shanaritter: word by word

writing in the midst of life

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….


As you may have noticed weeks have slipped by since I last wrote my blog. I decided, without at first realizing my decision, to take a hiatus from blogging as I concentrate on a revision of the novel.  I will be back in the winter. Until then may your roads be touched with beauty and your days given time to take it in.





Hinting towards fall

On Saturday the first falling leaves spiraled down on a light breeze. My grandsons ran across the back yard trying to catch the yellow ones with butterfly nets. They did get a few, let them go and tried for more until they spotted a few last butterflies and took off after them. They never did manage to catch a butterfly. Instead moved on to trying to kick a ball over the roof, or hit a post, or run faster than the dog. They are tired out before dusk and their sleep is sound and deep.

I lie awake for a long time, tired but not sleepy. I am thinking of the shifting season, another birthday, another year about to turn as Rosh Hashanah approaches. I love the cool evenings and mornings, the welcome sun at mid-day. I watch the way the woods open, the brambles recede, the spaces between the trees grow wider making paths for me to walk.

Autumn is in many ways my favorite time of year. It holds beginnings and endings braided together. The close of summer, which always seems like time out of time for me, the days stretching so long that I am often left longing for night. The start of a new year offers the chance to renew. The equinox bringing the word briefly into balance as everything moves towards the true bare outline of itself.

Farewell Summer

This past week there were days of heat interspersed with rain. Then just the other morning, clear and lovely the cicadas in full chorus, I felt it. The very first hints of fall. It was something in the air, some tinge of coolness, a few leaves drifting down a few turning yellow in the upper branches. I know it’s just a prescient glimpse of what’s to come.  We have almost a whole month of summer left. Still  it’s not the summer I think of when I think of summer. Sure, there are hot days ahead, grass to mow, brambles covering the footpaths in the woods, but we are tipping towards autumn. Summer was a blink of an eye this year.

It’s not just the natural world. Children have already gone back to school, college students are arriving, people are asking how was you summer? Short I answer. What summer I’m thinking. There were a few glorious days floating on the pond, visiting grandkids up at dawn to fish, earlier on the first sightings of lightening bugs, and before that the expectation for slower days, longer nights, time expanded beyond schedules.

That expansion never seemed to happen. The languidness of summer, that sense of time out of time has been disappearing  over the last five years and this year I think it was finally gone.  Work has an ebb and flow that has nothing to do with the season. Schools go back earlier and earlier. Travel is put off. Summer it seems is disappearing.

Oh, it’s hot enough for days on end, but it’s not the weather that makes the season. Summer was composed of unchartered days, unmeasured afternoons that drifted into long evenings. It seems the very notion of summer is gone.


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