Viking Sun

childhood dream come true. land of fjords, home of Thor

Heyerdahl, Kon-Tiki legend who fired flames of adventure

followed currents across the Pacific

challenged Atlantic oil tankers for defiling the sea

burned his Tigris boat of reeds

in protest against war profiteers arming the mideast

(an unconventional pioneer in exploration, archaeology, environmental activism – his writing took me on my first trip to Peru, to Easter Island, to Bolivia, to Polynesia. He died in 2002, before we finally crossed paths in Tucume, but in Oslo, I have picked up his trail again – thought provoking and relevant)

Thor Heyerdahl (center) and his 10-man crew burn their reed ship Tigris in protest of the wars raging in the Middle East. (Photo by Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo)

Above: On April 3, 1978, after their five-month-4,200-mile-oceanic voyage, Thor Heyerdahl (center) and his 10-man crew burn their reed ship Tigris in protest of the wars raging in the Middle East. (Photo by Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo).

After the rain


As heavy rains and flooding wreaked havok along the desert coast of Peru in March and April, I kept thinking about what had happened to the Nasca culture in Peru during the sixth century, when natural disasters contributed to the demise of their society.

With almost 1,200,000 people afftected, many of whom lost their homes and farmlands, there was an initial surge of help, an oupouring of sympathy across the country and around the world. From the patio of the Presidential Palace to grocery stores and television stations – from churches to stadiums to hair salons, the rush to assist in the midst of so much disaster was earnest and widespread. The rains lightened, the worst of the emergency was handled, channels were established for getting resources to those in need, and the work of recovery has begun.

And it will be work.

What happens now must also anticipate what will happen tomorrow.

But enough for now. Have to pack for Chiclayo.

But for more about the recent flooding and why it makes me think of Nasca, you can read my essay in the Earth Island Journal.

Please have a look. tweet it. share it. think about it. comment…  Thanks – I’m curious what you think.

In Peru, Learning from the Nasca: 

Finding parallels between the demise of an ancient culture and contemporary environmental challenges


what is is about Nasca?


The questions I went in with when I started writing the novel Desert Voices had to do with: 1) what lead to the demise of the Nasca culture?  2) how would such an earth-honoring culture interpret the environmental crises that constantly plagued the region? and 3) what lessons can we apply to our current environmental challenges?

I read everything I could get my hands on, researched the evidence left behind, talked to archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, archaeobotanists and geologists. I spent the night atop their sacred mountain, visited thousand-year-old trees, and explored hidden valleys. I walked the Nazca lines in my head and scratch my own across wide stretches of beach.

I ended up with more questions than I started with.

I began mostly with curiosity about how the Nasca had managed to harness the underground waters that turned their desert valleys into productive fields; about why they had such a penchant for severed heads; and about which of all the theories the Nazca lines might be closest to the truth of how they were actually used.

But in the process, some new questions led me down some unexpected paths. The prevalence of orcas in their iconography prompted me to research the ocean’s top predator – which opened up a new world of understanding about the social structure of the species and also raised questions about interspecies communication.

The central role of the San Pedro cactus in their iconocraphy, remniscent of the Chavin culture, led me to explore the living cultures that still use the cactus in a ceremonial brew as a “visionary medicine” and who consider some plants to be teachers of wisdom and guides for healing.

And so the novel project became much more than a novel.

One of the first things that came out of my explorations was a documentary about the guarango, considered by some to be the “king of the desert”, the One Tree that not only unites the three worlds -the heavens above, the world below, and the place we inhabit in between- but that also provided food, shelter and fuel. I organized a trip through Ica and Nasca with documentary filmmaker Delia Ackerman, camerographer Juan Duran, and cultural anthropologist Jerome van der Zalm.

You can see the result here in the short film: The King of the Desert is Dying

Peru’s Real treasures? My friend Delia

Peru’s Real treasures? My friend Delia Ackerman makes wonderful documentaries about the conservation of nature, culture and memory. I have been helping with her most recent project, “Hatun Pajcha: The Healing Land” which takes the audience through the culturally and biologically diverse regions of Peru to highlight the remarkable health benefits and nutritional value of foods that are often unknown or overlooked. Viewers will meet hardworking farmers, committed “guardians” of many species, dedicated scientists, creative chefs and nutritionists, and enthusiastic entrepreneurs.
I invite you to visit indiegogo, and sign up so that you will receive updates on the film, tantalizing tidbits about research into Peruvian “superfoods” and introductions to the people who bring them to tables around the world!


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