Memorial Day

the lost shall not be forgotten –

the selfless service, the warriors of old –

would that battles could resolve with words –

instead of leaving orphans in the cold –

would that heroes need not die –

for truth and justice to take hold.

too long away

just need to touch in here, to remind myself to leave a few tracks – in sand, mud, forest, hyperspace – to remember where I might have been in the world, in my head, or on the page.

I have a new story coming out Feb 10, 2020 on https://poydrasreview.com/ – excerpted from Daughter of the Nazca Moon (the novel hasn’t found a US home yet, but is is currently being translated into Spanish with possibilities of publishing in Peru)

NaNoWriMo kept me busy in November, working on the sequel where Patya travels to the altiplano of Peru and Boliva (still sixth century) in search of answers from the fabled society of Tiwanaku and the mystical Lake Titicaca.

In October, made a few dramatic hikes overlooking the lake, beginning at 3,800 meters above sea level… on up to nearly 5,000. slow but steady…

respectfully conscious of the movement of clouds, the direction of the wind, the proximity of the lightning, and the absence of refuge at the summit

Autumn Again After 14 Years

View from our front porch. We are not in Lima anymore

It has been a long process, but our transition continues to be a true pachacuti in our lives, in the most positive sense of that Andean “turning over of worlds’. Closing chapters. Launching new beginnings. Re-prioritizing. Re-energizing. Refocusing. But above all, breathing in the mountains, enjoying family, and reinventing our surroundings. Such a blessing to be here! We have always had one foot in Peru, and one in the US. That will never change.

one of our favorite spots during our walks on the malecon in Miraflores, Lima

what is is about Nasca?

IMG-20130325-00189

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

PHOENIX – another pin on the wall

The unrelenting sound of construction has not ceased since the day Marisol first asked me about curses and enchantments. I hadn’t really paid much attention to all the building in the neighborhood, since I kept my radio tuned to an upbeat oldies station that masked the other noises. But that day, I turned off the radio to be able to hear her better. For some reason, I never turned it back on. The rhythms of construction have replaced the music that used to fill my office. From all sides come the buzz and clank, the banter of workers—but I digress. I am not here to recount the problems in the neighborhood, but to tell you something of Marisol’s story before my office is taken apart around me.

It was almost exactly a year ago when Marisol’s dark and downcast face suddenly moved out of the shadowed corners of my world right into its center. Her name had always made me think of girasol—Spanish for sunflower, from girar “to turn” and sol for “sun.” Marisol was anything but sunny back then.

… and for the rest of the story? 

pushpin map

mosey on down to Amarillo Bay

(picture borrowed from http://www.houzz.es/push-pin-travel-map?irs=US)

when the cactus blooms

So, about the time my Nasca novel takes its tentative steps out into the world, a cactus in my roof sprouts a small bud that gets hairier by the day. Not like a new arm about to sprout, but a sign that a flower is in the making.

That little round bud hinted at the promise of a bloom for a few weeks, then suddenly began to grow. And grow. More than an inch a day for a week. Amazing to watch. As if the entire cactus were shooting its life force into the unlikely looking sprout that launched itself outward.

cactus bloom
a cactus about to bloom

Cactus in bloom

It unfolded last night into an explosion of white, and by tonight, it had retreated back into the outstretched arm, folded back into itself and disappeared.

Sometimes things feel laden with meaning.

Expectation.

Celebration.

The awe at nature’s art.

San Pedro Cactus flower
a one day show

I first starting growing this variety of cactus when I realized it was such an ubiquitous part of Nasca culture. I wanted to surround myself with things that would keep me connected to the time and place I was writing about. I googled the cactus, learned what I could, and even found a video of one of its glorious flowers unfolding. A night bloom destined to last no more than a day or two. I visited literal cactus forests in the desert and saw some in bloom, but dreamed of one day witnessing one unfold from close up. I even wrote such a scene into the book.

Six years later, the book is finished, and the cactus burst into bloom.

It’s hard not to feel that there is somehow a connection.

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