After writing class today, we took an afternoon field trip to Moray, the ancient archeological site built by the Incas. A local guide from Urubamba, the next province over, joined us on our excursion today. Valentin grew up high in the mountains, the son of farmers. “The soil is very fertile with the good weather,” he told us. “It is a very good place to grow things. Our main crops were wheat, barley and potatoes. Potatoes like high elevations.”
On almost all of my travel trips, we spend one morning of writing class doing an exercise in deep observation. Paying attention is one the most important qualities a writer can foster, so this morning I read my students a story about deep observation in a scientific setting, and then sent them out, dressed in jackets and rain coats (to sit on—the ground was wet from last night’s thunder and lightning storm) and told them to sit for half an hour in silence, studying 12 square inches of something in nature that wasn’t moving (like a river), but a 12 inch square that initially felt static, like nothing was happening: maybe a stone wall, a patch of grass, a tree, some flowers. The instructions: half an hour of silence and deep observation of what was happening in that square foot.
I was up this morning at 3:30 AM with a headache. I’ve had a headache for some part of every day I’ve been here and the day we went up to Cusco to pick up our students, at 11,000 feet, I felt like my head was in a vise the whole day. As soon as we came back to Sach’a Munay and 9000 feet, that intense pressure lessened, but I’ve still had a headache everyday for at least part of the day. I’m sure the advil I’ve been taking on a daily basis can’t be good for my gut, but it helps. I would say my discomfort has been at a 4. I’ve been able to do everything—teach, schmooze, take part in a sacred ceremony, even hike, but that pressure in my head is always lurking. Each day I think, “Oh, tomorrow I’ll adjust.” But I’ve already been here for almost a week and I seem to be one of those people ... [Continue Reading]
I’ve always loved string figure games. I grew up doing Jacob’s Ladder and playing Cat’s Cradle. String games are kind of like riding a bicycle—once you learn how to make them, you never forget. It’s muscle memory—cellular intelligence. When our kids, Eli and Lizzy were in elementary school, they went to an alternative elementary school in Aptos, California called Orchard School. There were 60 kids in the whole school—kindergarten through sixth grade. The campus was 12 acres and each subject was taught in a different building. Fort building and playing in the mud—and being in school barefoot were major activities. Instead of traditional physical education, they had circus arts. They learned to walk on stilts and rode unicycles all over the campus. It’s how they got from class to class. ... [Continue Reading]