SILENCE AND SOLITUDE : The Universe’s Call to Disconnect

SILENCE AND SOLITUDE : The Universe’s Call to Disconnect

One of the greatest necessities … is to discover creative solitude.

 – Carl Sandberg

 

Sometimes one needs the silence, the solitude – if for nothing else than to meditate on where one has been, where one is now … and ponder where the road may lead to wander in the future.

Sometimes that silence, that solitude is chosen. A few weeks in a beach hut in Zorritos is always a wonderful tonic for me. To spend long hours soaking in the hot springs up in the desert hills. Hours wandering the beach. Hours swimming in the Pacific Ocean, feeling my muscles stretch with each stroke. Hours sitting on the bamboo porch, writing poetry – or swaying in the hammock reading.

Or anyplace along the Caribbean. That warm sea serenades my spirit. A home for meditating, creating poetry, exploring nature.

Sunset at Zorritos. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Sunset at Zorritos. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Sometimes, though, we are called from without to be in silence and solitude … called to re-learn the old ways, before internet and cell phones (which I don’t have anyways).

And such is my place in this present. A thousand kilometers at sea, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. At night I hear its thunderous voice with the incoming tide. The wind rises, banging my door ajar wide open or closing it with a bang – a ghostly message to open my self to what is happening at that moment. Or a ghostly message to release my self of it.

Such is my place in this present. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Such is my place in this present. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Although the village is just a few kilometers away and its multi-colored lights serpentine across the night bay, here it is another world.

My few neighbors are scientists or students working to preserve these islands’ unique environment, and their flora and fauna. (Me – I’m here to preserve their work for future generations of investigators.)

Like the tourists, though, that flock here to gawk at nature’s bounty, we are here only for a while. We see specimens of that species Homo sapiens turiensis every day. Many colleagues walk or bike those several kilometers to interact with that world, only to return late at night on a dark road.

I prefer to be here at night. I prefer to sit out on the porch, watching the violently colored sunset over in that direction where the town lay. Venus is bright against that pallet. Then I watch the full moon rise above the long-extinct volcano’s slopes, now covered with wild vegetation. To wonder at the multitudes of stars dusted by the Milky Way, Mars bright red near Scorpio’s curling tail.

I listen to the sea, to the call of some night bird, the rustle of something unseen in the heavy growth of saltbush and espino.

Until the clouds begin to drift in off the bay. It is now time to repose, to drift away on that spirit serenade ….

Only to awaken with the dawning of a new day misted by the seasonal garúa and mockingbird melodies.

A golden dawn, assuring more garúa mist top fall this morn. photo © Lorraine Caputo

A golden dawn, assuring more garúa mist top fall this morn. photo © Lorraine Caputo

After a day of measurements and studies, of translations and writing reports, I often head to the beach near my temporary home.

At the gate, village youth park their bikes and head off, surfboards under arms. In these garúa months, the wind comes from the south, causing the bay’s waters to swell into curving waves.

I sit on the time-worn lava rock, watching those young folk bobbing in the platinum-blue waters. When a wave begins to rise, one paddles and catches it, riding the curl until it breaks into white froth.

Overhead fly blue-footed boobies. A yellow warbler hops amidst the purslane, pecking at the coarse soil. Behind me, an iguana sprawls, resting after his algae feast.

Life within a tidal pool. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Life within a tidal pool. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Or perhaps when I arrive, it is low tide (like it was today). Now it is a solitary beach, with only a few errant Homo sapiens turiensis taking photos of a pelican atop a mound of rocks, hunched against the chill breeze.

There is a silence broken by the shriek of an ashen-colored gull. A ruddy turnstone steps across these black fields, as does a whimbrel and over yonder, a dusky heron. Overhead, a boobie passes. A frigatebird circles over the shallows.

Carefully I step across the tumbled, fractured lava and peer into the tidal pools, at the life that is within. How many will find safe haven until the waters once more rise? A yellow warbler bathes in a small pool captured between algae-greened stones.

Yellow warbler bathing in a tidal pool. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Yellow warbler bathing in a tidal pool. photo © Lorraine Caputo

I take off my shoes. Feeling the rough sands of broken coral, shells and sea urchin spines beneath my bare feet, I begin to meld with the energy of this enchanted place. I merge my energy with its during qi chi chuan.

Doing Standing Five Elements, I feel the isles’ volcanic fire and the cool waters that wash this shore. Earth that slowly breaks down into soil, to accept the mangrove woods that take root. And finally the metal of minerals belched from the planet’s soul. Bringing all these energies into me, to balance me.

Then I Yang-dance more than a hundred postures across this coarse strand, shutting doors, grasping a grass sparrow’s tail, my hands waving like the clouds passing through this heaven, waving to Buddha …

Meditatively I close the session. The western sky over the village is awash with golden fuchsia. I gather my shoes in hand and walk barefoot to my temporary home to eat dinner under starlight, to the tidal music.

The full moon veiled by clouds coming in, promising another garúa-misted dawn. photo © Lorraine Caputo

The full moon veiled by clouds coming in, promising another garúa-misted dawn. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Silence and solitude is what this place gifts to me every moment.

Yet sometimes the silence deepens … the electricity may go out, plunging all in lava-black darkness. Not even those multi-color tourist hotel lights paint the bay.

Sometimes the internet fades away, cutting all ties with the outside world that lies beyond those clouds that bear garúa.

This is when I am reminded to return, to re-learn the old ways. To sit at the table on my porch, listening to the mockingbird song and the high tide, writing these words to share with you, to let you know that indeed I am still here.

Hope, I do, to be able to send this meditation to you from this island a thousand miles out at sea.

 

The earth has its music for those who will listen …

George Santayana

 

NEW PUBLICATIONS : Poetic and Travel

Whew! Life is turning into a whirlwind here! Come this time next month – if all falls into place – I shall be on the road again ….

But in the midst of all of this, my poetry and travel writing is continuing to appear regularly in journals and on websites around the world.

Safe Journeys!

Ever ready to give a poetry reading: My “traveling poetry” books with over 25 years of works, in English and in Spanish. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Ever ready to give a poetry reading: My “traveling poetry” books with over 25 years of works, in English and in Spanish. photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

NEW LITERARY EXPRESSIONS

“Dance for a New Year,” in Prachya Review (Bangladesh) (Summer 2016)

“To the Killing Fields” in Caravel Literary Arts Journal (nº 2, July 2016)

 

 

365 Days on the Fiesta Continent by Kali Kucera and Lorraine Caputo /Andes Transit, 2016). Photo used with permission.

365 Days on the Fiesta Continent by Kali Kucera and Lorraine Caputo /Andes Transit, 2016). Photo used with permission.

NEW TRAVEL EXPRESSIONS

 

AndesTransit

365 Days on the Fiesta Continent by Kali Kucera and Lorraine Caputo

Our new book is out, “365 Days on the Fiesta Continent”, a guide to festival hopping across South America. No matter what time you visit, get our book and make your plan to never miss the party!

 

Insider’s Galapagos / Galapagos Travel Planner

(including ghostwritten articles)

Galapagos Islands: what happens in August

How to Get to the Galapagos Islands

Souvenirs: Bringing Galapagos Home with You

NEW PUBLICATIONS : Poetic and Travel

NEW PUBLICATIONS : Poetic and Travel

My poetry and travel writing is continuing to appear regularly in journals and on websites around the world.

This month, I have no new Literary Expressions to share with you. Still three publications are waiting in the wings, yet to be released by the literary journals that have accepted them.

In the meantime, though, just click on the titles below to check out my new Travel Expressions. May you enjoy your virtual sojourns to the Enchanted Isles!

Safe Journeys!

Sierra Negra and Cerro Chico, Isla Isabel. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Sierra Negra and Cerro Chico, Isla Isabel. photo © Lorraine Caputo

NEW TRAVEL EXPRESSIONS

Insider’s Galapagos / Galapagos Travel Planner

(including ghostwritten articles)

Galapagos Islands: what happens in July

Exploring the Galapagos Islands: The Hancock Expeditions

Cash or card? Using money in the Galapagos Islands

New Galapagos Wonders Discovered

 

FÊTING THE SUN: The Andean Raymi Festivals

FÊTING THE SUN: The Andean Raymi Festivals

The equatorial sun on the June solstice. photo © Lorraine Caputo

The equatorial sun on the June solstice. photo © Lorraine Caputo

The solstices and equinoxes are important times of the year, especially for peoples with earth-based religions. At these seasons, they gather across the globe to welcome a new year, or prepare for the sowing or the harvest season. From the northern hemisphere to the southern, in Europe and Asia, in Africa and the Americas, the people honor the sun and Mother Earth.

Throughout the America, these solar events are celebrated. In the Yucatán of Mexico, Maya descendants and New Age practitioners descend on Chichén Itzá. Throughout South America’s Andean region, from southern Colombia to northern Chile and Argentina, indigenous nations mark the solstices with raymi, or festivals. The most famous of these celebrations is the Inti Raymi, celebrated on or near the June solstice. In the Patagonia, traditional Mapuche celebrate the June solstice with Tripuinta, their New Year.

Traditions – of indigenous, migrant and other populations – also exist near the poles, where the solstices mark the shortest and longest nights of the year. Above the Arctic Circle in June and below the Antarctic Circle in December, the sun never sets. Instead, it inscribes a circle on the edge of the horizon.

Ushuaia (Argentina), 1309 kilometers (814 miles) from the Antarctic Circle, at the December solstice. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Ushuaia (Argentina), 1309 kilometers (814 miles) from the Antarctic Circle, at the June solstice. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Interlude : Celebrating near the Poles

In Alaska, my co-workers anxiously awaited that day. As it approached, the car would be outfitted with supplies and a group would pile in to make the 400-kilometer (250-mile) trek up to the Arctic Circle. North of Fairbanks, the Dalton Highway was unpaved. Dangers included getting stuck in mud, bottoming out the car and ripping the oil pan out, and accidents. The risks, though, were outweighed by the excitement of seeing the Midnight Sun and having a break from the grind of scrubbing toilets and attending guests in a national park.

In Ushuaia, the longest night is celebrated in June. During the short day, races take place on a ski run constructed on the main street. At dusk, a group of us headed out to watch the Marcha de Antorchas (Torch Parade). A hard snow was spitting across the darkening sky. Down at the Town Hall, people were dancing at the live music hosted there. That event closed the night with a massive fireworks display.

But my interest was up at Parque Yatana, Ushuaia’s last stand of native forest where the native Yaghan people have a cultural center (25 de Mayo and Magallanes). We huddled around a blazing bonfire, listening to traditional legends, singing and drumming until the pale winter dawn began to paint the sky.

The solar calendar at Monquirá, near Villa de Leyva, Colombia. photo © Lorraine Caputo

The solar calendar at Monquirá, near Villa de Leyva, Colombia. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Marking Time

The solstice is when the earth is at its closest (summer) or furthest (winter) tilt from the sun. It is a time when the sun appears to stand still. The longest day and longest night occur at this time. The further north (or south) you go, the longer the time of light or darkness. Upon passing the Arctic and Antarctic Circles, you’ll experience over two months of pure light in summer, and pure night and twilight in winter.

The equinox occur midways between the two solstices, in March and September. As its Latin roots imply (æquus = equal + nox = night), the day / night ratio at all corners of the Earth is 12 hours / 12 hours. Only at the equator are days and nights equal all year long.

Naturally, the dates vary of when the equinoxes and solstices may occur: 19 – 21 March, 20 – 22 June, 21 – 24 September, and 20 – 23 December.

To calculate the date of the solstices and equinoxes, ancient societies constructed henges or stone calendars to show the sun’s movements. A particularly spectacular one is at Parque Arqueológico de Monquirá, called “El Infiernito” by locals. This ancient Muisca site near Villa de Leyva in Colombia has two parts. The first is a calendar of 36 stones in parallel lines that marks the sun’s movements, showing the time when the earth (and the women) would be most fertile and planting should begin. The second is a phallic forest where Muisca women performed fertility ceremonies.

Raymi ceremonies are usually held at places of historical important, like archaeological sites. In Quito, Inti Raymi is celebrated on Plaza San Francisco, where some claim Inca Atahualpa’s palace once stood. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Raymi ceremonies are usually held at places of historical important, like archaeological sites. In Quito, Inti Raymi is celebrated on Plaza San Francisco, where some claim Inca Atahualpa’s palace once stood. photo © Lorraine Caputo

The Raymi

Although the raymi solar festivals are associated with the Inca Empire, they are, in fact, millennia-old traditions. even. These ceremonies show veneration and respect to the sun, Pachamama (Mother Earth), the moon and stars, and celebrate the planting or harvest seasons. Rituals include baths, purification and healing ceremonies, as well as thanks giving to the powers of the Cosmos.

After the arrival of the Spaniards, the Raymi and other celebrations took on a Catholic façade. In this way, the indigenous could maintain their traditions in the face of the Inquisition and other deadly threats. This meant moving the dates of celebrations to that of a particular saint or other holy day, or incorporating it into the nine-day novena preceding the saint’s days. The same phenomenon probably explains European traditions like Midsummer’s Eve, which coincides with John the Baptist’s feast day.

The Andean indigenous cosmovision has four festivals or raymi: Inti, Kulla, Kapak and Pawkar. all include dancing, disguises or costumes, and special foods.

If you are traveling at any of these seasons, your best chance of seeing (and perhaps joining in) on the festivities are in areas with a strong indigenous sense of pride, especially in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Remember to be respectful of the ceremonies – and, please, ask beforehand if photos are allowed to be taken.

Inti Raymi

  • June solstice
  • Catholic façade: Saint John the Baptist (San Juan Bautista), whose feast day is 24 June

Inti Raymi (Sun Festival) is the most famous of the Andean sun festivals. For communities south of the equator, this marks the longest night and the coldest time of the year. Like Northern Europe’s Winter Solstice or Yule celebrations, it is a beseeching to the Sun that he return, bringing life back to Earth.

Inti Raymi was banned by the Catholic Church in 1572. It continued to survive, though, in secret or hidden under the guise of San Juan Bautista.

The most renowned Inti Raymi is held on Saint John the Baptist’s day. This is the full-out, theatrical performance held every 24 June in Saqsayhuaman, near Cusco, Peru. It recreates the grandiose ceremonies designed by Inca Pachacútec and described by the chronicler, Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. Entry to the event is free; but if you want a seat during the five-hour ceremony, expect to pay top dollar.

In Bolivia, the June solstice is a national holiday: Año Nuevo Aymara, or the Aymara New Year.

Kulla Raymi

  • September equinox
  • Catholic façade: Virgin of Mercy (Virgen de la Merced), whose feast day is 24 September

Kulla Raymi (Planting Festival), called Coya Raymi in Quechua-speaking areas, is dedicated to the moon (Quilla) and to women. Pachamama is fertile and thus, it is time to plant the year’s crops. As well as being a fertility ceremony, a purification ritual is performed to drive away negative energies and spirits.

 

Kapak Raymi

  • December solstice
  • Catholic façade: Christmas, which is 25 December

At Kapak Raymi (the Great Festival), the female energy of the Universe is at her peak. It is the time of the release of potentials: in politics, and in family, personal and community relationships. It is also an important time for children and their growth. Now is when spiritual and political leaders are celebrated and the baton of power is passed on.

Pawkar Raymi

  • March equinox
  • Catholic façade: Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin (Anunciación), which is 25 March, or with Carnaval

Pawkar Raymi (Flowering Festival) is when thanks are given for the fruits of Pachamama. Water is another honored element (and commonly used in Andean carnaval celebrations). This raymi also involves a purification ceremony as well as a communal meal that includes potato, mote (hominy), cuy (guinea pig), chicha and other foods.

NEW PUBLICATIONS : Poetic and Travel

NEW PUBLICATIONS : Poetic and Travel

I hope you have been enjoying my offerings in this corner of cyberspace.

As well, my poetry and travel writing is continuing to appear regularly in journals and on websites around the world.

This week, I invite you to pop overs to other corners to check out my other publications!

Safe Journeys!

 

Ever ready to give a poetry reading: My “traveling poetry” books with over 25 years of works, in English and in Spanish. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Ever ready to give a poetry reading: My “traveling poetry” books with over 25 years of works, in English and in Spanish. photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

NEW LITERARY EXPRESSIONS

“One Shoe,” “Our Lady,” “Giving Birth,” “Bewitched” and “A Thousand Miles” in The Fem (7 May 2016)

Adam Levon Brown’s Interview of me about poetics

In search of Charles Darwin on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos. photo © Lorraine Caputo

In search of Charles Darwin on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos. photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

NEW TRAVEL EXPRESSIONS

            AndesTransit

10 Fun and FREE Things to do in Lima

 

            Insider’s Galapagos (ghostwritten articles)

Following in Darwin’s Footsteps in the Galapagos Islands

7 Galapagos Places Named for Charles Darwin

4 Galapagos Species Named for Charles Darwin

Galapagos Islands: what happens in June

Recipe Corner : POTATOES AND CHEESE

Recipe Corner : POTATOES AND CHEESE

Nothing like a plate of potatoes and cheese (papas con queso) with fresh avocado and tomatoes! photo © Lorraine Caputo

Nothing like a plate of potatoes and cheese (papas con queso) with fresh avocado and tomatoes! photo © Lorraine Caputo

There’s really no other name I could give this recipe that came to be when I tried to replicate a comfort food — creamy scalloped potatoes — without the oven.

I’ve experimented — and haven’t quite succeeded. Though, I have created a rather tasty potato and cheese dish that have won rave reviews from travelers and hostel workers alike. (Tía, ¿cuándo vas a preparar papa con queso de nuevo? – Auntie, when are you going to make potatoes and cheese again? – one young worker in a Quito residencial would often ask me when I was in town.)

Over the years, I have come up with this simple recipe that includes only four ingredients: potatoes, onion, milk and cheese. From there, a variety of variations con be played on this theme.  Feel free to experiment yourself. A clove or two of minced garlic adds another dimension – as do herbs like rosemary or thyme.

Potatoes and Cheese makes a good one-pot meal or a side dish. Serve it with a tossed salad, or simply with sliced tomato. Accompanied with a nice Argentine or Chilean wine makes for a perfect end to a day of sightseeing or hiking. ¡Buen provecho!

Let’s start with the basics and create versions to satisfy any mood.

 

Onion sliced into plumillas – “little feathers.” photo © Lorraine Caputo

Onion sliced into plumillas – “little feathers.” photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

Estimated cooking time: 30 minutes

        For: vegetarians

 

BASIC POTATOES AND CHEESE

2 tablespoons of oil

6 large potatoes, peeled

1 large onion, peeled

salt to taste

1 cup of milk

1 cup of shredded or crumbled cheese

 

Cut the potatoes in half length-wise, then cut into thin slices crosswise.

Cut the onion in half length-wise, then cut into thin slices lengthwise. (This cut in Spanish is called plumilla.)

In a large skillet, heat the oil. Toss the potatoes into the oil, coating them. Cover the skillet to allow the potatoes to brown and to steam about five minutes. When the potatoes are beginning to become tender, toss in the onions. Cover and cook for about three minutes.

Add a cup of water and salt. Cover the skillet and turn the fire down to a medium flame. Cook until the potatoes are tender and the water is almost totally evaporated, about 15 – 20 minutes.

Stir in the milk and cheese. Cover and allow the cheese to melt. Serve.

 

Preparing the ingredients for Spicy Potatoes and Cheese. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Preparing the ingredients for Spicy Potatoes and Cheese. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Variation 1

SPICY POTATOES AND CHEESE

2 tablespoons of oil

6 large potatoes, peeled

1 large onion, peeled

1 large green pepper, thinly sliced

1 hot (chili) pepper, finely chopped

salt to taste

1 cup of milk

1 cup of shredded cheese

 

Prepare the potatoes and onion as described in the Basic recipe.

In a large skillet, heat the oil. Toss the potatoes into the oil, covering them. Cover the skillet to allow the potatoes to brown and to steam about five minutes. When the potatoes are beginning to become tender, toss in the onions, green pepper and hot pepper. Cover and cook for about three minutes.

Add a cup of water and salt. Cover the skillet and turn the fire down to a medium flame. Cook until the potatoes are tender and the water is almost totally evaporated, about 15 – 20 minutes.

Stir in the milk and cheese. Cover and allow the cheese to melt. Serve.

 

Variation 2

VEGIE POTATOES AND CHEESE

2 tablespoons of oil

4 large potatoes, peeled

1 large onion, peeled

1 carrot, cut into matchsticks (optional)

1+ cup of broccoli and / or cauliflower florets

salt to taste

1 cup of milk

1 cup of shredded cheese

 

Prepare the potatoes and onion as described in the Basic recipe.

In a large skillet, heat the oil. Toss the potatoes, carrot and broccoli (cauliflower) into the oil, coating them. Cover the skillet to allow the potatoes to brown and to steam about five minutes. When the potatoes are beginning to become tender, toss in the onions. Cover and cook for about three minutes.

Add a cup of water and salt. Cover the skillet and turn the fire down to a medium flame. Cook until the potatoes and vegetables are tender and the water is almost totally evaporated, about 15 – 20 minutes.

Stir in the milk and cheese. Cover and allow the cheese to melt. Serve.

 

VARIATIONS ON THE MILK THEME

  • If you are camping, use 1 cup of water and 4 heaping tablespoons of instant milk in place of the milk.
  • Natural (plain) yoghurt or – for a much richer dish – cream cheese may be used in place of the milk.
  • I have never tried it – but soy milk and cheese could probably work okay, too.
  • You’ll want to choose a cheese that will melt well (not all Latin American cheeses do!) Ask your local vendor what would work well in making a cheese sauce (una salsa de queso).
  • No grater on hand to shred the cheese? All is not lost!

Cut the block of cheese into thin slices. Lay the slices atop one another, and cut into thin ribbons. Voilà! You have shredded cheese!

NEW PUBLICATIONS : Poetic and Travel

It has been quite an insane month with projects coming and coming. And so I haven’t had much time to pop over to this corner of cyberspace to share with you.

My poetry and travel writing is continuing to appear regularly in journals and on websites around the world.

This week I present to you my latest publications.

Safe Journeys!

Ever ready to give a poetry reading: My “traveling poetry” books with over 25 years of works, in English and in Spanish. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Ever ready to give a poetry reading: My “traveling poetry” books with over 25 years of works, in English and in Spanish. photo © Lorraine Caputo

NEW LITERARY EXPRESSIONS

“Sunday Dinner,” “Voids” and “The Chaco War” in the 2016 edition of DoveTales: An International Journal of the Arts, a publication of Writing for Peace

“When,” “Full Moon in May,” “Wills” and “Dream Trilogy” in The Syzygy Poetry Journal (Volume 1, Number 3)

“Black Echoes” in In-Flight Poetry Literary Magazine (Issue 7, April 2016)

“Juana” in “Suite: On the Train,” Canopic Jar: an arts journal (a US-France publication)

photo © Lorraine Caputo

photo © Lorraine Caputo

NEW TRAVEL EXPRESSIONS

Insider’s Galapagos (ghostwritten articles)

7 Ways to Help the Galapagos Islands

New Protections for Galapagos Marine Life Announced

Galapagos in solidarity with Ecuador’s earthquake victims

5 Reasons to Visit Galapagos Now!