El Salvador, January 30, 2015
If I Had a Hammer: Swim in Arce River
The first night in the village allowed me to truly relax and sleep peacefully for the first time in nearly 2 weeks. I do rest well even in the remote places that I find free parking along the way, but in the warm aura of loving beautiful people, something wonderful settles into me even with the lumpy bed I have piled with much of my worldly goods. I awoke this Friday morning to George’s greeting and smile.
In his world, it is necessary for him to hustle daily to make the family needs appear. He went off quite soon with a wave and his agreement to return in about 2 ½ hours to assist me to empty the van. It had been rather hastily repacked after the evolution with the customs inspector the late evening before and it could only be reorganized by starting all over again. Another evolution!
He returned with the news that the border was dead and there was nothing for him. We moved the van and he took down the spare tire and the hitch so that the rear doors could be opened. Then all the stuff came out of the back into the spare room along the alley and he took a small broom to sweep the remaining glass off the carpet in the van. I got a look at the volume I had as it was stashed across the beds and tables in the room.
Off he went again on his daily rounds.
The river Arce it seems, separates, at least at this point, the boundaries of Guatemala and El Salvador. It is a lovely river spanned with a bridge that is quite usually stacked with big trucks in both directions waiting their appropriate crossing.
The evening before, I had been meeting with the family: George’s mother is a tiny beaming, grey haired lady younger and more indigenously mature than I with the usual fancy embroidered apron looped around her waist (commercial seamstresses have replaced their traditional hand worked aprons with quite marvelous, ruffled aprons that every older lady wears) and with his father, a man about 70 with whom I have found the opportunity to play some fun.
He found me a ‘baise-boll’ shaped gourd and brought me hardened moro fruits shells which immediately fit well into the ball and bat. I pitched the fruit with the bat-like gourd and managed to crack it. Off he went to find me another gourd to keep. Good game even without any language to share.
I also met Deana, 18, who is George’s niece. She has finished school but is learning English with the objective of teaching it as a second language so as we worked out that she might make it to the local aborrote for veggies for my dinner; with a lot of gesturing and smiling we learned quite a lot of facility with our different languages.
There is also a family with Dad, George’s brother and his wife and their boys, another niece nursing a girl perhaps nearing 2 years, altogether about 9 people sharing the row of brick and cement rooms that turn into kitchens, bedrooms and living areas for the whole group all turned onto the alley where my van was aligned close to their walls so that the neighbor’s many bicycle vending carts can pass.
Deana and I liked each other immediately and last night we determined that a swim in the river was just the right antidote for both of us.
After George went off on his morning adventure, we got ourselves ready. With the old lady picking her way along with the stick through the yards bordered with rickety fences, over the rocks, trodden weeds and seemingly inevitable basura, past the taciturn Brahma cows sitting chewing beside the lean-to shelters and cement buildings to the river’s weed planted shore, we made it to the stream’s edge.
Chucking off the shorts and t-shirts, each of us sunk our feet into the mud at the shore, waded a short distance, and then sat in the water with the plastic noodles for buoyancy, soon to be blissfully paddling our ways through the quickly running river. Water temperature is about 70 something, cooling and yet comfortable enough to stay in for about an hour.
Gazing up and northeasterly from where we were in the river is Guatemala’s brown plains above the tropical green of the nearer area and below the completely vegetated mountains following the north to south path of all mountains in this vast cordillera from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America.
At this point, the River Arce is a main channel moving quite swiftly downhill with a short fall that leads to the back water where we had entered. Because of the grade, the river moves quickly enough to make me want to plant myself in front of a rock to hang out in the water. The best swimming hole is to be found beneath the bridge but even that would take a rope tether tied to my waist and to the shore to be able to swim; in other days, that’s probably where I would have been.
Soon after we were in the water, a local woman with two children and her laundry came to the area where we were. She deposited her two kids, a crawling baby and a girl about 5 under their blanket shelter and came into the water with her basket. She had a wonderful pinkish cylindrical ball of ‘surf’ detergent soap to clean the clothes on the cement slab set in the water above the rocks where we were hanging out. It was a scene out of time and out of history.
Women of the world hold up half the sky. Meals must be made, children must be cared for, laundry needs to happen and the women happen it all. These two ladies were doing what women everywhere are doing every day. Without women’s work, things would stop in about two hours.
There is a little more to add about all this and that is the essence of the elements: air, earth and the waters of the river. As I am in the water, I lean on the noodle back into the water and soak my crown chakra in the element. As I do, of course, I see the cloudless sky above me. I feel the cool rush of the water around me. I feel also the spirit of the air and the spirit of the water all nestled in the great spirit of the Mother Gaia herself. She, it is, I speak with as I allow all her elements to purify my spirit and soul as I am making this Journey of the Lotus through the territories of Turtle Island and onward to South America and the mountains we call Andes.
It is a sacred pause out of the madness of pavement, trucks, border crossings, the many, many people just making their way through the life they believe in. I think myself very fortunate to simply be here at this timeless eternal moment breathing and praying for the whole of us.
Then there was the scramble back up the short rocky hillside to the back alley way. As I return on my hands and feet up the slope, there is as usual detritus but this time with a slight difference. There, rusted and waiting for me is a sturdy steel hammer head. I pick it up and drop it into the pocket of my shorts.
Once again up in the alley, there are my people waiting simply sitting enjoying their moments in front of their house. I show them the hammer head and listen to myself sing Mary Tyson’s famous song:
If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning,
I’d hammer in the evening, all over this land.
I’d hammer out danger; I’d hammer out a warning.
I’d hammer out love between the brothers and the sisters
All, all over this land…..
Sing it again to yourself here and now. Blessed Be.