Little altars everywhere…to Pachamama.

Pachamama is a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes.  Pachamama is usually translated as Mother Earth, but a more literal translation would be ‘Mother World.’  ~ Wikipedia

As I was grinding the last of my Pachamama coffee beans today my mind took a little side trip and revisited Peru.  I started to remember some of the references to the goddess Pachamama in the towns and cities of the Andes.  Many companies have chosen to use her name on their products; obviously it’s a good marketing tool.  The divine Ms P is everywhere.  Here, of course, is the coffee package.  I also remember seeing chocolate, tea, clothing, shoes, pet supplies, “health foods,” even musical instruments.  Many fair trade and organic items carry a Pachamama logo of some sort.

I love the idea of goddesses.  Pachamama is the goddess of fertility according to Inca mythology.  She oversees planting and harvesting.  After the Spanish conquest, and because the Spanish forced Catholicism on the indigenous peoples, the images of Pachamama meshed with those of the Virgin Mary.  (Paraphrased from Wikipedia.)  I suppose it was a predictable merger since both are considered “good mothers.”  ( The image of Pachamama on the left is also from Wikipedia.)

As I was reviewing, on the Wiki site, what the guides told us about Pachamama, I remembered the photo at the top of this piece.  Our guides had told us that there were celebrations on the summer solstice and the local people made altars and offerings  to the “good mother.”  I wanted to remember the altars so I took this photo.  I couldn’t get everything in the picture, but above the village on the mountainside I could see some of the famous terraced gardens where crops are grown.  The ancient people terraced the steep land so they could farm it.  We saw numerous terraces as we rode the bus up to Colca.  Here’s a better shot of what they were like.  I still get a sense of awe and wonder and history when I look at this.  Wonderful!

As I looked at the stacked-stone altars I realized I must make one of my own even though the summer solstice was still a month away.  Mine was tiny, but built prayerfully, and with a pure heart, I think.  I have to admit, though, that the first thought in my mind when I saw all those stacks of stones was: “Little Altars Everywhere.”  I even said it aloud several times.  After thinking about that for a moment, I realized it was the name of a book by Rebecca Wells.  It’s the first of the “Ya-Ya” books.  I reread it recently.  It’s a good read — and proof that not all “little altars” are good things.  But that’s another story for another time.

Do you have altars?  Is it human nature to make altars?  I took a stroll through my house while I was writing this post to see what my “little altars” are.  I have several.  I hadn’t thought to call them altars before but that’s what they are.  They are usually images of people I love or things dear ones have given me.  The photo below is one of my favorites.  As some of you know, I have nine grandchildren.  Only two of them are boys.  These are photos of “my boys.”

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Machu Picchu, a photo essay.

May 21, 2012–I remember standing here and turning from one direction to another and realizing that every angle was a photo opportunity.  I even took pictures as I rested flat on my back in the grass.  My senses were heightened to such an extent that I consciously reminded myself that I wanted to remember this experience forever.  I could not help but feel as if I were on holy ground.  I thought if I took many, many pictures I would be able to go back to that place in my mind, and the sense of wonder and awe that I felt there would still be with me.  The Inca engineering feat that is Machu Picchu and the unbelievable Andes Mountains that are God’s creation overwhelmed me that day and will for the rest of my life.  Enjoy!

Cusco to Aguas Calientes by train.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I have about zero experience with train travel.  I have also commented about how much I love the colorful Peruvian textiles.  Imagine my delight when the attendants on the train set our little tables with these wonderful table runners.  The ride between Cusco and Aguas Calientes is approximately four hours.  One goes to Aguas Calientes in order to access Machu Picchu via bus.  We spent the night in a tiny hotel called RupaWasi in Aguas Calientes.  Attached to the hotel was an outstanding restaurant called The Tree House.  Both the eco-hotel and the restaurant are very high off the ground and we had to climb many steps to get up there.  (No elevators.)  The rooms were sparse, but charming.  The food was the best we had the whole trip, in my opinion.

We arose very early after our one night in Aguas Calientes in order to catch an early bus and sunrise over Machu Picchu.  It occurred to me that I should get a photo of the steep stairs we had to navigate so I took this one.  That’s fellow traveler Jan at the foot of the stairs with a smile on her face as she anticipates the day ahead of us.  She wasn’t disappointed.  Nor was I.

Below is the first picture I took when I arrived at Machu Picchu.  It might have been a better shot with a better camera and a better photographer, but I love it dearly just as it is.  It was breathtakingly beautiful. The sun was just rising and had not yet burned off the fog and vapors that usually accompany mornings in the mountains.  If you look lower left in the photo you can see a little of Machu Picchu.

The photo below makes me grin.  This stone monument is a place that Shirley MacLaine mentioned in a book or maybe on her website, or maybe both.  According to Ms. MacLaine there are sacred sites in various places around the world, and this spot at Machu Picchu is one of them.  I think you’re supposed to get some sort of energy or vibrations from it and that’s what all these people pictured here are trying to feel.  There was such a crowd around it that I didn’t try to feel it.  It’s now roped off.  I guess that’s to keep one person from getting all the vibes.  🙂  It was interesting to hear the comments.  One person said, “Well, I don’t feel a thing!”  Another person’s comment was, “Oh, man!  Feel that.  It’s amazing.”  I couldn’t help wondering if the latter was getting a call on his cell phone.

Here, as everywhere, I found myself people watching, and listening.  My very unofficial tally told me that the tourists in Peru sounded as if they came predominantly from The United States, the UK and Japan, with a fairly large number of Spanish speakers whose nationality I could  not discern.  I have not done any research to verify or dispel my theory

Here we are back down in Aguas Calientes and ready for refreshment.  You can see by our smiling faces that we had a good day.  The one brave male who completed our little quartet is noticeably absent from this picture.  It wasn’t because he photographed the three of us sitting here.  A restaurant employee did that.  He was probably seeking refuge from the rest of us.  I have to admit that I’d had enough togetherness at that point, too.  I imagine we all had but I must say that it was nice to share the wonders we encountered that day with other human beings.

 

 

When can I go back!?

Home from Peru.

I’m home as of about 3:00 this afternoon.  I’m exhausted.  I haven’t slept since 5:00 yesterday morning.  Here you see my very own photo of Machu Picchu taken with a little point-and-shoot Sony digital.  I have one expression that I used over and over:  “Wow!  Look at that!”  I will share more of my trip later.  Now I’m going to bed.