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Who would imagine such fascinating, sculptural plants could exist? From our small boat at the large Manialtepec lagoon we watched the sun rise as splendid water fowl such as herons, egrets and ibises were also greeting the day. At the end of the day the expert birders counted over species of birds on this trip.
My contribution was a Roseate Spoonbill. After all, my singular sighting was like the sound of one hand clapping. The hot color palette offered here easily competed with those of orioles, indigo buntings, flame-colored tanagers and rose-bellied buntings. I will concede though that I never saw a blue such as the indigo bunting's. Like the Hagia Sofia botanical garden, the last birding day was outstanding.
COM DesignWorks. Oaxaca Journal A few weeks ago while inching my way along dirt paths in Oaxaca, my eyes were either glued to the sky or shifting amidst dense branches of trees.
Oaxaca Journal. Organo Cacti at oaxaca ethnobotanical garden. Never in flowers. His companions, though, include experts in both flowering plants and tropical birds, and their cries -- That's a yellow-rumped warbler! Yet it is the magic of the fern that binds the group together.
How, for instance, the reproduction of ferns was long a mystery to botanists until they discovered that a tiny heart-shaped plant called the gametophyte bore the required sexual organ. Or how dried-up, seemingly dead ferns that are left overnight in water ''have miraculously turned green, expanded and uncurled like Chinese water flowers. Many of the group, it seems, saw little beyond the flora and fauna.
But Sacks's eyes were open -- or opened -- to a great deal more.
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This appears to have been his first trip to Mexico because the frequent intrusion of third-world poverty, even of yapping dogs and barefoot children shouting, ''peso, peso,'' catch him by surprise. Yet if some of today's Mexico shocks him, he is no less delighted by the discovery of traditional and pre-Hispanic Mexico.
More by Oliver Sacks
Sacks's boundless curiosity is always a reward. In a spice shop near the gold-bedecked Church of Santo Domingo, he gazes in amazement at the bizarre shapes and strong colors of 20 kinds of chili. A nearby chocolate factory prompts him to recount how the Emperor Montezuma drank 40 or 50 cups of bitter chocolate daily in the belief that it was an aphrodisiac.
Sacks catches on quickly.