The Heights of Macchu Picchu
There was a time in my youth when I would think nothing of drinking a bottle of wine to myself and writing into the late night hours which are ruled by the owls who teach us never to give up on the night. The mere exercise of writing contented me. We assume that most gardeners garden to have beautiful flowers in bloom, but for me writing like gardening was always about the process. While I am now surrounded by the literal gardens that my mother and I have created together (above with my kitty) , molding new landscapes every spring, I stopped keeping a journal many years ago when I was mugged in Peru. And my writer’s mind became a bit of a barren wasteland, save my token emails.
About 18 years ago, way before I got involved in ritual and prayer, but deeply in love with Nature, I found a dead bald eagle with a friend of mine on a canoe trip outside of Austin. We said a prayer for the spirit of the bird, who looked like he got tired, fell out of a tree and was sleeping. Despite attending church in the later half of my childhood when my mother remarried, it was the first time I felt like I was really praying, as I couldn’t help but be moved by the beauty of the eagle. We wept for him and I took some snail shells from his resting place.
Soon there after, I graduated from UT, sold my car and went to Peru. While at Macchu Picchu another almost crippling sadness crept in, when the reality hit me of the lost beauty and culture of the Incas . Catholic churches now sat a top their sacred sites and yet Macchu Picchu remained in tact. As Neruda says, “irresistable death invited me many times.” Climbing a top Huayana Picchu, I truly did want to fly off the mountain like the woman who thought she was a condor, or at least eat some of the jungled trees, letting them grow like a cancer inside of me until I could no longer contain the Andean roots inside. I simply could not stop weeping for hours.
On my descent from the mountain, I found a piece of wood that mirrored the scene in front of me: the mountains, the Urumbamba River and the two mighty condors flying overhead.
Feeling better, I made my way to the condor rock whose head is carved into the ground with his wings outstretched in a natural formation behind him and I gathered again my gratitude for what remained, rather than let the sadness of what was taken eat away at me.
A few weeks later, on a day trip to see condors in the wild, I was inspired to fling my special piece of wood down the valley as an offering to the majestic birds, who were almost flying at eye level. But gripped by attachment, I decided otherwise. And then on the way home, I asked the bus driver to drop me off in downtown Arequipa, rather than at my hostel. I felt safe as it was the middle of the day, and I wanted to call my mother to wish her a happy Mother’s Day.
After connecting with my mother by phone to assure her that her daughter was safe and sound traveling alone at age 22 in South America I was attacked by two young men, who knocked me out by choking me. When I awoke on the cement, I thought I was in my bed, back home again, but I soon realized I had been mugged and my bag with my journal, passport and special wood had been stolen. I had a huge lump on my head from where it hit the cement which seemed cartoon like with its ability to burgeon into a small ski slope for the flea size enthusiasts.
Luckily, I had met two nice Israel boys that day on the condor trip who were awaiting me at my hostel to tell me another guy got mugged. Even though they were too late, the fact that they cared about me enough to make sure I was okay and then promised to not leave my side until I felt safe gave me such a boost. They said their friend was mugged who was 6 feet tall with a muscular stature so I never stood a chance. My faith was shaken a bit, but I learned a lot about letting go from this experience…letting go of death, fear, guilt, mistrust.
Ever since that trip, I have managed to squirrel away a few rocks and feathers, but part of me also has not wanted to take too much. I have even started going to beautiful places in nature and leaving gifts, arrowheads and sand dollars for others to find. I like to think about what may go through the mind of someone who finds a sand dollar in a shallow river bed. I have healed from being mugged. However, I stopped keeping a journal for the past couple of decades since. Somehow, a deep rooted fear exists that someone may steal away my thoughts.
One of the ideas that saved me during that time was that the muggers might actually try and read some of my broken spanish and see that a gringa like me could love their country. I imagine however they just took my passport and trashed everything else.
This blog is more of a healing process for me than anything. Some of these entries are from my old journals, some fresh and new. More than anything, I hope that this may be a place for my children to come and know me. The inner caves. Sometimes it takes us a little time before we can stare Fear down. But He is always standing in the way of a beautiful view. SO here is to being brave, facing our fears and going for what we love.