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.”

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!?

Saqsayhuaman aka Sexy Woman.

The first ruins we visited in Peru were at a site called Saqsayhuaman.  There are several spellings of this word.  It’s Quechua and not easy to spell or pronounce.  I read somewhere that when the Spanish arrived they couldn’t manage the Quechua language  so they adapted it to spellings and pronunciations that made it more Spanish.  I’ll refrain from commenting on their arrogance until a later date.  As you can see from the title of this piece, if you apply the phonetic nature of Spanish to the name of this site, it does sound rather like Sexy Woman.  It seems that everyone is in on the joke because even some of the indigenous people would call it that with a big grin.

I took the photo above from the highest point at Saqsayhuaman.  It overlooks Cuzco.  Notice the Plaza de Armas in the foreground.

This is Lourdes, our guide for the trek through the first of the ruins we would see.  I’m fascinated by ruins.  I’m much more enthralled by mother nature and her beautiful mountains here in Peru.  But it’s the people that I really love.  Lourdes is a well-trained and certified guide.  She told us she had to study long and hard to qualify and I believe it.  She’s also qualified for Machu Picchu but is not allowed to work there now because she is about six months pregnant.  She never really explained the reasoning that went into that decision, but if I had to guess, I would think it might be about her safety.  (Of course it could be the infamous Latin American machismo.)  The paths and stairs and ledges can be treacherous at MP.  I sensed that she didn’t like the decision but she seemed to accept it with grace.Reina Lourdes

Lourdes never seemed to tire or need a rest but she instinctively knew when we were ready for a brief pause.  During one such pause we put her in the seat of royalty, took her picture and called her Reina (Queen) Lourdes.  During one of our longer breaks she and I talked about the baby.  She would soon have an ultrasound and would learn the gender of the child.  I asked her if she would have the baby in a hospital.  She told me that twenty years ago almost all babies were born at home.  That is changing and she will deliver her little bundle in a hospital.  This is her first and she glows as so many pregnant women do.

This natural rock formation was begging for a child to slide down it, so this little boy came along and his abuelita allowed him to satisfy our wondering and his desire to have a little fun.  As we strolled on to the next marvel, Lourdes told us that archaeologists do, in fact, think that the ancients used it just as the little boy did.  We wondered aloud if it were the original ride in the original amusement park.

Early in the tour of Sexy Woman we saw a large group of teenage boys jogging toward the open area where many celebrations take place.  As some of you know, I taught high school.  Even though I’ve been retired from teaching for some time, I still find it hard to resist those wonderful energetic youngsters; so I called out to them as they passed and asked where they were from.  They told me, “Lima!”  As you can see here they were going to pose for this photo.  I learned that each school has a number.  Obviously this is theirs.

Here’s another view of Cuzco.  Saqsayhuaman was an enormous Inca military site built to guard Cuzco.  I keep typing the word Cuzco with a z because that’s how I learned it years ago.  Most modern literature shows it as Cusco to make the pronunciation more nearly like the Quechua version.  Makes sense to me. 


It was a marvelous day in a magnificent place and I’m glad we spent some time there.  I’m most especially grateful to have spent time with Lourdes.  Speaking of marvelous days, we’re having a glorious one here in North Carolina–mid-seventies with very low humidity.  A rare occasion which I welcome with open arms.

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.

As the mind wanders…

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. ~ Mark Twain

I know there’s such a thing as adult ADD but I’m wondering if it gets worse as we get older.  It seems that I can’t focus very well these days.  I’m getting excited about my upcoming trip so I know that’s a factor but I can’t even walk and chew gum at the same time lately.  What’s going on?  Hell if I know!

If you read my blog even occasionally, you probably know that I’m going to Peru soon.  I’ve been reading until my eyes are bleary.  As you can see by the title of this book, I’m trying to learn as much as possible about Machu Picchu.  A friend who’s going with me on the trip told me about this wonderful read. The moment I heard the title I thought, “Now this guy is funny.”  Happily, I was right about that.  He’s very funny indeed.  It isn’t often that one finds a travel book as entertaining as this one.  Ah, but I’m not writing this post to sell books.

I’m laughing at myself as I try to figure out why I am writing it.  I have found these past two years that if I write it out, whatever it is, I can begin to make sense of what’s going on in my life.  It’s rather like thinking aloud, but in print.  I hope it still works.

Back to Peru.  Most of my life I have wanted to see Machu Picchu.  I saw a photo of it in my Spanish book when I was about fifteen.  I think that explains why I have pored over materials about that particular site.  Now that the trip is coming at me like a downhill snowball, I realize that MP is only a small part of the trip.  It’s time for me to pay attention to Arequipa and Cuzco and the Colca Canyon.  I’m starting to get excited now about the magnificent textiles I’ll see and buy there, as pictured in the top photo.  Aren’t they gorgeous?  A feast for the eyes.  Heavenly to touch.  I’ll have to make some tough decisions.  I can’t buy all of them.

This will be my first journey to the southern hemisphere.  I must say my emotions are all over the map.  (Groan.)  You name it, I’ve felt it over the past few weeks.  I’m elated, nervous, a little scared, very excited–so many things bouncing around–no wonder I can’t concentrate.  I’ll be happy to get on the plane.  Then it’s too late to worry about leaving something behind.  That’s when I’ll let it go and relax.

And so I hope my wandering mind is calming down for the night and a good night’s sleep now that I’ve typed it out of my head.  One more thing I will mention, though, and that is that my grandson DW moved to a new apartment today.  He had stayed with me for the past two weeks while he awaited his “moving-in” day.  A couple of weeks doesn’t sound like enough time to get settled in and I doubt that it was for him, but I became accustomed to having him here and I miss him.  I guess I’ll set the alarm tonight since he’s not here to accidentally set it off.  He was three years old in this photo.  That was twenty years ago.