Friday, November 03, 2006

dusty light and light-hearted kites

November 2
Our time in San Pablo is drawing to an end, and I’m noticing more and more what I’ve missed. There are still so many people to visit, so much atol to drink, and so many paths on the other side of the valley I haven’t felt under my feet. I’ve finally begun to put community before work, chatting with young girls hauling weeds for the goats, taking my time in sipping hot coffee over the open fire, and sketching the faces of young kids in my notebook. During our first few months I missed many community events and instead worked at home or in a different community. Now I’ve come to see the value in showing up for these cultural moments. My presence makes me more a part of the community, an invaluable element when working collaboratively but even more important in developing understanding and love.
Everywhere we go I observe. Yesterday—in the house of a neighbor—light peaked in through the cracks in the boarded up window. It poured inside in thin strips like the light in my memory of St. Peter’s, exposing the dusty air quickly moving its way around the stillness of our bodies, continuing on in the never-ending stream of the present moment. I don’t want to go, I tell myself, looking up into the blank face of the grandpa, covered in black flies. There was one on his nose, and he didn’t even blink. In the afternoon I went to sit on the roof of the school to watch the sunset, to burn the image of the mountains onto the fabric of my mind. On one side, towards San Marcos, a low dark horizon of clouds passed over the silhouette of the mountains. On the other, towards Mexico, celaje clouds fluttered like baby blue and pink butterflies, showing off faraway fields filled with elegant yellow weeds.

Tuesday was the school graduation, and they presented both Ian and me with diplomas of recognition, to thank us. I had so much to say and wasn’t prepared at all. I produced a few words to explain my grief and joy, and then later, with the graduates, allowed tears to slip from my eyes. These weren’t just tears of sadness, but also of happiness, for having made it all the way to graduation, for having survived a difficult year in a place I still barely understand.

Today is Day of the Dead, a time to honor those you’ve loved and lost. The tradition here in Guatemala is to visit the cemetery, bringing candles, food and corn atol to the spirits that arose at midnight the night before. Then, there’s a kite-flying contest on the highest peak in town. I watched the colorful homemade kites slowly glide in the wind, floating souls taken to the free air, and thought of Grandaddy. I don’t want to go home, I tell myself, but I’m ready.


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