The power boat slowed and idled on to the shore of the might river Usamacinta. Thankful at having finally arrived after 5 hours on the river, we climbed out of the boat and took in our surroundings, early evening at a site so remote there was virtually no sign of human occupation. A flock of macaws flew across the river, 16 to be exact. Howler monkeys called back and forth across the river. Toucans dipped and made their squeaky door hinge sound. It was a lot to absorb but the most amazing was yet to come.
We began a gentle climb at first that intensified as we entered the cloistered stone walled courtyards and passageways that lead into Yachchelan. A watchman appeared and took us to his little thatched shelter. He had been cooking over an open fire and was happy to offer uto us a cup of tea and his knowledge about this Maya site located on the border of Guatemala and Mexico.
It is close to sundown now and we must hurry to get a look at the ruin before dark. We move swiftly through narrow stone walled passage ways, korbel archways and chambers. Suddenly we left the walled enclave and broke out into an open space. Looking up I caught my breath. Standing at the foot of a very steep hill, I saw step after step leading up. At the top which seemed very far away was what appeared to be a temple punctuated as it were by the sun. Piercing through the bulk of the structure were stabs of light.
Slowly, almost reverently, we started the climb. It was steep but compelling. Step by step we approached the structure, half expecting the May King Bird Jaguar to emerge and demand our right to intrude, perhaps even order his guards to restrain us.
It is in this building on the door lintels that the images of Lady Choc and Bird Jaguar are found. There Lady Choc offers to her husband the king, a jaguar head to impart upon him prior to battle, the attributes of that mighty creature. Delicately carved into the limestone lintel is a pattern of the garment worn by Lady Choc. The artists care in rendering this detail of that culture and time spoke to me. Undoubtedly the patterns depicted had symbolic meaning but the beauty of the piece spoke loudly of the artist who carved those patterns in stone.
I’ve gotten myself involved in projects such as the carving of that intricate piece for the sole pleasure of an unappreciative king. Soon the mind starts to wander and as the tedious work progresses a lot of thought come and go. Every artist wonders about the endurance of their pieces and surely that artist must have taken great satisfaction in knowing that maybe a millennium from that day, someone would look at the work and marvel. How long would these efforts last? Who would see it and what would they think? Thoughts projected forward a thousand years to another artist who would look at the work and say “Well done”.
That artist would see and understand the symbolism and beauty of the pattern and adapt it to another project. The weaver in this painting is wearing a garment that has the same design as the stone lady above her. The weaver would appreciate the patience, perseverance and planning needed to complete the garment worn by the lady of stone.
Although the original intent of the stone lintel was to glorify a king, long after the king is dead and forgotten, his name ground into the powder of time, the beauty of design has survived. A certain flow of line, placement of shapes and balance has endured, its beauty unmarred
I take my place in a long line of artisans who have patiently carved, woven and painted, whether for their own enjoyment or the enhancement of others, the timeless designs that speak to the creative side of our nature. As the old Maya lady inserts the shuttle into the warp stretched on her loom and prepares to weave yet another pattern into the tapestry of time, I am reminded that all our lives are woven from the patterns of the lives of those who have gone before us.