Monday, May 13, 2013

On the Precipice: Peru

I stood on the precipice overlooking Machu Picchu. It had been a sweaty climb to the top of the Temple of the Sun, but well worth it. It was breathtaking. The fog had finally dispersed over the Andes Mountains and views of the Lost City of the Incas were riveting, magical, and surreal. Here, we could see the symmetry of their walls, stone upon stone and edge upon edge slanting in the same direction, the building of an awesome civilization. Sacred geography. Water gushed along the crevices, an ancient watering system that still fed into the hot springs of Aguas Calientes for common folk at the foot of the mountain. The sun warmed my cheeks and I was an eagle, yearning to fly.

At the same time, I am afraid of heights. Beside me stood the man I loved. Little did I know we would part before the year ended. The path downward was infinitely more difficult than climbing up. The steps were jagged and broken, too narrow to contain a whole foot and people wound up tiptoeing sideways while balancing the gravitational pull to the center of the earth. I stopped and stared. I thought I was going to die. Gingerly, I stepped down and then tripped, hanging onto a branch for dear life. I trudged forward again and slipped, clinging to rocks for survival. Then I decided to descend on my reliable behind, muddying the seat of my jeans beyond recognition. I was never able to wear them again.

I often wondered what would have happened had I continued to climb up instead of down. There was another summit, a more beautiful and loftier peak Huayna Picchu, rumored to have been the resting place of a moon goddess. I wanted to keep going , but my companion warned me of the time and the litany of activities he planned afterwards. Plus, he needed to go to the bathroom. So I went down, on my butt.

Perhaps we must fall before we can fly. My life crumbled shortly afterwards and I remembered the image of rain beating down on stone, submitting it into the shape that it willed. I had succumbed to fear, to expectations, to the will of others. I had lost myself and I did not even notice until I saw myself in the mirror one day and did not recognize the person who was going about her daily business. Life may do this to you. Work may do this to you. Society may do this to you. The intentions of others, no matter how well-meaning and kind, may lead you astray if you are not true to your own heart.

Where was my heart? I embarked on a journey to find out. I am still on that journey. Many things are still uncertain. I still have dark, unholy nights filled with self-doubt. Yet there are flashes of truth and inspiration, spurring the genesis of my novel and birth of my blog. I know I am enough. When you find an inkling of yourself, your authentic self, you need very little else.

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