We set out from Cusco in a small van in high altitude. Outside the windows, we could see the blue-brown slopes of the Andes, the road snaking through the rising hills and passing small communities of brick and cinder houses. There are dogs everywhere. It is apparent that the dogs and the people form a living bond, that they belong to one another in a kind of friendliness between species. I wonder if such a bond might be a promise upon which to build like relationships of care between human and other species: as creatures on the earth we find we are common travelers together on the planet, that we might watch out for each other, that we might live together in peace.
Our first stop is to a community of weavers. Invited to have tea, we are shown the way color is drawn from the plants at hand. We watch a woman throw the shuttle, moving the weft across the warp; it is ancient, something that knits this woman to the long line of women before her and the line coming after her. The scarves, mittens, hats and cloth are arranged on tables for us to purchase. We are the end of the process – we buy articles for ourselves and loved ones, carrying off into our lives the energies of these women.
I wonder how the memory of these artisans will impact my understanding of the connection between the earth – its animals, plants and people – and the things I buy. When I later touch the soft cloth of the scarf I purchased, will I remember the skilled hands that wove it? Will I make the link between the labor and the warmth? Am I gathering into my knowledge the sense of relationship between the bounty of the earth, the work of these villagers, and the scarf I wear? Does my purchase create gratitude and care in my heart?
Our second stop began with flowers. Exiting our vehicle, we are greeted with women and girls carrying baskets of blossoms to toss in our hair and men and boys who play pipes and drums. We are gifted with a celebration. There is a way that hospitality opens the soul. The welcoming softens the edges of apprehension at meeting new people in a new place; it dispels the myth of human beings as foreign. Perhaps there are foreign, or unknown places, upon the earth and within our hearts, but there is also a place of familiarity that is contained in the welcome of one human being to another. It is clear. It is known. It is understood.
This welcome was given to us because our Peruvian guide, Dr. Guillermo Yoshikawa has made a path for us. He who is known as safe and true has power to open the way for others. Let me remember this. Let me be this.
We feast on root vegetables and roasted chicken, taken from an earthen pit. We again drink tea made from cocoa plants and another deep purple corn mélange that is slightly warm. I feel I might be drinking a bit of the sky at dusk when the sun sinks beneath the horizon and the night turns the vista a dark mauve. The children are beautiful – dressed in bright ponchos matching their parents, they stare at us with curious eyes. Intelligent, clear, open: these children have not been shattered by the deluge of electronic stimulation. They can see themselves. They can see others. They can see the ground upon which they stand. Let me remember this. Let me carry this with me into my relations. Let me be guided by the eyesight of these children.
The community here is a band of seekers. They worship God in the community of Methodists. And yet they bear in themselves the history of their ancestors, the ways and customs of a mountain people. I believe the world needs this rhythm of old and new, this clear sighted honesty. Perhaps if we are to save the earth, we need the way of people who have lived upon it without disrupting the water and air so mercilessly. I am aware I come from places and people who have lost such mercy. May I remember the truth of simplicity and be convicted. May I be turned around: repentant. Let me remember this.