Posted by: Hours Per Mile | May 20, 2010

Chapter 2 — Bariloche, Argentina and beyond…

December 25, 2006

It’s strange that I don’t feel more homesick on this Christmas day. The traditions have been so practiced, rehearsed and ingrained in me, though, that I can imagine myself to be involved at any hour—scrambling the eggs, pressing play on the Johnny Mathis cd, anxiously awaiting “present time”, sitting full at the dining room table, tracing lines through the beads of water on the mint julep cups and trying desperately to get the words Dad reads from the Bible to really soak in. But I’m not there this year. Gone. My Christmas morning I spend lying in bed looking out over a lake, watching the trees blow outside our window, watching the wind make currents march in neat rows towards the shore. Just another day the sun has risen.

We are in Bariloche. It is a name thrown around Buenos Aires by the well traveled, the well financed, the proud, and for good reason. It is summer time here and the flowers bloom determinedly despite the crisp chill in the air. The region is pockmarked with glittering lakes deep in blue, earmarked with mountain ranges green with the growth of time. Yesterday we drove through flower filled corridors of yellow, then purple, and circled a lake whose shores began precisely where the base of the mountains rose up.

Usually on Christmas Eve my family drives around and looks at all the lights while some radio station softly plays “Jingle Bells” for the umpteenth time, but this time the only lights we saw were from God. We pulled over and walked to the edge of the road where down below the lazy surface of the lake did a slow, rippling waltz with the popping, ecstasy-filled moonlight. No Christmas light display will ever compare. The haunting words of a Moby song poured forth from our open rental car doors and filled the valley, ricocheting off the mountain walls on the other side. The four of us stood apart, speaking no words. We were frozen in awe before the majesty of God’s creation. And I had so many thoughts that I didn’t write down. Thoughts of the moon. Thoughts of the Almighty. What am I to do with them all? So I rolled them up into a big, red ball and punted it into the wind.

December 27, 2006

Bariloche, Argentina – Valdivia, Chile

Argentina has convinced me of the validity of its culture—a melting pot of third and fourth generation Europeans whose grandparents all intermarried and produced beautiful mutts of people. The Argentines stand out—they drink mate and eat empanadas, never are they on time…they are a fiercely proud people, sometimes to the point of fault. This is our last day in Argentina and indeed I will miss this country.

We always seem to be moving, the contents of our backpacks never fully unpacked, not given the chance to feather a nest we could call home. Our rental cabin in Bariloche almost felt like home for two nights, but it wasn’t my bed, not my kitchen, and definitely not my toilet. Before I knew it everything was getting shoved back into their nooks and crannies of my backpack, zippers pulled tightly shut over the bulges, and we were headed for the bus station.

The buses, now those feel like home. I have a growing affection for them, probably derived from our previous 28 hour bonding time. I pull out my sleeping bag and pillow and wrap myself into a billowy world made complete with my journal and my books.  It is in these buses that my mind whirs fast with the wheels, my eyes watching the movie reel as it passes by my window, quick blips of real life revealed. A gaucho galloping. Cows meandering. Women selling. Children running.

I see waterfalls everywhere, spewing out the sides of unsuspecting mountains. Day after day the water pours and I bet those who watch them keep their lives orderly and sure because of them—they know no matter what happens the waterfalls will keep running, falling, watering the lake down below. As I look out the window all I see is a wall of trees blurring green. I crane my neck, peel my eyes, growing dizzy from the continuity of green, but I dig through it and there it is, a waterfall, unchanging in the distance. For a second I can see its permanent state of movement. That is what is so fascinating—from here it is a white drizzle of paint fixed on the side of a mountain but what I see and what I know to be true do not align properly—what irony.

Down here from my sinful vantage point, God appears as an unapproachable, and daunting, spiritual figure—not real to me, his shape never changing, seeming plastic and dead. Stuck in the mire of my human nature the Great Creator remains simply a white drizzle of paint on the side of a distant mountain. The nearer I draw to the waterfall, I begin to see its water leaping and splashing and continuing on its course, frothing at its surface and alive, the intricacies of my Lord glorified.

The bus zooms on towards Chile, but my mind remains with the waterfall. Sometimes my world seems to stand still when I have too much to think about. Every time I pick up my water bottle I watch in slow motion as the condensation drips onto my knee with big splashes, soaking wet, round dollops onto my pants. And I look up and catch a glimpse of the waterfall.

In front of our cabin

View from cabins we couldnt afford

Bus at night


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