The anticipation flooded my heart with a rush of excitement
My breath quickened with a surge of energy
And there she was, as we crested the tiny ridge and the trees gave way to open the view
I gasped aloud and ran toward it, calling to my husband to “come quick” and see it too.
The sheer granite walls pulled me into her magnetic field
As if leashing me around the neck and guiding me in
A lump formed in my throat, signaling what I always knew
My soul sings here.
Like the time I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the cosmos
Brilliantly sparkling in the clear night sky
Ever changing, always different, but forever spectacular.
The celestial display held me at attention, clinging to my throat
The yawning milky way reached out toward the Southern Cross
Stretching toward the warrior Orion.
And peacefully, as before, my soul began to sing.
She sings quietly, yet openly
Humming a frequency that resets my equilibrium.
In this tranquil moment, everything is right.
My soul sings here.
I wrote this poem after visiting Patagonia several months ago. The most memorable moments were the sensations coursing through my body as I witnessed some of the most incredible sights our natural wilderness has to offer. In this case, the reference was to Cerro Torre in the Southern Andes of Argentina as well as a starry night sky in Futaleufu, Chile (I don’t have any photography skills for capturing starry skies!).
But the most exciting part, is that it happened again. The exact same visceral reaction. This time it occurred in the Cordillera Huayhuash. And it not only happened to me, but Tyson confirmed the same sensation the moment it happened.
Our dear friends, Ashley Nielson and Mike Freeman, spent a couple weeks with us in Peru in August of 2016. Mike had the brilliant idea to go backpacking around the Cordillera Huayhuash as it is famous for being some of the world’s best trekking outside of the Himalaya. The Huayhuash range is located just south of Huaraz, in Central Peru. It is the little brother of the larger Cordillera Blanca where many of the highest peaks of the Andes reside. The Huayhuash is known for being more dramatic, compact, and rugged.
The Huayhuash is surrounded by small Andean communities living their humble lifestyles, grazing sheep and alpaca, or raising potatoes. We hired a muleteer and 2 donkeys to help us manage 6 days of room and board as we crossed 15,000 ft passes each day.
Like any big mountain range, there are miles of foothills and formerly glaciated valleys leading you to the base of the majestic peaks, saving the ultimate view as a surprise for your final push to camp. You round the bend, and suddenly the glaciers pop into view, boasting their centuries of severe, hard winters and rugged, jagged ice. Weathered as she may be, the glacier always gives way to a beautiful, serene lake, varying in shades of turquoise, aquamarine, and deep blues. That’s the moment I feel seized by the throat.
The twilight teases the landscape as clouds drift among the craggy peaks. Shades of orange, pink, violet, and gray play out as a well-rehearsed sunset on the snowy white canvas and wispy clouds.
And then the stars begin to come out, growing brighter with each passing minute. The temperature drops, which only enhances the sensitivity of the panoramic enormity. I wondered if I’d be able to see the Southern Cross again like I had many months before. But as the calendar promises, I witnessed something entirely different. This time in the Southern sky I saw the constellations of the Incas. The Milky Way was radiant, which allowed me to see her counterpart more clearly, the dark spaces in between. The Incas saw the Milky Way as a river, as well as the luminous geometric shapes connecting throughout. But, additionally, they saw the forms within the darkness, cloud shapes that appeared to be the animals they knew, drinking from the heavenly waters (see photos below – not mine, stolen from a painting in the Qoricancha Sun Temple in Cusco and Owen’s Imagery).
Before this moment, I had only heard of the Inca constellations by way of artwork representing the cosmos. It wasn’t until I saw it with my own eyes that I could appreciate and understand why the Incas would venerate seemingly inanimate objects. There is an undeniable feeling, one of utmost respect, to witness the beauty within our wild spaces. It’s the place where I know my soul sings.
Read at Cusco Writers Guild