Today, I pulled a water-stained book off the shelf that still smelled musty from the Denver flood that ravaged our home 47 years ago. I thought of those whose homes were in the path of Hurricane Sandy, and of the irreplace- able things we lose. Then I turned to a small chapbook sitting on my desk, compiled and created by poet and traveling companion Julie Stuckey.
Inside, are the musings of 12 women friends who traveled Peru together for 12 days last April during our first Weaving Words & Women adventure. The day the chapbook arrived in the mail, six months after our trip, I curled up in bed and read it cover to cover. The stories, poems, diary entries, and images captured in words brought back vivid memories and overwhelming gratitude—for the journey, for each woman, for the country.
Peru, Day 9 Journal Entry. Nilda Callanaupa's textile school for girls. "What an amazing day. Gracias. Gracias. Gracias. Somewhere in the world women bend. Squeezing the sodden wool, squeezing the wet remnants of color for the coils of fiber. Not somewhere. Here. In Chinchero. In the highlands of Peru. The chatter of young girls. Orphans. Many of them. Hats of felt. Red. Green. Steam rising from boiling water. Braids tied at waist. On the other side of the fence, three sheep graze the grass. The brown water is poured on flowers."
As I read each page, the memories came flooding back. What an oddly timed expression—flooding back. Yet that is the beauty of the writing--not that our words had been revised and polished until they shone--but rather that their very rawness brought forth the freshness of our experiences, the colors and smells and textures, and the gentleness. How beautiful we found the gentleness of the Quechua people.
As I think of the people who lost their homes in Hurricane Sandy, I wonder how many diaries might have floated out to sea, how many letters from loved ones, how many photo albums, how many journals. Perhaps we should be grateful for this digital age, and our online backup, our Facebook photo albums, our retrievable files.
During our trip to Peru, we would often take turns reading from our journals at dinner, taking turns holding the story doll Jan brought, sharing our written words. Written words rarely contain chatter, or talk of petty quarrels at our jobs, or banal observations. "Feet connect her to the earth," Jan wrote about Mercedes, a Quechua woman who endeared herself to many of us, "and lift her to the heavens."
Visiting the ruins of Ollantaytambo, we find a shady wall on the north side and look across the valley to the hills where the stone was quarried that was used to build the ancient town. Carbery perches on the edge of an out- cropping, her journal in her lap. She is beautiful in her purple. She writes, and later chooses what to share.
My heart loosens.
The earth lightens.
I am grateful for her words, and for Fran's and Cathy's and Corinne's and Nancy's and Laura's and Roxanne's and Jan's and Jan's and Janis's! And Julie's, of course. "We drank to strong women," Julie wrote, "and we ladled love." If it were not so late at night as I write this, I would pour a glass of wine and toast the strong women we met in Peru, and I would toast the women who did not know how strong they were, until they left Peru and returned home--strong in spirit, strong in heart, strong in wisdom, strong in friendship. And I would toast to the strong women who are just now searching through the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and who may someday, perhaps 47 years from now, pull a musty, water stained book off their shelf, and remember the friends who sustained them.
Weaving Words & Women 2013 will be April 19-30. Registration is now open. Limit: 10 women guests. Click HERE to view all the 2012 Retreat Photo Albums.