Today LaRena and I decided to take a journey to a remote Andean village where the people are famous for their woodworking. We looked up the village, named Oyacachi, which had its own website. It was colorful and inviting. Yet as we began our journey we found that the website belied the true wonders that awaited us. In keeping with true adventure and the unexpected, the store full of wood sculptures, bowls and spoons, was closed.
We live in the far north of Ecuador not far from the Colombian border, high in the Sierra range of the Andean Mountains. We are nestled between two extinct volcanoes. Cotacachi sits to our west and Imbabura to our northeast. Just beyond Imbabura further to the southeast rises Cayambe Volcano. These volcanoes form a long chain of volcanoes known as the avenue of volcanoes stretching almost to the tip of South America. There are towering jagged peaks that crown the various ranges that make up the Andes. We journeyed across one such range, the Pichinchas, to reach the Tierra del Agua, The Land of Water.
The Tierra del Agua is the sponge of Ecuador. Nearly all of the water in Ecuador somehow concentrates in this area. There are magnificent waterfalls, raging rivers and meandering streams. The famed spectacled bear lives in this land, and the warm moist air of the amazon rises to meet the cold mountain air above twelve thousand feet, forming clouds laden with life giving water.
As we traveled from the western side of the Andes to the eastern side the change in vegetation was remarkable. The extensive farmland on the western side gave way to what is known as páramo, which can refer to a variety of alpine tundra ecosystems. Here, we entered another world. It is where words fail me. Not because I am incapable of describing what I saw, rather I am incapable of explaining or describing how I was made to feel. And not feel in the sense of any kind of high or even excitement. Rather it was a transcendent sense of wonder. I felt a painless pain in the marrow of my bones. The pain of loss, remembering and belonging. It was as if we had crossed some unseen barrier and entered another plane of existence. Some describe it as other-worldly, like visiting another planet. Those who have experienced the grip of Denali National Park with its wild wolves and massive Mount McKinley know the feeling.
You are compelled to understand how connected we are to the world from which we evolved and how a unity of consciousness, your individual consciousness, is far more than the biochemical and electrochemical workings that make up the brain. I have been fortunate to work in the environment all of my life: in state, national and city parks. The connections that naturally occur among all of life create a super transcendent network from which emerges something that I must admit I am not capable of putting into words.
It manifests itself to me in an understanding that gives to me a heightened sense of awareness. I did not create myself or call myself into being. Yet here I am, existing as a unique individual, consciousness of my own existence and the existence of others. Despite the power of deductive reasoning and the scientific method, the sense of wonder and the question of how can this all possibly be is not diminished in the least. I go to sleep every night with the thought that, we are living a miracle. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with that same feeling. At times it is overpowering. Then there are times when I have an experience that is too deep for words. It was such an experience that we had on the road to Oyacachi and beyond.
I somehow believe if I could transfer this sense of wonder, the extreme power of the miracle of existence to our political leaders, perhaps they would not be so quick to rush to arms. And perhaps the everyday individual citizen would not be so quick to judge others and harbor anger and resentment. Instead of being weapons of mass destruction, if we as human beings decide to be instruments of peace—at all costs—then maybe we would realize an even higher plane of existence; and instead of hoping for a heaven in a life beyond this one, this life would become heaven. And then, I believe, the life beyond this one would be so connected to this one as to create a transcendent heaven that even God could not imagine.
To God Be The Glory Forever and Ever