Pieces of Panama, part 2.

On a Saturday morning a few months ago, I woke to find a missed alert on my phone from a friend and fellow photographer Laurie.

I dialed my voice mail expecting to hear a message continuing some portion of the conversation we’d had at dinner the night before.  To my surprise, the call was regarding something altogether different.

“Hey Maggie, it’s Laurie.  I talked to Johnny tonight and he said you could come to Panama with us.  We’re thinking about going in the next month or so and we’d really like you to join us!”

I thought about it for about 30 seconds before calling her back to tell her  I was on board.

Johnny, Laurie’s husband, was the point person for our travels. We laid down a few specified a few spots of interest (the canal,  countryside, and Caribbean) and he did the rest. A week before our departure he even showed me the excel spreadsheet coordinating our days’ activities in clear color-coated blocks of time. His enthusiasm for Panama was contagious, especially with the constant promise of hammock time on the beach.

I could only spare 5 days for the trip with my schedule, but I feel like I got a real taste of the country.  The people were warm and laughed easy.  Johnny’s family was wonderful.  His mom made a number of tasty meals for us, delighting my palette with tamales, a sweet yogurt drink, fresh fruit, and other treats I snarfed down.  To our delight, Marco, Johnny’s cousin spent three days with us. Marco knows a lot about Panama and was really patient with my constant queries about “that over there,” or “the history of this spot.”

The photos below chronicle a lot of our adventures, from our morning hike at the Smithsonian owned island, Barro Colorado, to our day at the Caribbean.

With Laurie, Johnny, and his family as my guide, I was able to see SO much of Panama… I had such a great time, and am already looking forward to the next visit.

Passenger’s reflection on the boat ride to Barro Colorado Island.      

The canal

A shared laugh.

The Jungle

Bus Station.


Our boat driver to the island.

El Cristo Negro

The little Chinese owned Panamanian spot. Delicious.

Sea of Clouds

Seat 15F Flight from Panama to Atlanta

We begin our descent, 60 miles from Atlanta.  I sit up in my seat, turn my ipod to Phoenix and pull the shade on the window. The sun is low and the  light graces the clouds beneath us; a gentle touch of soft golden light caressing the billowing cover. It looks like an ocean of delicate down, collecting below me in a current of rising peaks, churning out as far as I can see.

In an instant we are enveloped. It moves me. My breath catches involuntarily, and I am silently awed by the white light that cocoons the plane. Too soon it is over, and what was a beautiful bright scene is now a gray, dark wall overhead, reminding me that everything is a matter of perspective.

There is no sensation like waking up in one country and going to sleep in another. The experience is still magical to me. I imagine no matter how many flights I take or how much distance I cover I will still be humbled by this achievement. This morning I woke in a condo beside the Atlantic ocean. Tonight I return to Chicago, the smell of salt water and distant memory of Spanish chatter lulling me to sleep.

D.C. Cherry Blossums at Sunrise

Last weekend I took a trip with my long time friend  Serina to Washington, D.C. to visit my college roommate Beth. I checked out the city for the first time last August and added it to my top ten favorite towns America.  It was great to be back, even if I didn’t sleep much while I was there.  Saturday morning we woke before sunrise, made a quick pit stop at Star Bucks for americanos, then headed down to the Tidal Bison to see the Japanese Cherry Blossoms in peak bloom.  We were tired, but it was worth it.  The light was stunning and the stretch of trees lining the water were pure eye candy. Thanks ladies for putting up with the paparazzi 🙂

Washington Monument.

Big Abe, more accurately called The Lincoln Memorial.

Beth wasn’t quite awake yet.

Serina’s vampire eyes.

Sipping Joe.

The Jefferson Memorial. Can’t you tell?

Before the birds flew south.

It was the last weekend to get away before the weather turned.  Scott and I drove down to the beach in New Buffalo, Michigan.  We planned to catch one more sunset without the inevitable weather paned window we’d be watching through during winter.  We were away from the city and the ceaseless white noise.  I relished the silence of the surrounding nature–the smells and the light, unhindered by tall buildings.

The relaxing therapy of this place is magic, unfortunately, it hadn’t completely taken effect for me yet.  I was still distracted. Instead of walking shoes, I grabbed my boats–mind you, not hiking boots.  I’m talking black, leather, boots more appropriate for a Saturday night.  It was too late to turn back though.  Undeterred, I took to the sandy beach.  My heels carved deep gouges in the shifting surface, but we pressed on. We reached the break wall, climbing up the rocky surface, carefully choosing each step.  The fishermen watched me out of the corner of their eyes, certainly sizing me up, taking in my ridiculous footwear.  “Watch yourself, you’ll wind up with a twisted ankle with those on.” I smiled, nodded, and continued on.  Finally to the cusps of the breaker, I gave in, stripping down to my socks to summit the watch tour.

A small feat, but worth discarded boots.  The last few boats of the season made their way back to shore while we took in the unbroken line of trees along the lake.  I love cities, but I find such release in the open expanse of nature.  It was a beautiful fall day, thinking about it makes me pine for spring.