Some of the little towns that cling to the lake shores are like throw backs to an older world, or just another world, another part of the world. The streets are strolled by happy hippies munching mung beans and falafel, popping by the Buddha bar for a sundowner. It’s global travel with an OM and a shalom in a tiny Guatemalan town. You can mediate under a pyramids, have your aura read or ask the crystals to speak to you over the magic of the Mayan calendar.
There is a lot that I wouldn’t pay for, wouldn’t sign up for, but I think a little less of those who sneer.
A friend and I took a chance at the natural food store and bought some ‘spiritual cacao balls’ without really knowing what might be in them. I stayed lucid and clear but laughed hard and happy, marvelled at the sound of the wind, stared up at the star light. My friend felt nothing out of the ordinary so we couldn’t quite decide whether there was something special on the cookies, or whether I was just high on life and the loveliness of the night.
The next day we wanted to hike around the lake but there have been some attacks in the area, so we took advice to book an experienced local guide to be on the safe side. Rather than a stocky local, we got a ju jitsu expert from Idaho with a machete strap-strung across his back and a big blonde dog trotting to heal.
We walked the ring of the bold blue lake, striding the feet of volcanoes, seeing the ancient history of the earth drawn into the curves and craters of the land.
Hearing the town evangelist roar brash over the loud speaker, our guide said simply that he could better praise god by getting up, out and watching the sun rise and I found it hard to disagree.
The lithe young guide walked with grace, like he was barefoot, with an easy fluid swing as if he had been born to the water and the skies. He talked of mountain top tai chi in moonlight on LSD, waiting on forest glade mushrooms as the wind whistled high over the buffalo plains. I told him of the bright green hills of the Lebanon, the purple rise of the Himalayas, places so hallucinogenically beautiful that chemicals seemed wholly redundant.
I thought of an outdoors art space in Antigua where exhibits were hidden nestled in ferns or string in a tree. The habit of looking with full attention made more things more beautiful than they would’ve seemed before – I was as struck by the shadow of a branch as by the sculpture that swung on it.
I couldn’t help but think that true beauty, that takes your breath away, is co-created, made in some magic between the earth and our eyes. It can flies forth like a joy from a heart, with or without the need for any special cookie mix or a perspex pyramid…