Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Estrellas De La Sur - Pictures

Estrellas De La Sur - Revisiting 03/10/2006

Estrellas de la Sur
Leave it to Beaver
Chris’s Pony Ride
Cruce los Dedos
Cuerpo Militar

The Story:

My horse was named Rambo – a magnificent, tall and buxom fellow with the most appealing chocolate brown
woolly winter coat. He was the largest of the fair and was known for carrying the heavier load.

At last we had arrived at the end of our road – with quite enough gas but too few tires. We don’t quite know how we are getting home from here. Waiting there for us was “German” – pronounced “
Hairman” – with five horses. He was a slender and rustically weathered lad of 60 years with stark green eyes and rosy red cheeks, wearing a light brown green felt hat pulled tightly with a string under his chin and a long leather trench coat – a picture perfect fit for the ride through the woods. We packed our necessities, mounted as necessary and trekked through the forest toward our temporary and remote lake home.

Although we have gone many miles, met many new friends and seen many wonderful things, I have been waiting for an opportune moment of inspiration to write forth my experiences which had until now eluded me. I have arrived with Christopher and Brian at what cannot be possibly described in contemporary terms – but I am blessed and enlightened by what I am now witnessing and what I have fortunately and thankfully been able to share with them – who will indeed never be quite the same upon their return home.

We are about as far from civilization as one might choose to live here – some 250
kms into the wilderness of the very Southern reaches of Tierra Del Fuego. We are the guest of “German” and his wife “Marysala” who live here on a family homestead on the shores of lake “Fagnano” – pronounced “Fanyano” – a deep turquoise blue glacial lake just one mountain range North of the Beagle Channel in Chile and stretches far from here into Argentina. German calls his wife “Mujer

Our horses carried us from the road head through the forest, through mountain streams, across dense red and iridescent green moss bogs and through fences to the
Estancia. German has lived here for 40 years, often alone in the woods, building his home and carving out a living running this small and extraordinarily remote 4000 hectare ranch. The house is made of local wood, which was logged and milled right here in the yard on a sawmill attached to the drive of an old tractor. Every other implement was hauled here by horse or oxen some 70 km through mountain valleys and passes – including the most exquisite one hundred year old wood burning stove – “stufe”  that sits in the kitchen and churns out fresh bread half the day. There is no electricity here, no running water or video game of any kind. There is a short wave radio that runs on a solar panel and battery. We are here in the woods, living like the settlers of the West must have done back in the day.

As we sat at the dinner table warmed by the heavy iron stove, German asked us if we minded eating late. He said he had planned a large bonfire and barbecue for us. As soon as we said no and that we did not mind, out the door he went and into the woods. He returned shortly thereafter with a freshly slaughtered male sheep – “
Cordero”. Half the animal was skewered on a long iron sword to be slowly roasted over an open fire. And as the three of us made ourselves at home, German again emerged from the woods with a freshly quartered Beaver, which he fed to his three dogs.

Ten breeding pair of Canadian Beaver were imported to
Punta Arenas at the turn of the century in an effort to cultivate a fur market. There are hundreds of thousands living in the Southern forests here and they have decimated many of the local trees and flooded valleys with their dams. So destructive they have been, Chile just recently offered a bounty for their pelts in hope of eradicating them from here.

By nightfall we were gathered around a blazing fire beneath the starry expanse of the Southern sky. A friend of German’s – Patricio – a documentary film maker from Santiago,  was visiting for a day with his son Daniel. Patricio seasoned and turned the sheep and stoked the fire and blessed us with an occasional ballad with his guitar. And as late as German had predicted, we were sitting to a feast of roasted lamb, salsa, boiled potatoes and wine. We ate at 10:30 and our barbecue ended when the fire ended.

At the crack of Dawn we were up and ready for another day.
Marysala had already made breakfast for us. German had readied his boat for the long one and a half mile trek to the other side of the lake. The winds were calm and had they not, we would have ridden our horses into the mountains in search of two of his horses that had run off. He said that there are wild horses in these mountains too, left behind by settlers at the turn of the century.

My concept of work – and I would suggest that of most people we know - has no compare here. At least in this family, work ends late and begins early. There is cooking to do, wood to chop, fires to stoke, berries to gather, a garden to tend, animals to feed and so much more. And yet – these people find a sense of pleasure and satisfaction in their accomplishment – a sensitivity to their lives and land that you don’t often find back home.

Marysala always smiled and sang constantly as she washed, cooked and ironed – with a original solid metal iron that was warmed on the stove. And as German led us up the mountain side on a 1300 foot vertical hike – and lost his path – he sang to the forest in search of his familiar road. What an interesting and wholesome character – who would often sit at his kitchen window looking contently out across his land, his weathered and aged hands warmed by a cup of coffee.

We returned from the mountain in the nick of time as the wake of the wind again crossed the waters, generating four foot swells and white caps. We left our mountain side perch and headed for the boat. By the time we got back to our side of the lake, we were completely soaked and cold from the high waves and the 30mph 8 degree centigrade wind.

Although the wind is a constant element here, the skies can change countless times in a day. With our clothes on the line waving in the wind and the sun shining for at least half of this day – we were all back in order in no time.

As the evening light faded to darkness, Brian, Christopher and I sat around the stove, German pulled out a dusty bottle of twelve year old Scotch – a gift he’d once received from a Scotsman some years back. He said he
didn’t drink much but would have a snort with us. The whisky was called Bunnahabhain (Bu-na-ha-venn) from the Island of Isle in Scotland. German showed us an album of extraordinary historical photographs of his father and family who worked and settled the land in the 1930’s with one great image in particular of all their supplies being dragged by Oxen across the mountain pass – the same pass through which we had earlier driven on a new Chilean road.

It was morning, and we were preparing to head back for the road. German and Brian had gone with the dogs to gather the horses.
Marysala was making breakfast for Brian and I. Christopher was still asleep – but not for long. The road-head is the very worst muddy and rocky road and we have no longer a spare and with 300 kms to drive on vacant land – we will drive slow and cross our fingers. Of everyone we have asked about the repair of our spare and our perilous trek, they have all said, “cross your fingers”.

With our bags packed, we again returned to the road-head –
Marysala waving goodbye from the wooden gate of the pasture. The road was about an hour’s ride – and we stopped along the way checking Beaver traps that German had set. It was a sad goodbye at the end of the road for all of us.

We drove carefully down the road, watching for potholes and sharp rocks. Because it was a rental, we vowed to drive all 300km back to the North on three wheels if necessary. As chance would have it, we stopped at an Army outpost at the entry to the mountains. The officer in charge – a
blond and slightly English speaking German Chilean – invited us inside for coffee. As we exchanged stories and listened in some part to the Discovery Channel’s essay on WWII – the Chilean Army repaired our tire. Now that’s something that would never happen back home. He asked only that we send him a picture and gave us his e-mail address. His name was Errol

By nightfall we were again within reach of a hot shower. Christopher had two sandwiches for dinner while Brian and I shared dessert. Both Brian and Christopher will soon be flying home. Both sit quietly at times now with the end of this adventure looming. It is fair to say that both have been touched by the land and the people here in an extraordinary way – and perhaps for both as
well, they will endeavor more often than not to examine the big picture of things as they continue their trek through life.

Carlito’s Way


When we were in Torres Del Paine – it seemed that some friends of mine from the states were going to be staying on the other side of the Glacier at the same time we were going to be there - so we stopped in for a visit. They were traveling with a couple from Peru, their very good friends, who they had wanted me to meet. They were staying at the most exclusive place in all the South – a private facility where all meals, drinks, horse rides etc. were
includidado. We had a couple of glasses of wine as the sun was setting in the mountains. Finally – their friends joined us – the top Cotton producer from Peru and his wife. Christopher on the other had been expressing some interest in studying Archeology when he goes to college. Turns out that this man’s wife Paloma is the top pre-Columbian Archeologist in all of Latin America – has published eight books and runs the Master’s program in Lima. She and Christopher had a chance to visit, they exchanged contact information and she invited Christopher to study with here in Peru and further – to join her on a new dig in July in the North Peru. That’s a pretty cool deal!!!

And one last
Phenomenando – from every chicita, cholita, mamasita and anything else that was female and had an “ita” and was between 12 and 35 years of age including any gordita – we heard shrill squeaks, hoots, hollers, coos and giddy lusty laughter every time Christopher passed – including whenever we passed a playground and one girl actually followed me around for an entire day before shyly, coyishly asking for “Chreeeestaaafeeeer’s e-mail address. What is all that about?

Who Nose

Alex - my wayward neighbor - got in a fight yesterday at the Christian school - in which he broke his nose. He gets it re-set on Thursday.

Project Home

For fourteen of the last twenty days, Gregory Bonnet was in San Marcos helping me with about twenty big projects at home. In short, we fixed the hot tub, finished the deck next doors, put in a new water meter, replaced the siding on a house, raked every leaf, cleaned out an attic, put a new door on the attic, filled the dumpster about eight times, built a wood-shop, moved all of the tools, built a new deck, raised the house and I spent about eight grand. Greg took off yesterday on his trek back to California and to the surf in which he spends so much of his elevated time. I will rest for one day.

Alex's Video Project for School

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hell in Texas

“Oh, the Devil in hell they say he was chained,

And there for a thousand years he remained;

He neither complained nor did he groan,

But decided he'd start up a hell of his own,

Where he could torment the souls of men

Without being shut in a prison pen;

So he asked the Lord if He had any sand

Left over from making this great land.


The Lord He said, "Yes, I have plenty on hand,

But it's away down south on the Rio Grande,

And, to tell you the truth, the stuff is so poor

I doubt if 'twill do for hell any more."

The Devil went down and looked over the truck,

And he said if it came as a gift he was stuck,

For when he'd examined it carefully and well

He decided the place was too dry for a hell.


But the Lord just to get the stuff off His hands

He promised the Devil He'd water the land,

For he had some old water that was of no use,

A regular bog hole that stunk like the deuce.

So the grant it was made and the deed it was given;

The Lord He returned to His place up in heaven.

The Devil soon saw he had everything needed

To make up a hell and so he proceeded.


He scattered tarantulas over the roads,

Put thorns on the cactus and horns on the toads,

He sprinkled the sands with millions of ants

So the man that sits down must wear soles on his pants.

He lengthened the horns of the Texas steer,

And added an inch to the jack rabbit's ear;

He put water puppies in all of the lakes,

And under the rocks he put rattlesnakes.


He hung thorns and brambles on all of the trees,

He mixed up the dust with jiggers and fleas;

The rattlesnake bites you, the scorpion stings,

The mosquito delights you by buzzing his wings.

The heat in the summer's a hundred and ten,

Too hot for the Devil and too hot for men;

And all who remained in that climate soon bore

Cuts, bites, stings, and scratches, and blisters galore.


He quickened the buck of the bronco steed,

And poisoned the feet of the centipede;

The wild boar roams in the black chaparral

It's a hell of a place that we've got for a hell.

He planted red pepper beside of the brooks;

The Mexicans use them in all that they cook.

Just dine with a Greaser and then you will shout,

"I've hell on the inside as well as the out! "”

Friday, January 9, 2009

Big Bend Pics

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

We arrived in Big Bend, after running out of gas, on the leading edge of an arctic front. The wind was blustery and cold. As the twilight turned to darkness, we added layer after layer to fight off the plummeting temperature - a condition aggravated by the wind. But by mornings light the wind had calmed and the outlook for the trip promising. We drove out Dagger's Flat onto the Old Ore Road into a portion of the park into which we'd never been. The park is over 1200 square miles of deep dark Texas and there are parts that I'd be confident in saying have never seen hide nor hair of man. It is a desert wilderness of remarkable diversity and beauty. Our perspective offered us a distant view of the Chisos Mountains where a bit of snow was expected. 
With a pleasant addition of home brewed coffee - via a Coleman stovetop coffee maker - and a strawberry pop-tart or two, we were afoot to the nearest tall mountain for a look-see. 
Chris is the personification of Indiana Jones with a smidgin of OCD. Alex is "Dennis the Menace." I am Obi-Wan -and for two days we poked around the twenty five miles of Old Ore Road exploring between campsites and hiking nearby mountains. On the third minute of the third hour of the third day - somewhere in the world or, after we woke up - I turned the ignition key of my dependable truck in the drive through of a small store in Boquillas on the Rio Grande River and not a darn thing happened. I could not have been farther away from a parts store than I was at that moment.  Hmmmm - I thought to myself, I hope this is easy. 
If nothing else, I have a positive attitude and a hankering for problem solving. With a bit of direction from a mechanic back home and through the analytical process I learned from my dad - we narrowed down the problem to three things - the ignition switch was broken, the ignition module had failed or the starter had quit. After re-booting the ignition computer - we eliminated that possibility. We didn't really need the ignition switch and so to make a long story short - we jumped the starter solenoid from underneath and re-started the engine. We used a piece of aluminum wire we found in the parking lot which we fashion into a makeshift fork with Chris's trusty Leather-man Titanium plier, knife, file, fish scaler thing. The store clerk looked at us as if we were some sort of miracle workers - never before having seen anyone resurrect their car with such determination. He said something like, "I guess you'll be heading home". "Hell nah" I said. "We got it figured out. We came here to go camping and we can get by with a screwdriver from here on out." With a couple of wild chuckles, I turned to the back seat where Alex was sitting and told him "that's why it's so important to know a little bit about everything and that if you are determined enough to be successful, you will be." We drove into Pine Canyon for our last two days. At 9am on the fourth day, I started my truck with my screwdriver and we drove straight home. 

Found On Road Dead

I actually drive a Chevrolet. This past Sunday, Chris, Alex and I went on a long camping trip to Big Bend - the second such trip in recent weeks. It's winter now and getting cold in the mountains - a perfect time of year to camp, to hike and to avoid venomous snakes. And so there we were, driving down I-10 past the City of Ozona and onto Ft. Stockton. I had about a third of a tank of gas and had 70  miles to go to the next gas station. Well - the state of the economy as it is, it seems that famous Fina station with the ginormous Texas flag out there in the middle of nowhere has gone out of business - only the blue star part of the flag left flying on the flagpole. I felt that worrisome feeling in my gut as I slowed down to 70 - hoping to stretch out what gas was left to the next small town of Bakersfield where I knew there was an Exxon and Chevron - the only two buildings in the city. Ooops - ran out of gas on I-10 and in the middle of nowhere and eight miles short of gas. No one would stop to help - all those silly Californian's and Minnesotans and whatnot escaping the cold, running dope, illegal aliens and such. I called the SO there in Pecos County - they had already heard about us. Apparently, ever since the Fina went out of business, the Deputy in that area always carries extra gas with him. Anyhow - along comes this little old rancher - a mexican fellow named Herman. He pulls up in his little truck - with his rifle in the front seat, dead deer head in the bed with assorted ranch stuff - old fittings, wrenches, cans, ropes, suitcase etc. "Where ya'll going" he says. Were going to Big Bend to go camping I respond in return. He smiles as if familiar with the place and says, "we'll, ya'll don't have too far to go." I explained that we had run out of gas. "It's about eight miles to the gas station" he says , "that's a long way to push." He thought for a moment and then moved a few things around in the back of his truck, pulling out a tow rope. "I'll tow you down the service road real slow, you hear. "  He tied off the rope, got into his truck and slowly pulled us off the interstate. Before long we were turning into the gas station - a one pump lane that was occupied. I was certainly thankful and appreciative of his kindness. We weren't quite up to the pump yet but close enough for us to push it in the rest of the way. Alex, our wayward charge, was with me when I leaned into Herman's window and handed him a hundred dollar bill. He smiled and leaned back a bit and said, "Ya'll don't owe me nothing" refusing my gesture and then motioned us away from his window. "Ya'll step back now so I can pull you up to the pump." I turned to Alex and said, now that right there is a good man - and don't you every forget what he just did for us and don't you ever forget his name. Herman Fernandez was his name -70ish and living 17 miles from Bakersfield, Pecos County, Texas. We arrived at Big Bend right on time, as we planned, without delay - because of Herman's timely good deed. 

Love and Attachment

This is not an original thought, but I have been forced by circumstance to think on these things and will put forth my considered opinion. Generally, I would not impose upon you the introspective elements of something as personal and fulfilling as love. "Love is the Universe", I have often said - for there is nothing greater. But as time has eroded my once healthy and resilient armor, the stab of an ice pick, the slash of a blade, or the deep plunge of a handily - and personally crafted shiv, has taken its toll. Love is a double edged sword and death by a thousand cuts makes sense to me now. 

Before I express my own thinking, it seems appropriate to at least visit the ideas of others. We can think long and hard on any subject and only rarely will independent thought discover something remarkable and new. Where else might one go than to Wikipedia? 

"Love is any of a number of emotions and experiences related to a sense of strong affection.[1] The word love can refer to a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes, ranging from generic pleasure ("I loved that meal") to intense interpersonal attraction ("I love my girlfriend"). This diversity of meanings, combined with the complexity of the feelings involved, makes love unusually difficult to consistently define, even compared to other emotional states.

As an abstract concept, love usually refers to a deep, ineffable feeling of tenderly caring for another person. Even this limited conception of love, however, encompasses a wealth of different feelings, from the passionate desire and intimacy of romantic love to the nonsexual emotional closeness of familial and platonic love[2] to the profound oneness or devotion of religious love.[3] Love in its various forms acts as a major facilitator of interpersonal relationships and, owing to its central psychological importance, is one of the most common themes in the creative arts."

And so as I considier - I love camping, I love photography, I love my friends, I love my house and I love my dog. I love to travel, I love good red wine, I love the forest, the ocean and the seasons. And I have truly loved a few. For me, the emotion of love and of loving has been resilient and plentiful. Generosity, compassion, empathy, devotion, dependability, honesty and loyalty are among the array of well established values and behaviors I tend to exercise, all of which are born from my innate ability and longing to love. Over the years I have shared with heart broken lads and young ladies my thoughts at the loss of a first love.

When we are young, our father can warn us not to touch the stove, a boiling pot of water or the flame of a candle. He can warn us a thousand times and yet, we do not learn the lesson until we actually do get burned. And once we are burned and feel its searing pain, we never purposefully go back there again. We learn the same lessons from love. Our first love is unabridged, without limit and wildly free. When it ends - as it usually does - it is as wrenching an experience as can possibly be. And for the rest of our lives, we never let our love reach quite the same intensity, the same fever pitch, or with the same fervor for vulnerability out of fear of getting burned again - tempered ever after in the way we interact with the people we love. And no matter where we are in life thereafter, or with whom we find convention, when we envision in our minds eye love's nearly indescribable, precious remark-ability, it is always thoughts off our first love when we were free to experience it. And as I tell my stories to these young sad eyes, I always encourage them to be willing to risk the injury again - for in all the Universe, the prize of love is without compare. 

Alas, what I have come to consider by my own blunder is that real love is both fleeting and exceedingly rare. When I love someone, I find it natural and satisfying to sacrifice and facilitate for the well being of the other. This means not only to contribute knowledge, opportunity, experience, resources and well considered words, to motivate and encourage and invest in their success, in their happiness and and in their pleasure, but to also offer things I might not want to, or enjoy, or that would be painful to me emotionally, financially or otherwise - were it not for my faithful belief that it is necessary and part of what people do for each other when they rise to that level of interpersonal commitment. When you truly love someone, and you have not let your previous experiences  spoil your enthusiasm for the brass ring, nothing else matters. When you truly love someone, nothing else matters. It is the pinnacle of human existence - and how many great stories have been written over time for those elevated souls who sacrificed everything for a moment everlasting? 

Ahhh...but is it only a tale - or so strangely rare that we find its memory so enticing?

I would suggest that it is indeed rare to find two people who truly love each other and exist on an equally elevated plain - perhaps a state most abundant in childhood affairs before we know better. It is far more common that one of a pair invests the lot while the other takes a lot - or some variant of the same - and should the relationship not dissolve by its natural course of inequality - people find themselves over time "attached" or "used" to their circumstance or situation, having nothing more to do with real love at all - the house, garage, cars, dinner on the table, clean laundry, the security - and whatever else goes into the package of convention - but distant and afar from even Wikipedia's thoughts. People get used to this, used to that, used to what is dependable, safe, present and available,  and part of the daily grind - or to whatever has been beneficial in the relationship. 

But for some, it is always a rude awakening having been born to be a lover and to learn you live on a one way street - where the seeds are sewn for the act of indifferent, in-compassionate, dis-empathetic inconsideration.

Love is rare and attachment is common and they are both difficult to shed.