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chichenitza_clip_image008_0000.jpgThe vernal equinox (which came at 7:44 this morning) is a powerful event for me, maybe the most powerful of the year, astrologically speaking.  It’s powerful because it’s attached to a memory, a strange, sweet, strong memory.  Care to hear a story?

My junior year of college, I spent spring break in Cancun with my boyfriend Rob. I was excited for the clear waters and the white sands, but as a religious studies major, I was extra excited because we were going to be there during the vernal equinox–“there” meaning at Chichen Itza, the astounding Mayan temple that’s just a short bus ride inland from the beach parties of Cancun at spring break.

In their architectural genius, the Mayans built the temple in such a way that as the sun moves through the sky on the spring equinox day, the steps of the temple cast a shadow that starts at the apex of the pyramid and winds its way down, a representation of a slithering snake that glides down the pyramid into the earth. It’s a symbol of renewal, fertility, and rebirth. In other words, spring.

I had to see this, and Rob (a structural engineering major) was into it too. We made our bus reservations for the day after we arrived. What follows are four bad decisions on my part:

1. Ate dinner at a place called Senor Frog’s, where food service and the working end of a water slide are within 10 feet of each other.

2. Drank unnamed blue liquids out of test tubes on the dance floor of said establishment. If you knew me, you’d know that this was not a typical practice for me.

3. Woke up the next morning and did not drink water.

4. Wore a solid cotton hat on the excursion to the interior Yucutan. Whose head needs to breathe? Not mine!

When we got to Chichen Itza, we started our tour of the grounds. We learned the Spanish pronunciation for the place, (cheech-HEN it-ZAH). We saw the Temple of a Thousand Warriors and the Great Ball Court, where dramatic (and sacrifice-heavy) rituals were carried out. Serpentine imagery was everywhere. The giant pyramid loomed in the baking sun. The crowd was building–including some spiritual pilgrims who wore white robes. The spring equinox lay just ahead, and the air was electric.

Suddenly, though (see items 1-4 above), I started to feel unbearably hot. I finished my bottle of water, but then the searing heat became a swaying dizziness.  I put my hand on Rob’s shoulder as we followed our guide to the next spot. But one by one, I felt like someone was switching off my senses.  I could no longer hear the guide’s voice. I could longer see Rob in front of me. My hand on his shoulder suddenly got this whoosh of cold.

And then, poof. Bedtime for Bonzo. I passed out. Dehydration, exhaustion, and a hat that kept all my body heat conveniently close to my head conspired, and I was done.

The next thing I know, I was opening my eyes to see Rob’s ultra-relieved face, bathed in this weird vernal equinox light (or was that you-just-passed-out light?), and about 10 kind members of our tour proferring their water bottles.

I started to cry. I couldn’t stop.  

While the serpent shadow was oozing down the Great Pyramid, I was sitting on a curb in the parking lot–in the shade, snuffling and drinking water with Rob’s arm securely around my shoulder.  They showed a video of “the equinox moment” on the bus ride back.

That day is seared into my memory for so many reasons. It had excitement and disappointment, fear, kindness, frailty, and comfort. But those are just emotions–and in a way I can’t quite capture this was a mystical day, maybe the most mystical day of my life so far. I really don’t know what happened, what combination of physical, emotional, and spiritual factors fell on me all at once.  But there was something eternal about the light, the water, the hands, the stones.  

Oh, and by the way – Rob and I celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary this year….

Welcome, welcome spring!

(image: http://www.playatravel.com.mx/chichenitza_clip_image008_0000.jpg)
 

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