Quiet contentment; My favorite placeMy days are...


Quiet contentment; My favorite place

My days are often filled with chaos and confusion, not to mention a fair amount of stress, a huge amount of noise and virtually no amount of privacy. I love my family dearly, but at times I longed for just a single day to call my very own. I longed for one quiet spot on this planet that could be mine, if only temporarily. I longed for peace, comfort and solitude.

My fantasy became a reality in Osho Tulum in the Yucatan Peninsula. The accommodations were somewhat primitive but surprisingly comfortable. The thatched-roof cabana, on a breathtakingly beautiful, isolated beach, contained two hanging beds surrounded by mosquito netting and large screenless windows that opened to a magnificent view of the Caribbean Sea. Pure white sand lined the secluded beach. A brilliant blue sky rested on the turquoise water forming a perfect jade ribbon that stretched across the horizon. Countless multicolored hibiscus bloomed around the entire perimeter of this glorious, hidden cove.

A handmade lounge chair at the water's edge beckoned me as I walked barefoot across the warm sand. A brown pelican studied me from a mound of rocks that jutted from the water a short distance from the shore. I spread my towel upon the chair and settled myself on top. The pelican, quickly bored with the likes of me, flew in quiet circles above my head, then swooped down and dipped his head into the water before soaring toward the sun.

The sweet fragrance of the wildflowers mingled with the salty, clean scent of the sea. The whisper of the waves as they gently caressed the shore was a soothing balm to my tired spirit. A refreshing breeze drifted in from the ocean and softly blew away my cares. The sun, golden and warm on my skin, gradually melted away the last vestiges of stress and tension.

The afternoon slipped away as I alternately dozed in my chair, swam in the clear, cool water, and read my newly purchased novel. Sliding slowly toward the horizon, the sun turned a brilliant orange, then blood red before sinking into the sea. The blue sky became off-white, then a soft, pearl gray before full darkness fell. dozed again, then awakened to a spectacular sight. The entire universe had exploded into infinitesimal fragments of sparkling white diamonds shimmering against a black velvet sky. All this was mine.

My days continue to be filled with chaos, confusion and noise, but I have only to stop for a moment, take a deep breath, close my eyes and remember.

Margaret J. Popp lives in Bel Air.

It was a frigid mid-December day in 1996, the day I visited Auschwitz, Poland. As I took the pictures, I thought of the agony of the people held behind electrified barbed-wire fences like this one. I thought to myself, "I am healthy and dressed warmly," but still I was very cold. Was it from the temperature or due to my surroundings? I tried to imagine the suffering the prisoners went through trying to survive, considering most were in poor health, undernourished and insufficiently clothed.

Joseph Chalk, Baltimore A South American Cruise

Isaac Hecht, Baltimore

"In February, my wife and I took a two-week cruise from Valparaiso, Chile, to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The trip's most thrilling moment happened as we approached Cape Horn and the sailboat 'EF Language,' which was then leading the Whitbread Race, was at Cape Horn. Our captain turned our large ship so as not to cut off any of the wind needed by the sailboat."

East Africa

Margaret D. Pagan, Baltimore

"The tiny country of Eritrea recently separated from Ethiopia, and it is here in the town of Massawa that you will find the largest natural deep-water port on the Red Sea. At the Afar restaurant in Massawa - across from the old Turkish-Egyptian market - the fish is caught, split, cleaned and barbecued the day you eat it."

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