Mysterious Macchu Picchu

Mysterious Macchu Picchu
from my 2007 trip to Peru

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lake Titicaca and Lightning

I'm sitting in a boat on Lake Titicaca at 12,580 feet above sea level. I've had a couple of crackers and a few sips of chicken soup since the condors, 2 days ago. The nausea from the altitude sickness persists, but I've become accustomed to it by now, more or less. I've taken San Pedro again, just prior to this boat trip.
The boat takes us to Taquile Island, rising 866 feet out of the lake, where tiny people hoist several suitcases onto their backs and sprint up the mountain ahead of us. Don Theo helps me up the steps, hundreds of them, I think. I stop frequently to catch my breath.
Late in the afternoon, we climb many more steps to the top of the island. The 96-year-old village shaman makes this same climb every day. Don Theo says we are going to harness the natural magnetic energy of the island. As if on cue, the thunderclouds roll in and we are surrounded by a vast panorama of lightning. I have never seen so many lightning strikes at one time. It is dark and cold. I've had only 3 saltine crackers all day. The downward climb will be difficult. But I am completely engaged with the lightning.
In May of '03, there was a gentle crackle of lightning when I told my recently-deceased father that I was open to communication with him. Two weeks prior to my trip, on October 15, there was a huge lightning strike 5 minutes before the hospice nurse called to tell me that my mother had passed 5 minutes ago. I am well-acquainted with lightning.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Are We There Yet?

The photos from Peru may leave some people wondering - when do we get to hear about Peru? So let's begin. This is gonna take several posts.
"El Condor Pasa" - I am riding in a bus at 14,000 feet above sea level, on a winding gravel road, up the side of a cliff, looking over a deep canyon. I am nauseated from altitude sickness and the San Pedro cactus I ingested 2 hours ago. Before we get off at the Condor Cross, Don Theo tells us we will be hiking above the canyon after we see the condors. I say that I don't think I can do the hike and he says, "But you will."
We walk up to the condor viewing area and it suddenly hits me: the rugged beauty of the canyon, the connection to the land, the sadness of losing my mother and the nausea, always the nausea. The sickness, the beauty, the loss, the connection. Suddenly I'm sobbing uncontrollably as I realize that I have never lived in the moment until this moment - connected to my body, the earth, to the ancestors of these people, to my ancestors, to the condors and to this plant. Pepe, the other shaman, begins to do extraction work on me and tells me to just keep releasing. He pours Agua Florida into my hands, tells me to clap my hands 3 times and inhale the vapors. He tells the worried young Red Cross worker that I am okay - that I am having a mystical experience. We see 6 condors and the world's largest hummingbird.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

In Search of the White Squirrel (for the Elaines)

When I first started coming out to Oberlin to visit, I heard stories about a white squirrel, a "ghost squirrel" that was frequently seen on campus. I was initially quite skeptical about this, figuring it was some kind of "urban legend". Then, on one of my visits, I was walking across Tappan Square with my son and he said, "Hey, there's that white squirrel!" Sure enough, there was a cute little pure-white squirrel running around not too far from us. I soon learned that the white squirrel I had seen was one of several; that they were albinos and everyone in Oberlin had seen them at one time or another. That was a time when I was yearning to move to Oberlin from Denver and somehow, the white squirrel became my private symbol for the town. Even after I moved to Oberlin, seeing a white squirrel became a personal omen of good luck. I didn't stay in Oberlin, though. After 7 1/2 mostly happy years, I decided it was time to move back to Denver, to be closer to family. One day, after I had made the decision to move, I was taking a walk in the woods and came across a dead and decomposing albino squirrel. Talk about omens! Over a period of weeks the squirrel had been reduced to a mostly-skeleton. One day, I took the skull home with me and it still sits on my shamanic altar, a bittersweet symbol of a place I still hold close to my heart.