site of the original American Embassy in Honduras, housed the first electrical plant in all of Central America, and was one of the country’s first gold and silver mining towns.

Adjacent to an unassuming cafe was a factory, once a soda bottling plant, that now makes pottery, handmade paper, blown glass, and woven baskets.

At the end of the day, I was buzzing from the immersion of creativity and culture. Coupled with the freedom of walking outdoors, feeling safe with our cameras, and soaking up the friendly smiles of locals, it was one of my favorite days in Honduras.

Le Vaya Bien. Go Well.

Tracy

Notable Honduran Sights and Sounds

As we near the end of our three years in Honduras, the ticking clock is a reminder to enjoy the time we have left. The following are a few thoughts and images of notable moments.

Tegucigalpa   IMG_8051

While drinking coffee in our garden, an almost imperceptible coughing sound came from the bushes. My eyes spied shadowy movement in the Hibiscus, where a magnificent, deep green and shimmering humming bird drew nectar from a salmon blossom tinged with yellow, levitating like a magical fairy.

A cacophony of sound surrounds the patio this morning: honking cars and revving engines, struggling against the ascent of steep hills, nearly drowning out the whistling of a pedestrian. Wind chimes bump in the light breeze, sending out bright notes like clinking crystal glasses while a squawking parrot interrupts the purr of the a/c unit next door.

Papery palm leaves scratch against the stucco wall. Men pushing a cart through the streets call out for broken items, ringing a bell reminiscent of childhood ice cream trucks.

Honduyate, Lago De Yajoa, and Pulhapanzak Falls

A day that includes boats and calls for binoculars and a good camera lens is a good day. Careful steps on the rickety bridge led us through yellow and lime-colored grasses that hid condors and cranes.

The metal cable emitted a high pitched whir as we zip-lined over a 43-meter, thunderous waterfall with birds dipping and diving in the spray beneath us. We fell asleep to the sounds of crickets and cicadas.

How fortunate to drink coffee in a hammock under a tree with purple flowers, next to a babbling brook.

Pico Bonito and Garifuna Island

Beans, bananas, and goaty white cheese for breakfast and fish with teeth for lunch. Unbridled dancing in the sand with locals and a group hug with a sloth. Laughter and toucans, turquoise water, and crayon-colored boats.

West Bay and Ibagari Boutique Hotel, Roatan

When the twin- prop plane broke through cumulus clouds, a glowing rainbow was revealed.

A park ranger gave Ramsay fish food and explained few shells make it to the beach in Roatan because of the “iron shore” ring of coral reefs.

Right after a shower and dressing for dinner, Ramsay unbuttoned his pressed shirt and trousers, turned on the tap and climbed quickly into the deep porcelain tub at the Ibagari  “because I just have to. Look at that tub.” Wrapped in a thick terrycloth robe afterward, he suggested, “It’s so cozy, let’s just order room service instead.”

Snorkeling before breakfast might be our favorite new beach tradition.

“Can I buy some?” Ramsay asked, referring to the well-dressed man selling banana bread out of a purple plastic cooler on the beach. We then ate the warm slices on a table with Bird of Paradise flowers, watermelon “sandia” and tamarind juices.

Visiting La Patrona, a woman-owned coffee company that is 39 years old, we learned the perfect shade of red for picking shade-grown coffee beans is called sangre de toro, and the grading process for a coffee tasting is strict.

Among many memorable things about this country, we will miss our friends here, the art, tacos and futbol, roadside vendors, picking sun-kissed blackberries at Finca La Contadora, and drinking chamomile tea made from fresh flowers.

And last, but certainly not least, Honduras brought us our beloved family dog, Biscuit, and the best companion a boy could ask for.

Gracias for these gifts, Honduras.

Nos Vemos,

Tracy

 

 

 

A Sacred Space

 

“There is an Indian proverb that says everyone is a house with four rooms:  physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.”― Rumer Godden 

At 7:45 am, the car in reverse, something catches my eye in the review mirror as the garage door opens. It’s a bird’s nest in mid-creation; thin twigs and strands of field grass have tumbled down. A brief sadness floats through me, wishing she had chosen a sturdier place for her home, her work now dismantled.   

The fallen nest is like living abroad with its moments of feeling unmoored. I relate to her temporal housing, like a sandcastle eroding with a vanishing wave, or a hermit crab shedding its shell. International moves and occasional cultural mishaps have taught me to create a safe refuge; not just a house, but a home. 

Post errands, I step with a mug of tea into the light-filled room that buoys my spirit. Through the open window, soft light spills onto the tiles and a gentle breeze rustles the palms. The curtains billow like sails, curling around the bookshelf holding crooked stacks of travel journals and stories of empowered women. 

Taking centering breaths, I sense the cosmic connection in this room; a haven for soul crafting and building castles in the sky. “A woman needs a room of her own,” Virginia Woolf said. This is where I begin my morning ritual of meditation and writing. I call it my sanctuary, a space to hear my thoughts and seek inspiration. 

Each time we change houses, I claim a space as mine, surrounding myself with favorite photos, art, and travel mementos that feel like me; a snapshot of the world from my perspective. 

Like the concept of “Wonder Rooms” (from the German word  Wunderkammern) in the Victorian Era, when cabinets of curiosities were popular, I display my most cherished objects: rosewood tea boxes with stationery collected from museums and hotels, the mint and gold silk carpet I hand-carried home years ago from Marrakesh, a special hand-painted porcelain globe.  I light a candle, which stands proudly in its decorative stand from Kusadasi, relishing memories of standing in the Blue Mosque and exploring markets across Europe. 

A nest made of Vetiver root from Swaziland holds shells and feathers, and an Italian glass dish cradles healing stones and talisman. A dented singing bowl rests alongside a bottle of ink from Paris. A lantern with stars and moons illumines the corner of the room.   

I roll out my yoga mat, spritzing a blend of essential oils into the air.  Sanity returns and I feel myself expand in this sacred space where I rekindle dreams and am restored.

“I have sometimes thought that a woman’s nature is like a great house full of rooms: there is the hall, through which everyone passes in going in and out; the drawing-room, where one receives formal visits; the sitting-room, where the members of the family come and go… but beyond that, far beyond, are other rooms, the handles of whose doors perhaps are never turned; no one knows the way to them, no one knows whither they lead; and in the innermost room, the holy of holies, the soul sits alone and waits for a footstep that never comes.” – Edith Wharton from her story, “Fullness of Life:”

Do you have a sacred space or nook? 

What are the precious objects that make you feel grounded? 

Namaste, 

Tracy