I thought i was celebrating my personal new year during the solstice, watching the sun set furthest south on the Cordillera Occidental, the clouds turning pink, then mauve above the already moon-lit mountain range. I remember thinking about how Ecuador has a tradition at the turn of the Roman year, of burning effigies, called ‘los viejos,’ representing issues during the past year that should just be burnt and forgotten. I wondered what my viejo would be, and concluded that it should be a frail old version of myself. The entire week leading up to then had me coping with a bad back that made me feel twice my age. I suppose it serves me right for jumping into full mountain man role after an extremely sedentary six weeks in the USA. Turning 40 had caused an obsession with the idea that i was becoming an old man, and the back pain seemed to only encourage the idea. I knew it was temporary, and that if i let go of the idea, let my body heal some, that the child within me could easily return.
I think it’s interesting that here the focus is on the year that passed, while up north i would concentrate on the promises and resolutions for the year to come. That solstice, i followed the Ecuadorian tradition, without a clue to the change a new year could bring…
While i was in the USA, old Santi, and pregnant Elli, joined Butters and Maple at the Seed Camp, and the horses moved to the giant pasture between Seed Camp and RADi. It should have been smooth and peaceful for Andrea to caretake RADi were it not for repeated incursions by a malnourished bull.. and the fact that she was in the first trimester of pregnancy! She’s currently up north, but is now on her way back to Vilcabamba.
It wasn’t just me being out of shape, nor merely the expected culture shock, that made my return to Sacred Sueňos feel uncomfortable. I felt a barrier between myself and the community, felt i was isolated and stuck in a bit of a rut. A month later, two weeks after solstice, there was a blow out between the volunteer crew and one of the members that gave the tribe a little shake-up, and forced us to talk about personal issues and desires for growth. The volunteer crew was made up of really cool people, and it sucked that they got to a point where they all decided to leave. I wish they had communicated to the member before letting it build up to this point, but i appreciate that the incident had revealed some important insights, and begun a much needed discussion on ways for all of us to work on communication. Everybody, not only the member involved in this conflict, could work on non-violent communication. The opportunity for us to all work on it together makes me so happy. Nothing concrete had been worked on, yet, but the potential for time spent together, for genuine connection, gave me hope. I could finally see a bright light beyond the gray dawn of the past moon.
A few days later, i left for Quito, to pick up Alejandra and soak in some hot springs. I was looking forward to returning to a tribe again. Deb, Keisha, Casey, Lutz and his new girlfriend, Luisa, were already at the farm. Chad was on his way back, with his fiancé, Kristin. Even Darcy had returned to Vilcabamba and was considering returning to Sacred Sueňos! I had just made it to RADi, on my way to deliver the Sunday market goodies with the horses, when i got the call that Eli had died. She was tied near the trail to make it easier for me to bring her back from the Seed Camp, and she managed to break her neck.
I’m grateful for Ale’s compassion and ability to help me through my emotional initial response. It took me a bit of time to accept the loss, accept that my days as the goat cheese guy were over. We skinned her, harvested what we could from her. I’ve been offered new goats to replace Eli, but i don’t think i want a RADi herd anymore. Eli was such a fantastic girl, producing gorgeous kids, and making the milk that nourished me, and financially supported me through the cheeses i sold. I adored her, and with one incident, i lost so much. Perhaps it’s time to try new things, and find new products to diversify my income. I got a few breeds of chickens, and a flock of quail. Once the aviary is finished, Ale and i will build a shed for rabbits. The tilapia pond will probably be completed in the next few weeks, not only for the fish, but also some ducks. There’s even talk about a couple of pigs. I’ll also see what value added products the growing gardens and edible forest may bring as well. And of course i’m happy to be a goat sitter for the Seed Camp’s herd, so there’s still be the odd cheese. Not only am i sure that i’ll find ways for the farm to support me, but i’m also definite that i’ve got many opportunities to experiment, make small mistakes, and learn new things.
I think that the shared tragedy of losing Eli, and the bond created during her harvest, has actually strengthened the tribal connection. I haven’t felt this level of mutual support in years! And with 9 or 10 members at Sacred Sueňos for the next few months, such mutual support is going to make a lot of dreams manifest. The Solstice may have been a good astronomical marker for another cycle of our shared planet twirling around the sun, but i feel that a new year for Sacred Sueňos began with the sacrifice of a pregnant golden goat.