I continue to learn Spanish, and I am getting better at saying what I want to say. Though it goes slowly, I can communicate one to one fairly well. But it’s still amazingly difficult to actively participate in a lively conversation with a group of Colombians. They talk so fast and with great vitality. The emotional intensity is both beautiful and frightening. What sounds like an alarming conversation could well be about how to properly prepare empanadas or how to make the sauce to accompany them. Adding to the mystery, they speak with their own traditional and personal idioms. Well, I could go on, but suffice it say, it’s difficult and I’m learning.
When Enrique and I go to one of the frequent gatherings of family or friends, I begin by welcoming and being welcomed and by following through with basic, somewhat elementary, conversations, and then I slip into watching mode. I surprise myself with how much I learn from gestures and tones and facial expressions.
I am interacting more and more; I am part of the gatherings now rather than just an outside observer. Even so, I still spend a lot of time listening and watching. I spend a lot of time only being, being in the moment.
At these events, I have discovered something else. I have become enchanted with trees. Now trees are everywhere, but here in Colombia, in the countryside and in the mountains and in the flatlands, they are not only abundant, they are gracious. There are trees that I’ve never seen anywhere else in the world. I marvel at the stately beauty of Carbonero trees. They lift to the sky and open there delicate branches to create an expansive canopy as if offering to embrace the heavens. The gracious Ceiba trees have a more substantial trunk and sturdier branches but they offer a no less massive and expansive canopy. I stop. I scare. I marvel at their beauty and the sense of tranquility and peace that they inspire.
At a party, once I’ve exhausted my range of conversation, and once others have returned to their natural rhythm of talking, I watch, I listen, and then I turn to listen and to talk to the trees.
Here are a few of the trees I’ve known.
There is such an elegance to this beauty. She is wild and wonderful and yet so willing to just be. Out of balance, twisted in a chaotic way, and yet at peace as she stands in a peculiarly perfect balance of self-acceptance and grace. She asked me to pause and to be still.
We had just returned from a 4 hour horse ride called a Cabalgata. This was the traditional Christmas Cabalgata organized by two of Enrique’s cousins. Part of the tradition: drink plenty of Aguardente and share plenty of it with others. Part of the tradition: celebrate the joy of life, joke with each other, laugh and shout a lot. Part of the tradition: after the ride gather at the finca (farm) for a hearty meal and more talk. I was sitting among the chatter of maybe 80 people, young and old, mostly young. Excited. Laughing. Not at all exhausted, stories were flying: While riding in the river, Julian’s saddle had come loose and it and he had fallen into water. His horse, spooked, had run off. That’s one of the stories I heard.
New mothers among the group were dealing with their tired first borns, and the new grandmothers were busy overseeing and trying not to interfere.
I turned to this tree and got lost in the sunset and the reverie of the moment. I am living a life so different from anything I might have imagined. I’ve held it that all this is a result of a huge change in my life with Peny’s and Michaell’s deaths and with my decision to love again, and there is merit there. But as I sat with this tree I realized that those big events opened the door and created the space, but all this is a result of a whole bunch of little choices and decisions that began before those pivotal changes and continued long after them. Twists and turns. Out of balance and in chaos and reaching in this direct and that, I kept coming back to accepting myself in the moments. In the moment, such a simple phrase, almost a cliche, but oh so mystical and powerful. As I sat and listened, life is plump and juicy, and it’s plump and rich in Colombia.
I stood with humility and respect before this grand Ancient One. I didn’t speak; I didn’t dare.There is such majesty, something almost regal that feels like wisdom and that demands respect without demanding it. This is a silent sentinel of remembering. It calls you to remember who you are. I heard its call. I listened. Remembering is a powerful, often forgotten, way of encountering and embracing the future. Remembering is not about recalling the past, it’s not about reminiscing about things that were. Though these may be steps that get you there. Remembering is about uncovering truths tucked in the creases of the past, and honoring them. It’s about awakening the secrets of your traditions and your myths that lie dormant in the recesses of your past. Remembering unlocks resonance that is fodder and fuel of Resonance Magic, the fulcrum of all magics. As we branch out and reach for what will be, remembering who we are can lift us and guide us. It’s magic. Remember that.
I just wanted to be in the presence of this amazing consciousness. I didn’t want to sit. I just wanted to stand there and listen to its voice that spoke to me without words.
Behold: There are energies and forces in this Universe that are mightier than I can comprehend. I was learning to embrace that as I stood with this master.
This is the first of the trees that I’ve known. I sat with it, mesmerized, for a little more than an hour. I couldn’t look away. It held me. It wouldn’t let go. I didn’t want it to let go.
I was at a family gathering on December 7. It was the annual celebration of Velitas (little candles). It is the celebration honoring the day of conception — the day Mary conceived the Son of God. Maybe it’s a religious celebration to some, but to most, it’s a time to light hundreds of little candles and to have a party, large or small. This one was large. There were 70 people ranging in age from 4 months to 80 years. Around 2:00 that afternoon, the preparations began to create a huge Paella. Big enough to feed 70 people. A huge Paella pan, an open fire, and the preparation dance — a dance of love — began with various types of rice. At the appropriate times the initial preparations of chicken and beef and then of shrimp and clams and muscles would become a part of the dance. Vegetables would be prepared and set aside for later. Lobster and octopus and squid would join the dance. The precision was impeccable. The artisans were part of the dance, as important as the ingredients. Finally the Paella would be covered and the final steps to this dance happened beyond conscious view. Mystery. Magic.
People began arriving just after dark. It was nearly 10:00 when the Paella was served. The waiting was also part of the dance and a part of the magic. During that interim, conversations flourished and the volume continually rose, crescendoed, and fell back only to rise again. After my range of conversation was complete, I closed my eyes and just listened to the cacophony that became symphony. Timeless. Vibrant. Beautiful.
After the Paella the party and the conversations gained volume and intensity, and I slipped away to revel in the joy and love of family. The beauty of their love and enthusiasm touched my soul, and my soul called me to be still. Watch. Listen. I stepped away. The toddlers were herded by their young mothers and cradled by their grandmothers. The oldest among the group sat together in rockers watching and creating their own music. Worlds flowed together and found a harmony and everyone danced into the evening. The dance of love.
I looked at this Ancient One and goose bumps rippled across my entire body. The small hairs stood. This photograph doesn’t capture its elegance and grace. It doesn’t capture the massive expand of its branches. There is a bounty here that defies description. There really aren’t words. For me it was a transcendent moment. That’s all I can say and that’s all that I care to say about it.