shanaritter: word by word

Time Change

I’ve been back home for just about as long as I was gone but time’s measure is distinct even though the length of it is close to the same.  Time’s texture and weight are different, its viscosity changes, especially the way it slides through my hands.

Traveling has a way of bringing things into focus; mountains, rivers, stretches of sea all take on clarity. Skies extend past the horizon. Lines have curves. There are multiple paths in every direction. There is an invitation to explore.

Back home I am distracted by the list of to dos. must dos, should dos. Like looking though dusty glasses, my vision is not opaque, but it is clouded.   I am walking in a swamp where there are only small stones to rest on, some easily, some more precariously.  Hours and minutes are swallowed and there in no trace left of them.

This morning I grew quiet enough to hear the birdsong, Cardinals and crows, a distant hawk, the owl that always thinks its dusk, the many others I cannot name. The sound widened the space around my home. It broadened time. For a brief few seconds everything was right outside my window; the Andes, the southernmost bays, the wide Pacific beach, the Rio Plata emptying into the Atlantic. For just a moment time was silk, cocoon, shroud, thread, weightless flight.

The view from home

We have been home for three days, the time feels both longer and shorter. One thing for sure, it doesn’t feel like I was never gone. It’s  cloudy and full of tones of gray today, a good day for settling in. It reminds of the very earliest days of fall in the far southern reaches of the Americas, even though so much is different. Then again, I guess the turnings at the equinox,  whether Spring or Fall, share in more ways then they differ. Still, I am surprised how standing by small pond in the dull afternoon in the midst of  southern Indiana’s rolling hills reminds of the farthest length of South America. The glaciers didn’t reach here, and there you can feel the breath of ice even in the sun.

Walking the woods this morning not a single tree felt similar to those in Patagonia or Tierra de Fuego, The world above and below distinctly different;  sounds, textures, shapes and scents. There I felt like the world was simultaneously primordial and new. Here the land feels gentled, there it felt raw and bared. And the quiet has a different weight. The sky seemed closer there and the horizon not aline but a curve. The place where water met land only a suggestion of difference hunting at the proximity of the vastness of sea and the southernmost continent, Antarctica.

I just finished reading Terra Incognito by Sara Wheeler. I began it in the northern part of Patagonia, Chile, right after finishing her Travels in a Thin Country. Both were written in the 90s. I happened upon her looking for books about travel in South America and am surprised I never read, or even heard of her before. Sort of a biography of a land, mixed with travelogue, history and her own reflections. I found both books intriguing, though I have to admit I was ready to be done with the book about Antarctica as we were flying north to Buenos Aires. It wasn’t until today as I was finishing the book, over inundated with information,  that I realized exactly what kept me reading. A shared notion of why we travel, “Despite everything I had gone through to get where I was….it seemed to me then that the external journey meant nothing at all.

Grateful for the quiet hum of my house and the end of the road where we live, I’ll travel from here for the next while. The journey continuing, the wall clock ticking, the comforting logs alight in the wood burning stove.



Last Days

Waking to a beautiful clear day,the coming autumn on the wind from the sea, here in Montevideo, Uruguay. It is our last night, we’ll go to a local Tango salon after spending much of the day in the sprawling weekly “Féria” market. 

A last day where north is the direction of warmth and south takes you to the ice. Another day of suspended chores and unconstructured time. And beginning to imagine how to carrry the journey into the daily, and returning home to the loss of a friend. I have lost three close friends in the past six years, each loss making me more conscious of the precious precosciouness of time.  How close pain resides to love, how kindness is the balm for both. 

Travel strengthens my awareness, focuses me on the present. It grants me a heightened awareness of both precariousness and faith. We are all immigrants moving from place to place, curiosity to idea, sureness to possibility.

I think of travel having three stages; first imagining and planning, the actual experience and after, the longest of the three, reflecting. Thoughts begin to simultaneously turn toward home and remembering places we’ve passed through, conversations with people, landscapes.  I hope to carry the wonder with me as I dwell in the comfort of the ordinary.

At the end of the world

Ushuaia Argentina Tierra de Fuego “final del mundo” This is what the signs and souvenirs say; the end of the world, but what if it is the beginning? In this place where lake and land, sky and sea, all merge into mist that rises and falls through the turning of the day.

In this place where the breath of cold is never far away, couldn’t it be possible that it is the beginning of the world? This place where water is always in all its states; ice and vapor and liquid. Could we have emerged from cold, in the mist in the midst of seas?Edit

We hiked up to Martial Glacier, up and up for miles as the path wound round the broken stones of morrain. As we claimed higher ground the cold cloud of the glacier’s air rested on our shoulders before we could even see any snow. Up as far as we could go we arrived at just a tiny finger of the Glacier reaching down. On the way I caught site of a small brown moth colored with subtle shades of reds and greens,  like the terrain. It was the only one I saw, and I lost sight of it again until we reached the snow, where it fluttered round me, before heading into the heights where I couldn’t follow. A last hint of summer before the world turns cold. 

Manolo and I seem to be drawn to the ends of roads. We’ve ended up in some of our favorite places following an unknown road to its very end. Our home is at the end of a dead end lane. In Ushuaia we watch the gray sky turn to gray night over the Beagle Channel. We are marking our 40th year  of being together. We met in a northern place, and so it seems fitting to have come so far south that it feels like north again.

When you are away…

You become part of a different landscape, reside in a different kind of time. Each day reveals a new geography both inner and outer. 

I just learned my good friend died.  I am saddened and sorry. The distance of thousands of miles leaves no route to offer any comfort to her family. It illuminates the solitary side of grief. I trust in my home’s strong community to offer support.  I will continue to hold our friendship. 

All week I have been working on a translation, part of a Neruda poem I had never seen before buying the collection at his home La Sebastiana, Valparaiso last week. I wanted to offer it here for Toby but it is not ready. I am not ready.

I am remembering to treasure each day, every loved one, as best I can. This is what I know; somehow we are both fleeting and enduring.

Traveling; Los Lagos, Chile

One of the small pleasures of travel is the rainy day that makes you stop. We are holed up in a nice hotel in Puerto Montt for the day. We had to adjust our route, which fell into place once we were able to let go of our original plans, stay atuned to the journey’s intent and zig zag a bit.

But first Chiloe, the big island. Beautiful and calm, unique. Big open Pacific beach on one side, bays, fjords, channels and views of the Andes on the other. In between rolling green hills, lakes, small enclaves of bright wooden houses, many on stilts.

We happened on a local bar/restaurant where the singer treated us to Victor Jara and Violeta Parra ( icons of Chilean music from the early 70s.)  I was reminded of Allende’s brief tenure as president , the reforms he tried to put into place and the subsequent coup ( 9/11/73) when Pinochet took power. Thousands were killed, jailed, forced  into exile. The lingerings are still apparent. 

One of our favorite days was the small boat tour run by a local family to see penguins, seals, dolphins. Jessica loves her island and helped us gain a good understanding of how salmon farming has adversely effected the eco system, and the culture of the island as a whole. And yes we saw a lot of wildlife and learned that seals, foca in Spanish, are called lobos del mar here- sea wolves.

We left Chiloe yesterday planning to leave the lake region today,  but no tickets left so we have a slow day to gather our thoughts and ourselves. 

Tomorrow we will cross back over the Andes to Bariloche, Argentina and the next day fly to Ushauia, Tierra de Fuego. We were going to head south through Chile by ferry and bus but no luck, so we spun around a few times and found an alternate route- south to the city at the end of the world. 

This is a whole new rythym of moving through days, partly remembered from our many years of traveling,  but also tempered by age, experience and a world that seems continuously connected, and then the many gaps reveal. 

We are in a time out of time though following enough of the news to stay aware – everyday I’m thankful for all of you doing the daily work, carrying on. I’ll be back 

Over the Andes 

Hills change to steep inclines all the way it’s earth’s rock bare bones. The places where the peaks have been thrust into sky are clear long lines and the fallen boulders make the string of trucks and buses smaller. After crossing into Chile the road is all hairpin turns a giant loop de loop until the Central Valley and Pacific. 

Valparaiso is steep hills and huge port. It feels like a clouded mirror image of San Francisco; grittier and more lively, smaller, brighter colored houses in every street and sleeping dogs lying everywhere. Visited La Sebastiana, Neruda’s house; simple, small, replete and full of light. So many windows,  no wonder his poetry is spacious enough to contain us all.

Mendoza; food, wine and ….

Left Bloomington on Saturday afternoon, arrived Argentina Sunday afternoon. Dinner at Mendoza’s Azafrán, delicious and beautiful, for example almond soup with shrimp, a corn stew with goat cheese. Sunday night streets lively with families and tourists. Late summer evening that feels very like mid size cities in Spain or Italy. Though here the plazas are green spaces and old buildings are early 19th century.

This morning visited a family owned winery with the youngest brother as our very congenial guide. Their vineyards are bordered with olive trees in one area, roses in another. They have different grapes  growing in different vineyards  each one a microclimate.  Harvest is about to begin. My favorite wine, to my surprise,  a Cabernet Franc. 

It is very hot here, 95 or so, dog days of summer. The snow capped Andes are just to the west. Tomorrow we’ll cross the mountains  by “micro” (that’s  a full sized bus by the way) to Valparaiso, Chile. 

Still feel like I’m landing, though the distance to home and the notion of the daily increases hour by hour. 

The night before

Getting ready to leave. Tonight I am moving through the to do list, tomorrow we’ll be driving to the airport, changing planes until  by Sunday we’ll be in Mendoza Argentina. A few days later we’ll cross the Andes into Chile. 

After visiting Valparaiso, and one of Neruda’s houses, We are heading as far south as we can; through the lake country to Patagonia and on to Tierra de Fuego. It will all be new to us…. 

“caminante no hay camino se hace camino al andar ” – Antonio Machado    Traveler there is no road you create it as you go

I’ll be sharing the journey here… word by word 

Here we go….

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