A Time for Everything…

A Time for Everything…

when the Moon blesses the making of a New House!

By Edgar Osvaldo Monte Borges, Mexico

A memory remains of when I was less than 8 years, when my father started work on a small wooden structure to serve us as a kitchen. Everything seemed to be going well, the work was progressing quickly, the timber that would serve as the foundations had been cut and laid and the entire structure almost ready. Back then I thought, a few more days and everything will be completed, but I was surprised when my father suddenly stopped building the house. The first thought I had was that he got bored or tired or run out of money.


Driven by the characteristic curiosity of a child which could not deny the 101 assumptions, I was prompted to ask him about the subject. But the truth is that his answer was beyond my understanding at that age. Instead of giving me a simple pretext that could possibly have served to satisfy my curiosity, he explained the real reason and why the roof of my house was not ready yet. His voice remains to this day, “Son, did you notice that I didn’t cut all the wood at the same time? That is because each part of the tree or type of tree has a different purpose. I need the “horcones” (the bases of the house) to be resistant and rigid so that the house is firm and to achieve that I need to cut the right type of tree, each tree has its own characteristics, some are soft and light, others are hard and very heavy. For the base of the structure, I need wood that is hard allowing it to support the full weight of the roof. Many different types of trees grow here and I have different options, but the durability of the house will not only depend on choice of the correct type of wood, but also whether it is cut at the correct time.

Hearing the phrase “correct time”, I thought that he meant to cut all the wood as soon as possible so that it does not spoil. But he continued to explain as follows, 

“A tree is stronger depending on the lunar cycle because the moon stimulates the biological functions of the tree. So during certain lunar cycles cutting wood to build a house is better. The ideal moon phase to cut wood is the new moon, because the sap of the tree is less in the trunk. The reduced humidity will allow faster drying and long-term durability.

Up to this point the talk started to seem quite interesting and I was “wowed”, thinking my father to be the wisest man in the village. He continued to explain, “…each part of the structure uses a type of wood depending on the function they are going to perform. I need the “jiles” (wood that is bent to place the roof) to be very flexible so that they don’t break during construction. I must cut them in a specific lunar cycle so that they are not so rigid that they break, yet not so wet that they rot. For the roof, the “huano” (leaves of a palm tree used for the traditional Mayan construction of roofs) I must cut a few days later so that it dries up fast inside, I’m hoping it’s the correct lunar cycle otherwise I’ll only work double because if I cut it now just to finish the roof fast it will rot in a few years and I will have to do it again . Special care must be taken with the roof as it is in direct contact with the rain and is prone to getting wet, so the material must be correct and cut at the right time.

The details of the talk are distant memories as nearly two decades have passed, but that lesson stuck with me forever. After all these years I still think that my father is a genius, a great sage who knows so many things that I am yet to learn. A few months ago I visited one of my uncles and while we were having lunch at his house he made a comment that was quite pleasant and satisfying to hear. “This house, as you see it, your father built it even before you were born and it is still intact” I looked over the roof and around and realized that the material still seemed new, as if it were a house of barely a few years. More than 25 years have passed and something that my father built with his own hands still stands… “that is tangible and observable traditional knowledge”…a small part of what indigenous cultures can teach the modern world. How the building of a house with your own hands is a sign that we have become a mature and independent person. The same happens when we can already build a milpa field (traditional agricultural production system) for ourselves.

As I share this, I reflect on the fact that I left my home to study and find knowledge that would help me understand what is happening in the world, but I did not realize that in my small town I was surrounded by wise people, who did not do a doctorate for five years to obtain their knowledge…but they are transmitters of knowledge that have been developing for thousands of years. I understood that every year that we as young people spend away from our culture can be translated into knowledge that we are missing. We do not need scientists to analyse the traditional knowledge of our culture to validate it, our ancestors there are already many people who have survived thanks to that knowledge for thousands of years.

“Ancestral knowledge is the older brother of all modern scientific discipline”