After a long illness, my grandmother passed away.  I was 1000s of miles away.

The urgency of travel changes, has changed.

When one makes herself or himself inaccessible in a mountain cabin, on the edge of a city on a foreign hemisphere, news is slow to reach and action is slow to enact. There is horrible absence.

Things are messy and sad. Sometimes beautiful. The valley of El Bolson wraps around us with shocking clarity, an embrace with streaks of sun and green.

I stare at the small box of language on the computer monitor, weighing the words and the size of the box, all of which will be pasted on some page within the labrynth of the internet. It has been weeks now and, already, I am revising history. Forgive me…

I might tell you about the grief and the love we have felt, along with the magical, inexplicable series of events we witnessed at the time of my grandmother’s death.

Over time, I have revealed more details.  I have always felt a shyness around the utter inadequacy, as well as a profound shame, in describing it.  However revisionist, this is a document of things that happened.

After hitch-hiking to the base of the ascent, we wandered through a forest overtaken by art.  Sculptures had been carved into the trees, frozen in the shadows.  We emerged to an open field of greenest greens, bluest sky and lemon yellow flowers as far as the eye could see.

The man at the base camp pointed to a nondescript ledger.  We were told to write our names “in case anything happened.”  This sounded like a joyous invitation, until we began to walk.  It was in this way that we began the climb up Piltriquitron, completely unprepared for the height, snow and immense unknowns.

The next day, a flash storm overtook the valley.  The trees shook.  Then, with a breath, the winds and rain left as abruptly as they had arrived.

Outside, the storm left one fading imprint.  At the foot of the cabin, a double rainbow connected us on Cerro Amigo to the peak of Cerro Piltriquitron, the very summit we had managed to reach the day before.  The bands of color were so vibrant that I might have walked across them.

Later, I would learn that this long minute of storm and silence occurred on my grandmother’s lunar birthday.  Such time-travel and synchronicity.  The double bridge of color reminded me of the clock with no hands.  This was the day on which I learned how time works.

Some may call these details the hand of God, or the touch of spirits, or coincidences with rhyme.  Yet, I am neither interested in the act of naming nor any form of exclusion.

It is all of these things — the hand of God, the touch of spirits.  There are days when I believe that any invisibility that persists will eventually take on a form, embodied or eclipsed by the visible.

We live with an innate desire to see.  Perhaps even more persistent than this desire is the tenderness in which the Named slips through us at the moment of Naming.

As one very small token, I wish to dedicate my travels to the life of my grandmother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Author’s Note:  A slightly different version of this posting first appeared on Travelpod.com on December 5, 2006.]