La Vida Desertica (Desert Life)

Un viaje a la luna, al planeta marte, al salar, a las lagunas…. a San Pedro de Atacama
(A trip to the moon, to planet Mars, to the salt flat, to the lagoons… to San Pedro de Atacama)

San Pedro de Atacama es un centro de maravillas detrás de maravillas. Hay que sumergirse en sus texturas, en sus ritmos, en sus contornos, dejando que los colores entren el corazón, nunca cerrando los ojos… porque si cierro los ojos por un instante, pierdo un tono único de color desértico que no va a repetirse nunca. (San Pedro de Aatacama is a center of wonders after wonders. One has to submerge into its textures, rhythms, in its contours, allowing the colors to enter the heart, never closing eyes… because if I close my eyes for just an instant, I lose a unique tone of desert color that will never repeat itself again)

Galopamos en las dunas más rápido que galopó mi corazón, la arena volando, el mundo girando, galopamos, rodeados por espacio y cielo y tierra, espacio y cielo y tierra, espacio y cielo y tierra. El cielo era una pintura rosada y las montañas esculturas moradas. Aquí hay movimiento en la sombra, en las penumbras.  Tengo sed. Materiales del desierto: arcilla, sal, selenio, cuarzo. “Crack crack crack” en el pared. Estamos en un castillo de texturas. Entramos una cueva en la cordillera de la sal, presión entre dos cordilleras empujando empujando empujando, formando formaciones. Las tres Marías, three old women weathering away in the wind and the sun. Un mar de texturas y historia, donde los Likantay murieron luchando contra el catolicismo, y ahora no hay nada sino piedra, arena, sal, tierra. Sentando en las orillas del día, entre luz y oscuro, quiero caerme. Quiero caerme con la sabiduría y confianza de que las dunas vayan a tomarme y abrazarme, como ahijada del desierto.
(We galoped in the dunes faster than my heart galoped, sand flying, the world spining, we galoped, surronded by space and sky and earth, space and sky and earth, space and sky and earth. The sky was a pink painting and the mountains purple sculptures. Here there is movement in shade, in shadow. I am thirsty. Desert materials: clay, salt, selenium, quartz. “Crack crack crack” in the wall. We are in a castle of textures. We enter a cave in the mountain range of salt, pressure between two mountain ranges pushing pushing pushing, forming formations. The three Marias, three old women weathering away in the wind and the sun. A sea of textures and history, where the Likantay died fighting against Catholocism, and now there is nothin gbut rock, sand, salt, earth Sitting on the shore of the day, between light and dark, I want to fall. I want to fall with the knowledge and trust that the dunes will take me and embrace me, like a goddaughter of the desert)

Estamos muy altos en el altiplano y hay un cometocino y hay gaviotas y hay caméfitas doradas (We are high in the altiplano and there is a bacon-eater and there are mountain seagulls and gold grasses) The earth gurgles, bubbles, sighs, releases, warming my face with its geothermal magic. Slow sunrise and smell of sulfur. Mysterious oranges in the soil. Las vicuñas están tranquilas comiendo la paja brava. Las montañas y las praderas altiplánicas se levantan con nosotros (The vicuñas are calm eating the low grass. The mountains and plains rise with us). We bask in the geothermal heat of this planeta que entrega, we warm bones in tibid thermal water. Closer, closer, closer, I want to be closer to this steaming earth, get me closer, bury me in its warmth. The planet erupts in steamy breath that warms us after the frigid dawn. These hills are pure gold against pure blue. Sun sky earth, sun sky earth. Pernices, vicuñas, llareta, tola, expanse. Red crackled rock walls line a canyon through which a stream flows. The cacti are ancient giants, and where there is water there is life, pingo-pingo, cojín de la suegra, hues of pink, green, brown, scars and gnarls of time and age.

En el salar de Atacama hay tierra con hierbas y un solo árbol, un tamarugo, que valiente, que fuerte, que increible. En Laguna Cejar flotamos en la sal, en las espaldas, el agua un especie de calipso, o celeste. La tierra refleja todo el sol, el agua es el cielo es el suelo y ahora mi piel está cubierta de sal. Salto en el ojo del salar, entro el ojo, estoy en el ojo, y encuentro frío y más sal. El agua es el manjar de la vida.  Miro el reflejo de los Andes en una laguna celeste, celeste con el dorado de las hierbas y el gris-rosado de la cordillera, colores propios del desierto de la Atacama. Cada paisaje es un romance completo con peleas y particularidades, y cuando juntamos el romance, cuando saltamos y bañamos en el romance y dejamos que los colores nos entren por cada apertura en la piel, en la boca, en los ojos, en la nariz, cuando dejamos que los colores nos entren, mezclando la sal de nuestra sangre con la del ambiente, vivimos. Vivimos porque juntamos (In the Atacama salt flat there is dirt with grasses and one lone tree, a tamarugo, how brave, how strong, how incredible. In Laguna Cejar we floated in salt, on our backs, the water a sort of turquoise, or sky blue. The earth reflects all the sun, the water is sky is soil and now my skin is covered in salt. I jump into the eye of the salt flat, I enter the eye, I am in the eye, and I discover cold and more salt. Water is the manjar of life. I see the reflection of the Andes in the blue lagoon, blue with the gold of the grasses and the gray-pink of the mountains, colors unique to the Atacama desert. Every landscape is a romance complete with quarrels and quirks, and when we join the romance, when we jump and bathe in the romance and allow the colors to enter us, mixing the salt of our blood with that of the environment, we live. We live because we join). Sun retreats behind me and deep blue purple advances as pink retreats but as pink retreats she intensifies and reflections become as clear as rock, the colores keep on moving as I stand perfectly still. The sky gets so so so soft, variations on the shades of mountain and moods of laguna, they are all in silent resonance in front of our hearts.

Laguna Miscanti. Deep blue icy water. Bright cold pajonal. Snowy contoured mountains. Dry crisp sky. Vicuñas wandering icy shore. Gaviotas andinas y taguas en el agua helado. Más vicuñas. The flamingoes eat sea monkeys and they eat for seventeen hours a day, they are pink and as pale as dry salty desert colors; they walk with slow, delibrate, graceful steps, maintaining equilibrium with their utterly still environment. La laguna es una reflexión de las montañas y los flamencos una reflexión de su comida, somos todos reflejando. De repente los flamencos suben juntos a volar, y se ve todos sus patrones y colores (The lagoon is a reflection of the mountains and the flamingoes a reflection of their food, we are all reflecting. Suddenly the flamingoes rise together in flight, and their patterns and colors become visible) In this now instant six take off into flight and pink bodies glide. My feet crunch white salt and the dry air chaps my lips, this is a desert.

This is a desert.

My views from the plane window let me observe Chile’s gradient of topography and climate. We soar over and past the red-brown-dry Andes, peppered with some snow sprinkles, dehydrated by the great anti-ciclone of the Pacific that gifts a unique identity. South, south, south, over curious mining patterns in the mountain rock. South, south, and south, and finally there are clouds, and soon the Andes are pure white, and I am squinting… back to Mediterranean winter.

The plants of Atacama are warriors, or wizards, and I, the beauty loving human, find them astonishing. From the bunches of paja hugging the altiplanic terrain and painting it gold, to the cardón cacti growing so slowly in the rocky cliffs, to the tola and tamarugo drinking salt water, these survivors savor every drop and embedded deep down in their genetic essence are their special talents, their magic powers. And the vicuñas! Every so quietly wandering together on icy shores at 13,000 feet of elevation, wearing their miraculous insulating coats. The planet spins, spins, spins like a roulette, and I thrive on the moments that make me dizzy. When I pause to watch the earth, I notice that the colors never stop changing and shadows never stop moving. Am I as cyclic and dynamic as my mother earth?

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