I did not imagine how hard this journey would be. I did not imagine how much I could do alone, and how much I couldn't possibly. But it's difficult to remember now that I didn't imagine anything. Not sleeping in 31 different places over 62 days or traveling over 6,000 kilometers by land and sea from the Chilean capital to the southern tip of the continent and moreover, back.
I didn't plan to have Christmas with a pair of German cyclists at a bushcrash site during a snowstorm in the Fitz Roy range. I didn't realize I would spend a morning in the sea sunshine observing one distant nipple-fin peak, measuring time by moving my head from slightly left to slightly right to see it.
How could I know how my throat would close against tears on the sweaty minibus when the guitarist sang 'todas las hojas son hojas del viento' (all of the leaves are leaves of the wind)? I didn't mean to be left completely alone to sleep outside a Mapuche ruka in the moonless mountains and campos 2km from the village of Currarehue on the camino to Argentina. Or push my way through empty woods and horse tracks to jump naked into a hidden waterfall I almost couldn't find.
There was no way to expect what happy satisfaction would come from spending days sorting leaves and stems from huge sacks of dried maqui berries. How I would pass evenings encerrando patos and preparing a plot for zanahorrias as a thick setting sun shone past the Pacific Ocean, through an arc of hose water and onto humans I had just come to love. And when we all come inside as night falls near 10pm to fresh milk on the woodburning stove, my body is agotado and leans into the routine.
I suppose if I had said aloud to myself 'I am going to travel alone through Patagonia and I have no plan' I could have guessed that at the very end I would feel either like a small worn object seeking my mother's warm hand, or like an invincible body, ten feet tall and bullet proof. It is the very end and I've felt both of those things exactly at once.
Two days ago, before the summer sunshine fully entered my bones and made me gentle and fevery, we walked back from the playa on moonlit dirt roads with our moonshadows. What a day when you can see all the lights the sun graces upon a vast and deserted coastland, beginning with the rising sun pointing right at us as I convinced Lilia to jump in for the first time since her childhood on our morning run through farmland and dunes. Each night it becomes easier to avoid the ginda trees, fire pit and work bench as I feel my way to my tent in the field beind the house, as the moon says, 'look at me, I am looking at you, my growing has meaning, see me.'
On my very first night in Santiago, I stumbled upon, or rather was drawn towards, a humming and howling of hundreds of Chilean hippies gathered to receive an enormous orange moon hanging over the río Mapocho. In the rhythmic dancing and laughter and flowiness, I felt myself rather to be on the side of the moon, as the one being received. There's an insistent memory in the moon, and as her emptiness slightens two turns later, I feel readier to receive the fullness of this adventure. From the moment I turned back from the austral cross, I have been traveling north. Incrementally approaching the capital, and seeing myself as a northern person, I had the feeling that I was therefore traveling home. I had to remind myself how mistaken I was, that there was still so much to be adventured. But to say that the better part of my journey was a going towards home(s) is not entirely untrue. I found this from Aurora and back in California wrote it on the first page of my notebook: 'Some people say home is where you come from. But I think it's a place you need to find, like its scattered and you pick pieces of it up along the way.'- Katie Kacvinsky
But it seems to me that the 'is scattered' is not such a passive thing. Rather, my family and history scatter, my disposition and companionships scatter, my country and empire and privileges and languages scatter, and above all my education scatters.
There were many, many moments at my bilingual school where I felt very much not at home, and it's apparent now how that displacement of home has been an act of scattering. In Coyhaique I walked up the long hill from my campsite passing a jardin de niños with a big Mafalda painted on the windows to greet kids who were using the same Argentinean cartoon to learn to read as I did. When I went alone to the emergency room in Pucón I was glad they didn't speak English because it was more part of the adventure, and more like our medical translation classes in middle school. The Colombian women who I had dinner with after they had returned from their womb meditation asked if I had ever been to Colombia. I said no unwillingly slowly, feeling nonetheless a certain familiarity. I was with Manuela from Bogotá the first winter she saw snow. And when I was ten and went to Laura Paola's house for a sleepover and ate popcorn under the table, I called my dad in scaredness to pick me up not just because the electricity cut out and came back, but because I didn't have another place I was from, and everything was Spanish and fast. But the reason I am here and not anywhere else, the reason I feel such anticipation to know Chile, not just in its highlights but in its all in all, is not because of a general familiarity, but because of a specific love and longing that bilingual education also allowed. I saw Andrés for one dinner and one lunch on this trip and it became quickly apparent how Chile would become so much vaster than what I could know through him, or even what he could know. He was a younger invitation, an implicit 'yes, you can find homes here. You can find many, many homes here.' For my final almuerzo at the farm, Pedro and Carlos killed a young lamb with a knife and I ate the intestines with red wine. I didn't completely register what had happened until I put together the pieces; the wool pelt flung over the wire fence of the chicken coop bloody side up, the dog chewing on a furry meaty hoof, a vat of blood, and finally the scull and brain charred in an outdoor fire for tomorrow's stew. Lis was my best friend on this trip. Lis is four. We would have long conversations mouthing nonsense words to each other at the table, then he would climb all over me and pick ginda and maqui from my shoulders. We had ten different games we would play, like the one where he's a piece of meat or an egg or a guitar, or where we see who can be a flamingo for longer, or where he holds my hand in the sheep pasture and we creep as close to the bandurrias as possible because Lis is going to ask his mom for a long bandurria nose to dig for gusanitos like a bird, and he just lets go of my hand to chase a little yellow butterfly. After almuerzo he hooks his arm around my neck and starts whispering to me in babyish Spanish with breathless inhales stories of dreams which are also my dreams. He says that after the peyote bird eats my head, Alex, who works on the farm and never talks, will kill it and give me its wings so I can go home and fly back with my sister and my parents and my grandmother and my grandmothers dog (because dogs can talk in my country). And we would all have almuerzo together every day and sleep in the same bed. When Lis goes to the playa he will build me a sand castle so big I can stick my head in, then my whole body, and then live inside with every single person I know. This is also my dream because it would be a wonder to live a life without longings. For what is nearest to indeed always be what is best. But I would also like to live in a way that honors the largeness of the world, the manyness and specificities. Where my presence and cultivation make plants and animals and young people and words more like themselves, rather than more like something for my understanding, for my finding home. I am here not just through a series of finding homes, but also through a series of respecting hurting longings. Longing as a measure and proof of non-presence, of grandeur, of separation, and of need. I didn't imagine anything in particular, but I imagined that whatever was hard, or cruel, or joyous, had sense for me. Had its place in making evident that the loudest way I can speak is with my whole entire life; where on the planet I place my body, what pieces of the earth I invite to animate it, and how I spend each one of my days.