February 6, 2015
Puente Arce, El Salvador: Philosophe
I was taken down again to the river today: Arce flows here between the borders of Guatemala and El Salvador.
As I shifted myself into the cooling waters flowing quite swiftly over the stones in the river, I became entranced by the whole of the view I was looking at from close to the surface of the waters.
In the distance are mountains of modest height, their vegetation enduring the dry season which comes when the earth and sun are focusing near the tropic of Capricorn. They are rounded and rolling even further over the land southward from where I am here. They turn to blues and purple hues floating with the mist of humidity the further away.
The river is quite swift but not so much that the young boys who are strong swimmers cannot make it across the flow. While I sit at the edge clinging to a rock to keep myself steady, they are jumping in and swimming vigorously toward me to get up on the bank, walk up the way a bit and jump in again and again, tirelessly it would seem.
At this shore the steep bank has been stabilized with cement that has literally been poured down the slope to cover and anchor the stones. At the top, behind the fences are the unpainted brick and cement homes with corrugated roofs of the village people, who I am told number about 9000.
We have made our way up the dirt track to the overlook of the river and while I have shimmied down on my rear end, the kids skip to the edge, the mothers carry the babies or their laundry tubs. Because Arce flows so well, it is probably quite clean. What I see of landscape before me to the east is not farming country rather it seems to be rather more pristine, raw land. Without nitrogen fertilizer, the water is clear not foamy; without pesticides and herbicides, it is mostly clean.
At the other shore where the river is much more shallow and the current more swift, there are bars of sand and clumps of pale green bushes and trees with long, quite lacy leaves that are unfamiliar to me. A man in one of those white cowboy hats came leading a small pony across one of the bars a little up river. I watch the sweet animal bobbing among the short trees, leaning to graze on the obviously fresh grasses.
There is a place in the river about 6 feet from the shore line where there is planted above the natural rock, a flat cement block that once was pavement or something somewhere else. Now it is a surface where the ladies station themselves on the rocks to wash their laundry. They have, at their homes, piled the lot of it in plastic tubs (the only modern appliance to be seen here), rolled a t-shirt in a circle and hefted the load to their heads. I had watched them amble their way up the alley another time on their way to their labor. Their indigenous lives are at the same time in the 21st century and in every century previous to this.
The land knows no boundary; it is a human idea to pretend there are separate countries, that there are separate people some of whom are Guatemalans and some of whom are El Salvadorians. While I am here as a guest of this family, I am a foreigner and I am also, in those pure terms, a honored member of the family. We know each other well by the love in our hearts.
The stones in the river have been in their places many millions of years before we humans ever appeared. The sky above is a timeless vault of blue, clouded or clear, raining or dry. The trees I see here are young as they are now but they are ancient having planted themselves here those same millions of years.
What kinds of ideas are in our collective mind that disturbs and distresses the natural land? It is my question to ask if they have originated in ourselves or have they been assumed from another source? If so, from where?
What is the healing that might be the peace we wish were not just here in this small place but also in the wider world around us? How can it be that we may notice the simple profundity of the land, the mountains, the river and the trees and allow ourselves to flow from that same deep place?
I believe that these feelings exist in all of us not just in these happy, simple people here, the ladies washing clothes in the river, the kids jumping in and swimming, the old man leading a goat to the stream, all of them at peace in themselves.
From where I have lately come, the American people I know, my friends, have not been so fortunate either to take this kind of journey or to have been exposed to the understanding that these people are loving and kind. They have taken it as gospel what has been told to them and it has colored their sensibilities with a patina of ignorance that is not their fault but that has nonetheless changed them.
So here am I, this strange anomaly of an old silver-haired Grandmother who has taken herself away out of the country where she has been 40 years to go on a quest to discover more of herself in the landscape and life of a different land and in the hearts of a different people.
I am willing in myself to ask difficult questions and to seek answers not to be found in books, on the nightly news or even in the words of my peers and friends. I send them to you as a gift to make of what you will. It is my prayer for you this day, that there is enough here to cause you to ask yourselves the questions that you have not sought before and to deeply contemplate even the tentative answers that will show up for you.
In 1983, the Hopi elders that I met told me that the change of the worlds from the Fourth (which came to be after the Great Flood) to the Fifth World will take about 50 years. We are 32 years on and I believe at a tipping point in the changes that are happening everywhere. In order to truly be ready for peace, we must view the evil and know it for what it is.
Let us all be the peace we seek. The Love in our hearts is invincible.
If it isn’t me, who? If it isn’t now, when?