by Kim Evans for the Herald-Times
I’m writing this column fresh from my spring break trip to Mexico. My family and I went on a cruise through the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula where we visited the Mayan archaeological site of Chichen Itza and the beautiful island of Cozumel.
This was my third trip to the Yucatan. I think it’s my favorite place in the world, and it made me reflect back over my previous trips there.
When I was a psychology student at IU, part of my degree requirement was a “culture study” component in which I took a block of courses related to a specific culture of my choosing. The culture I chose was Mesoamerica, which included study of the Olmec, Maya and Aztec civilizations of Mexico. This is how my fascination with these cultures began.
My favorite class was in Fine Arts, a study of Pre-Columbian art. I was captivated by the symbolism of these people. We studied stone carvings of the jaguar, feathered serpent and human forms ranging in size from colossal heads to tiny figurines carved from jade. The architecture of these civilizations was amazing as well. The 90-foot tall pyramid of Kukulkan in Chichen Itza was designed so that twice a year, on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, the shadows and light play down the side of the pyramid to give the appearance of a serpent descending into the ground.
Immediately after graduating, I was compelled to take a trip to Mexico to visit some of these mystic places. At age 23, it was quite a journey to take on my own. I made my home base in Cozumel. From there, I booked excursions to the ancient sites of Tulum and Chichen Itza. I recommend a trip like this to any young woman after graduating from college. It was a rite of passage for me into life after college.
The next time I visited Cozumel was on another cruise with my parents, husband and 5-year-old daughter. We swam with the dolphins at a marine park.
And this time our trip was more educational. Our daughter had just finished studying the Maya and Aztec cultures in her sixth grade class at University Elementary, so we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to bring her classroom learning to life.
On the bus ride to Chichen Itza, our tour guide told us about the Mayan calendar. Of Mayan ancestory himself, he mentioned the prophecy of 2012 that Hollywood and others have depicted as a doomsday event. His take on 2012 was much different. To the extent I can recall the lesson he gave us on the Mayan number system and the sophistication with which they measured time, he simply said Dec. 21, 2012, is the date when the Mayan long count calendar ends. No fear. No freak-out. Simply the end of a cycle.
My take on it is this: What humanity does with this transformative time is up to them. It is an ending, but it is also a beginning.
And so I’m back home in Bloomington. The first thing I checked was my daffodil garden. They had thick buds ready to pop, but none had opened yet. Two days later, they bloomed. I was happy they waited for me to get home.