Sunday, August 23, 2009
Jump. Is how I feel right now.
There's a story about the desert that people should know. I'd never quite felt that absolute stillness before. I love the way heat settles--it's as if air itself were a dog twirling in tight circles before sitting down for a nap. I admired how tenacious the heat was, and how little it discriminated between person and plant.
Laurel, Oscar and I hiked the Pukara de Quitor, Incan ruins that lead up the hillside and into the sky. We wandered up the hillside to a large monument in the shape of a cross, which read: "Dios Mio, Dios Mio, por que me has abandonado?" (My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?) We were surrounded by a half-circle of face sculptures, and a plaque commemorating the indigenous people who were beheaded there. It was a bright, clear, eerie place with a 360 panorama of salt flats, jagged valleys and neighboring mountains. The sky was impeccably clear, and the sun happily fierce. The three of us were bound there, up above all the rocks, above our bicycles in the sand, above the bullshit of cell phones and health insurance and purposeful enterprise. Serenity itself made its home here, in the desert.
This was the Valle de la Luna. This was our Great Wall of Chile. We biked through the sand and climbed uphill just before the sun began its descent. The air was finally cool, quiet, and the stars were blossoming like late night flowers, bright and powerful. The air is so potent when you stop and realize it's there. We followed a narrow path along the hill's spine, practically running to keep up with the darkening sky. The sides of the valley shivered with excitement, with a shudder of orange, yellow and blue. What a privilege it was to be there, witnessing. How many other ways can we witness the world in a new way?
Fast forward to my last night in Chile. Laurel and I were staying in a tiny cabin in Cajon del Maipo, a village near the Andes about an hour outside of Santiago. Her friend Marcelo had driven us up the night before to stay in the little place he himself had helped build. The house was small and compact, with two little bedrooms and a snug living room. It relied mainly on a few battery-operated bulbs and a wide main window -- otherwise, no electricity. Marcelo dropped us off, leaving us with an expanse of countryside and a pack of friendly outdoor dogs. We were so unbelievably removed, I felt my body and mind completely used, stretched out, drawn to their limits. And yet it was a wonderful feeling, a sensation of having really lived to see something, and done it completely.
We made a small dinner of avocado and cheese sandwiches and grilled them over the stove, finding our way around the cabin in candlelight. The sun sank earlier here, where winter was slowly maturing. We could hear the dogs outside in the cold.
Later that evening, around three am, the most wonderful thing happened. It began to snow.
"Nieve! Nieve! Mira, chicas!" Marcelo and his friend Cesar ran into our room, hair dripping wet. Laurel and I threw on our coats and boots and ran outside, where the snow fell in thick chunks, like ripe fruit. It was all the endings of all the movies I've ever seen all thrown into one tight little ball: mountains, snow, best friends, remembered twilights, long bus rides to faraway destinations. And the occasional curveball, thrown in for good measure.
It made me want to jump.