Healing on the High Seas – Part 2 March 4, 2012Posted by Tracy in : Uncategorized , 1 comment so far
Sunday dawned somewhere over the high seas, and we emerged poolside to find the yoga instructor cheerily calling out over a stiff ocean breeze: “Remember, surrender all resistance; we’re in battlefield conditions. This will strengthen your practice!”
A hundred pairs of arms reached for the sky as the last shades of pink faded away, and another brisk troupe circled the track overhead. “Just go to the edge of your comfort zone – remember, it’s vacation yoga!”
It’s morning workout time on the MSC Poesia, the chartered cruise line for the Holistic Holiday at Sea, and poolside chats are at a minimum – 1,200 cruise passengers are here with a mission, and I’m no exception. I’m here with my parents – Dad, who has recently made the switch from meat-and-potatoes guy to hardcore macrobiotic in an attempt to beat back a terminal cancer diagnosis, and it didn’t take long to find we’re surrounded by kindred spirits. For them, it’s not just a cruise; it’s a matter of life or death.
Healing on the High Seas March 3, 2012Posted by Tracy in : Uncategorized , 2comments
Freelance writer Tracy Barnett is reporting from the Caribbean from the Holistic Holiday at Sea, She will be documenting the holistic cruise over the next week through a series of blog entries. Stay tuned!
Gary Brunk, recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, is fighting for his life with a holistic health regimen, accompanied by his wife Judy (left) and daughter Tracy L. Barnett, a travel writer. The trio set sail this week with the Holistic Holiday at Sea, a macrobiotic healing cruise.
AIRBORNE OVER MEXICO – Six months ago, when my father was first diagnosed with terminal cancer, my friend Michelle responded right away.
“You should take him on the holistic health cruise,” she said. I dismissed the idea at once – in the first place, I don’t like the idea of cruises anyway – a floating hotel at sea, I’ve always imagined them. I’m an independent traveler who chafes at the cumbersomeness of groups of more than two. Besides, on my Dad’s rapidly dwindling retired factory worker budget, and my freelance budget, who was going to pay for it?
“Nonsense,” said Michelle. “You’re a travel writer. Pitch this to some magazines. You can do it.”
She was talking about Holistic Holiday at Sea, a cruise dedicated to macrobiotic eating, yoga, meditation and a whole regimen of wellness strategies. I contacted Sandy Pukel, the cruise organizer, hoping he’d give us a discount that would work with our budgets. He was reluctant. His cruises always sell out, he pointed out, and there’s already been plenty of publicity. But he left the door open, and I began pitching the story to magazines.
Meanwhile, Dad was struggling with the decision of a lifetime. He had paid a visit to the state’s best cancer center, where they had given him a grim prognosis, delivered by a cheery doctor named Maria in a rapid-fire technobabble: Mesothelioma, nearly always fatal within a year of diagnosis. With chemotherapy, he might hope to live a few more months. It was already probably too advanced for surgery, and radiation for the lining of the lungs was not advised.
From caterpillars to butterflies: Mayan dreams for 2012 January 1, 2012Posted by Tracy in : Sustainability , 1 comment so far
The last golden rays of 2011 slipped away gloriously yesterday, lingering across the chalky face of the Pinnacles, an ancient towering limestone formation in the north of Boone County, Missouri – one of the places on this planet I will always call home.
The unseasonable warmth had us removing layers as we scrambled up to catch a glimpse of the world from on high. Another climatic oddity in a year that was full of them. Change is in the air, for those with eyes to see: We are closing the book on a year that saw vast swaths of the American Southwest go up in smoke, millions of dollars of hurricane damage in Vermont, a monster tornado that erased big chunks of Joplin, massive flooding in Australia, the Phillippines and Southeast Asia and record-breaking heat waves in Europe and much of the United States.
My mother’s garden in the Missouri countryside was cooked before it could be harvested. Where I live, in Mexico, widespread crop failure due to extended drought pushed more subsistence farmers to leave the land for the traffic-choked cities or for a desperate, life-threatening dash for El Norte, the forbidden promise of employment across the northern border. But today, on this balmy December day, global warming seems a welcome respite from the bone-chilling cold that usually accompanies us at this time of year. So I won’t complain.
Much has been written about this turning of the ages; no place on Earth is more excited about the Mayan prophecies than Mexico, birthplace of the Mayan calendar that ends this year. To me, it’s impossible not to link this prophecy with the profound changes we are facing. I’m not speaking of Armageddon – rather, a time of reckoning as we end a cycle of industrial excess. The Mayan people I have spoken with are laughing at the notion that the end of the calendar means the end of the world. It’s simply the end of a cycle, and the beginning of a new one, they reassure anyone who asks. But in more serious conversations, they shared with me their hope, as fervent as my own, that a long-awaited shift is pending, and in fact has already begun.
“After five centuries of oppression, we’re ready for a change,” Rony, a Mayan friend from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, told me. “It’s the only hope we have.”
Three perfect days for Dad on the Riviera Maya December 27, 2011Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Mexico, Nature tourism, Sustainability, ecotourism , 5comments
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Quintana Roo – A light breeze moves in the jungle beyond our patio at the Grand Velas resort; birds call to each other with liquid notes, and my mother reads her Bible beside me as my father sleeps.
We’re winding to the close of our action-packed itinerary – maybe too action-packed, I reflect, but as Dad would say, “We had ‘er to do.”
Unforgettable moments flip through the slideshow of my memory: my father’s boyish grin lighting up in spite of himself as he stood, lifejacket up around his ears, the dolphin leaning in and kissing his cheek. Shaking his head in disbelief as our two waiters explained the special six-course meal that the famous French chef at Piaf, Michele Mustiere, had prepared for him, taking into account all of the complicated restrictions of his diet. Seeing him lying back on a canopied lounge on the beach, soaking up the sun and the attentions of an efficient and watchful staff.
My factory-worker dad, father of nine and grandfather of a houseful of rambunctious little ones, had never come close to such luxury. He hadn’t even known that it existed. A shadetree mechanic and consummate fixer of broken things, I found him examining the cooling system in our suite and chatting up the shuttle drivers and motorcycle salesmen we would meet along the way.
Hacienda Petac: “A little piece of Eden” December 22, 2011Posted by Tracy in : Mexico, Uncategorized , 5comments
The sound of running spring water and the night noises of the jungle surround me, the toil and trouble of the city far behind.
This long-anticipated journey with my parents – their first to Mexico, and the first stamp on their brand-new passports – had gotten off to an admittedly bumpy start, what with a raucus all-night party in our hotel on the first night, getting lost in the chaos of the city’s Centro Historico, a virulent case of bronchitis for their driver and guide – yours truly – and too many other complications to mention. Had I made a mistake? My ailing father was exhausted – and this trip had been planned as a healing retreat for him.
But as we passed through the colorful towns on the outskirts of Merida and entered the ornate iron gate into the shady front courtyard of Hacienda Petac, I felt the tension dissolve. Marlene, one of more than a dozen Mayan women who attended to our every need during our stay, materialized from one of the three graceful arches of the hacienda with a traditionally embroidered dress, a beautiful smile and a tray of tempting red drinks.
My heart sank – I was sure they coudn’t be on my father’s diet. They almost certainly had sugar in them, and would be another disappointment. But there was Colleen, greeting us with a hug and a rundown of the ingredients: hibiscus tea and orange juice. Pure, simple and delicious. Dad reached for it and downed it, delighted.
The Butterfly Effect: Julia Butterfly Hill in Magis October 20, 2011Posted by Tracy in : Uncategorized , 1 comment so far
By Tracy L. Barnett
“Fierce winds ripped huge branches off the thousand-year-old redwood, sending them crashing to the ground two hundred feet below. The upper platform, where I lived, rested in branches about 180 feet in the air … As the tree branches whipped around, they shredded the tarp that served as my shelter. Sleet and hail sliced through the tattered pieces of what used to be my roof and walls. Every new gust flipped the platform up into the air, threatening to hurl me over the edge.”
— Julia “Butterfly” Hill, The Legacy of Luna
It’s hard to say what was the most dramatic moment in that 738 days that Julia “Butterfly” Hill spent atop that platform in a redwood tree named Luna. Perhaps it was the day of that bitter storm and many others that ensued. Perhaps it was the day that a massive helicopter buzzed her tree and nearly blew her to her death with the 300 mph winds created by its updrafts. Perhaps it was the day that a fellow tree sitter had the rope he was standing on cut out from under him by “Climber Dan,” a logger hired by the timber companies to antagonize and remove intransigent activists from the trees they were trying to save from the loggers’ blades.
Panama’s Ngorongoro: El Valle de Anton October 5, 2011Posted by Tracy in : Uncategorized , add a comment
On Day Two of our Panama adventure, we climbed 1,800 feet to the Valle de Anton to see the world’s second-largest volcanic crater – second only to the Ngorogoro in Tanzania. We were met by Ivan Hoyos of Ancon Expeditions, Panama’s only Virtuoso tour provider and a conservation-oriented company linked with one of Panama’s oldest conservation groups. Ivan, who is cited in Lonely Planet, is a lively interpreter of the country’s history, culture, ecology, and almost anything that might interest a traveler.
A piece of paradise well worth the wait September 21, 2011Posted by Tracy in : Uncategorized , 3comments
It’s been a long commute from the time my alarm rang at 4 am until my taxi driver deposited me at the glistening lobby of the Bristol Buenaventura at 9 pm. There were times when I asked myself if I was crazy to take this assignment. Now that I’m here, I see that it would have been crazy not to.
Meet Anna and Dave, the Permacyclists July 14, 2011Posted by Tracy in : Uncategorized , add a comment
Meet Dave and Anna, the Permacyclists.
She was a corporate lawyer from Brussels; he was a sociologist from New York. Neither of them was happy with their chosen profession, and after a great deal of soul searching, they decided to do what many dream of but few actually do: They quit their jobs, studied permaculture, bought bicycles and headed off across Africa, pedaling and working their way through 12 countries, 12,000 kilometers and 16 months from organic farm to organic farm, sharing what they’d learned along the way.
Now they’ve landed in Mexico and are launching a Phase 2 of their journey, but with a difference. This time they’re bringing a video camera and sound equipment, and documenting the stories of people working on solutions to the many environmental problems they have learned about in their travels. Their goal is to make it to the Earth Summit in Rio in June 2012. And this time they’re going by bus, instead of bike, to give them time to do reporting, writing and producing for their blog.
I was inspired by their story and by their plan, since in some ways it parallels my own – so we got together and shared stories. Here’s a little bit of theirs.
Women’s Planting Day at the Kalpulli June 27, 2011Posted by Tracy in : Uncategorized , 3comments
The planning had taken a long time, and the date had been postponed three days in a row – rain, problems with the tractor, but Friday night, the word went out: The next morning would be the Siembra de Mujeres.
There had been collective plantings before, but it was the first time at Teopantli Kalpulli that the women joined to plant their own milpa, the traditional planting of corn, beans and squash. I have never planted a milpa before, and I was excited to join them. At 7:30 I was waiting in front of the temple, my brand new coa in hand (the coa, I had learned from these women, is a beautiful and ancient agricultural tool that opens the ground easily and smoothly for the insertion of a few seeds, without the planter needing to bend down).
The morning was fresh and bright, with a veil of clouds draped around the crowns of the mountains in the distance. The sun shone on an aromatic earth abundant with the rains of the previous week, but dry enough to crumble easily in the hands. It was indeed a good day to plant.