We have been back in the States for four days now, and I feel the memories fading already! It's amazing--these stories are written on our hearts in indelible ink, but already the image of Porvenir disappearing around the curve of the road is dissolving. If I squint and think hard, I remember turning my gaze to the mountains surrounding San Lucas. The mountains that protect the community are the same ones that betrayed them when a landslide displaced their homes in 2002. The mountains that I was enamored by began moving steadily in and out of one another as we continued down the road, like two dimensional puppets in front of a gloomy curtain. I turned my face away from them, looking instead to the people in the van. Tired people. Quiet people. People still unable to believe that our time here was up; it was just moments ago that we arrived in this new place. Last week, we walked into the lives of a proud, grateful people. They softened our hearts and made us care. And yet, that afternoon, we walked out of their lives, leaving only but a mark of our presence.
During breakfast, one of our group members, Kail, mentioned the obscure feeling we get when we travel. Perhaps you're familiar with it: one day you wake up in your own bed, and through the miracle of modern transportation, you lay your head down on a pillow 3,000 miles away. Or, what has been on my mind, the opposite. Sunday morning, I woke up in Guatemala, flew thousands of miles, and ate dinner in my parent's back yard. It's unnatural and sometimes it seems our consciousness can't quite catch up. It's like my body came home but my mind wasn't there yet. It was an amazing feeling to be home and to see my family, and I hated to drive back to my rented house because any further movement seemed too much, too fabricated.
It's not that weird. The journey of humanity is a shift from countryside to big city. But perhaps it has been a little bit like modern travel...it has happened so fast that our souls still stop to smell the roses as we press on looking for another problem to solve. The city is so young and strange and new--in the grand scheme, barely older than we are--that it feels artificial. Sometimes it keeps us from really feeling like we are at home. The people in Guatemala were so founded in the Earth, so connected to its fruits and its destruction, that they earned many of the admirable qualities of the powerful sphere. They did not search for problems, as our modern entrepreneurial force often urges us to do, but they approach their problems eager to find a solution. Anna, one of our young (but dangerously wise) group members casually noted one evening that what she appreciates about their lifestyle is their reluctance to look for problems as we do, but their desire to look for solutions. She is really on to something.
Anna's father, Kail, made an excellent point as well (that family must live on a good diet or something, because they brought something truly special to our reflections). Kail urged us not to forget the role of the "story." Our stories, the Guatemalan's stories, your stories... they stretch across time and weave and intersect with one another, and really aren't that different. We all grow, change, love, hurt, heal... but the great comfort in all that we do, remains... the end of the story has been written. When our stories end, they will end well. I find rest in this thought.
This post may be my last; a new group begins their journey this week. But I cannot sign off without leaving a somewhat misplaced Spanish proverb: "Little by little, one goes a long way."
I invite you along on the journey of a lifetime. Wherever you are in your journey, dig in and relish every step. Don't watch your feet idly pass over the earth, look up and soak it in. Be present, pack light, and travel far.