A brief blog this week, and my first for a while, as I have been away. A rather major trip to “celebrate” a rather major (age-related…) milestone, which included a few days in the Atacama desert in northern Chile. You may remember it from news reports in 2010, when 33 miners spent 69 days trapped underground before they were all winched to safety, one by one, in a metal cage.
The main town of San Pedro de Atacama is as other–worldly as anywhere I have ever been. Searing heat, adobe huts, sandy “roads”, wild yet strangely friendly dogs – even the one I met on an ill-advised early morning run who allowed me to hop back to my hotel as long as I allowed it to keep the shoelace of the non-hopping foot in its firmly clenched teeth.
Yet even in that desert town, among the heat and the dust and the flamingos, I was struck by how alike we all are. A mother sternly telling her young child she must go to school; a tour guide disconsolately taking us to see sunset over moon valley just as his football team was kicking off in its match of the year (we told him to go; he did; and they won). And it mattered to him: his grandfather, who he never knew, played for the team 40 years ago. When we bumped into him later that evening, he was happy and chatty, as he could never have brought himself to be before the nail-biting finale to his football season.
On our travels, we came across a rather wonderful poem that someone had written out in multi-colours on a hotel wall. I won’t reproduce it all here, but, much as the common concerns of our desert home made me feel ever more strongly that the mysterious and infinite challenges of this strange life are and must be shared endeavours, some lines made me want to re-write them as a PPI poem. But that would be plagiarism, so here are some snippets:
“…take peacemaking, friendship, learning, and listening as your duty….
“Refuse to carry with you an empty head or an empty heart…..Give thanks for every human encounter….”
“Travel unencumbered by too much stuff or by too many pre-conceived ideas. Enter every new encounter with gratitude for another opportunity to learn and listen.”
With very best wishes to you all for a very happy Christmas, and a 2016 that allows us all to listen, and to truly learn.