Sharing Sacred Space
I recently shared about a painting my sister and brother in law purchased. Here’s the back story to another. I was very fortunate to be able to travel to Peru last fall, with a wonderful group of fun adventurers, on a retreat coordinated by Jill Loftis and Gabrielle Kidd of Uttara Yoga Studio. We specifically visited several ancient Inca sites high in the Andes, in the region known as the Sacred Valley, in deference to the indigenous beliefs. The remarkable ancient stonework and structures are the conspicuous foundation of the intermeshed contemporary and old Quechua cultures. It was a fabulous experience all around.
In my view there’s no downside to travels. Beyond the expected romanticizing of the Inca sites and tchotchkes marketed for tourists, there was still much to glean from these powerful remnants and equally potent geography. As we adapted to the altitude and climate, we savored the food, took in the distinct smells, fondled fine alpaca wool weavings, and wandered amazing landscapes and structures. We were able to gain a sense of a people rooted in their past and making do in the present.
Their heritage includes not just the famed Incan empire, but several cultures in these vast mountain ranges that had already refined the crafts and skills before the Inca gained control and shrewdly incorporated them into their empire—much as the Romans had on another side of the globe. It was also interesting to see, especially in the more accessible places, the influences and affects of the relatively recent conquering Spanish Catholic culture. Our trip straddled two worlds, we were comfortable in our AirBnB stays, yet sincerely able to get a sense of the more modest local traditions.
As an artist, I felt like I’d been taken a plunge into a vast, comfy wellspring of colorful sensations. Many of the weavings still use traditional colors, which were derived from animals, minerals, and plants in the region. I.E.: the characteristic reds, maroons, deep pinks and purples are in fact derived from cochineal, a small aphid-like bug abundant in the Sacred Valley area. They’re collected, dried, ground and used as a dye in traditional weavings. The unique golden mustard yellow/orange originates from the bark of yanali trees, a small tree able to grow in these high altitude.
Although the trip as a whole remains a lustrous kaleidoscope of sensations and experiences, despite its populism, Machu Picchu was a highlight. In particular a few timeless moments stand out when we visited the ancient geographical wonder that’s accented by an incredible human-built edifice. Typically, my dear friend Jill Loftis, founder of Uttara Studio, somehow amid all the touring visitors, managed to find a small secluded yet open terrace on the less frequented side of the ancient site where we each had space to individually yet collectively sit quietly, meditate, and/or “be” for several minutes. It was especially moving to do so on the very site which had been established, at least to a degree, to center people into their place within the cosmos. I can’t speak for my companions, but for me it was in all ways what Maslov would label a peak experience, and will be forever etched onto my being.
Life rolls us forward and we’d barely seen each other since that trip. Then COVID-19 isolation kicked in. So I was delighted when Jill contacted me recently, interested in looking at my art with the express intention of purchasing something. We shared a special connection during that meditative moment that somehow transcends anything I can put into words. With some regret I admit we haven’t gathered since that trip. So it was especially heartening when she selected this painting to purchase, explicitly derived from our journey, and a fond reminder of that brief yet timeless bonding on Machu Picchu. Her sincere interest in extending and forwarding our earlier shared experience, and her conscious desire to generously support local artists in this time, also nudges me toward my own larger purpose. I am extremely grateful and rich in ways that can not be measured.