My beloved and I returned from a 16 days visit of Peru early yesterday morning that provided us with a veritable feast f experiences - from Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Machu Pichu
Lake Titicaca ,
Uros Islands ,
Colca Canyon (home of the S. American Condors) ,
Arequipa , and the
Amazon rainforest . This blog has often, if not usually, been somewhat inspired by things I have read - new ideas or ideas that connect things I hadn't noticed before.
My Peruvian experience was entirely non-literary. No phone, no tv, no internet, and except for reading a suspense novel on the way over, almost no reading. That two week fast brought many things to the surface - like how much is discernible by doing, watching, listening, feeling, and reflecting on the immediate surroundings. The landscapes were so spectacular, so dominant, that they made me see how small I am, not just physically, but in terms of what I know or can do. The use of the the landscapes by our predecessors from the area are as remarkable as the landscapes themselves. The development of terrace farming, use of micro-climates, diverse cropping and animal integration show a remarkable sense of sustainability on sites continuously farmed for hundreds of years.
The Quechua people, from my interactions are generous, entrepreneurial, and deeply connected to a culture that is rich in caring for the land and the resources under their stewardship.While they would be considered poor by developed world standards, I wasn't able to sense any impoverishment. Our guides were mostly Quechua, from the communities we were touring. They had mastered at least two languages, usually three, were well versed in their history, their knowledge of the natural world around them, and a sense of communion with something beyond. At least one young guide who ably wielded his machete to cut our way through the jungle between an oxbow lake with giant river otters and our river, the Tambobata,
was studying the use of local plants as medicines - for both physical and mental health with a local shaman.
Perhaps the power of the landscapes that struck awe in me, give rise to this deeper connection I sensed in all the Quechua people I interacted with and their knowledge of their place. The literary drought acted as a reminder to me that while there is much to be learned from books and the written world, there is as much, if not of a deeper kind, that can be learned and gained from an affection for, and a deep awareness and observation of the world we share. Finding that balance of ways of knowing is more conscious at the moment than would have been without this adventure. No doubt landscapes shape us and how we see the world that we share. Photographs are only crude remembrances of the real experience. One I hope to hold on to for a long time.