About three months before I left for Peru, I started a countdown on my phone. It was intended to keep me honest about the lunging and squatting workouts I was supposed to be doing to prepare.. It did work, sorta. It kept me very aware that something profound was coming in 30 days…26 days…13 days…1 day. And then I found myself running hopelessly toward a plane I was never bound to catch in the Lima airport. The rest, they say, is history.
Today is June 21 which, for us in the Northern Hemisphere, is the Summer solstice—the longest day of the year. It was 100 degrees in Chicago today, a part of the Climate Change is Real package that we all signed on to while we carelessly and joyously never gave Starbucks straws or the plastic packaging on Oreos a second thought. But honestly, my heart is in Peru today…and my soul, I think, is in the Incan empire today as it’s actually the winter solstice in Peru—a historically very important day, especially around Macchu Picchu and whatever sacred windows shining on to the altar to the gods may exist there. As many of the Ancients knew, we shouldn’t take these pivotal days in nature for granted. In fact, if we can involve gold and the sun shining on them, it’s always for the best.
Given that I’m not ancient (yet…although I do have questions about my soul…), this day might mean something different and it always did…until I talked at length with Salkantay in Peru. Now, this day strikes me differently—more deeply, more significantly than ever before.
Naturally, to celebrate and pay due homage, I’ve been running through that mental slide show, remembering so vividly that landscape, especially of the Sacred Valley…and those faces, descendants of an ambitious and regal people who claimed that land so proudly. Of course, the ones I know are likely much more friendly than the Incas themselves who were…truly brilliant and truly brutal. The brilliance has remained while the brutality has given way to a contemporary Peruvian generosity and appreciation for life that is both admirable, remarkable, and also beautiful in its very specific way. I have never felt so at home in a completely foreign land…at that altitude… ever.
Since returning almost three months ago, I’ve struggled with the fact that I haven’t been able to “sum up” Peru in neat and tidy terms. I had many very low points there. That country has seen more tears from me than any other country I’ve ever been in and I almost have to include the US in that calculation, within which I’ve lived for my 40+ years. Peru doesn’t play. Its landscape can be brutal as I believe its earliest inhabitants were. But it simultaneously provides a feast for the soul. I have never been embraced by a more humbly spiritual place.
My soul is in Peru tonight, on this, its longest night of its year, (and maybe now always) and my soul is glad.