Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Nazca Lines

“Oh, we’ll all crash and die anyway.” Said the woman with an Australian accent.

The Cessna had been revving its engine on the tarmac for 5 minutes – a dragonfly on rocket fuel. I wanted to feel in communion with our cabin mates, that is if we were going to all crash and die – I wanted to memorialize the details -- the Australian next to me, a couple from the Midwest in the front seats that kept to themselves, Cedric sitting in front of me.

The exhaust fumes were now filling the postage stamp cabin – bodies in close contact: knees on chairs, elbows on elbows, headsets on earlobes. In the cockpit, which was no more than a couple of arm lengths away -- you could see the Peruvian pilot and the co-pilot  – two men musically conversing in Spanish, one with his muscular arm hugging the other’s chair. We were in the south of Lima, setting course for Peru’s mysterious geoglyths, the Nazca lines, a group of giant pre-Columbian designs etched on desert sand - their meaning mysterious and unknown.

From the pilot's headset, you could hear the flight clearance established in Spanish. The Cessna was now on the runway, picking up speed -- a deepening pressure over the heart. I wanted to hold the Australian woman’s hand, just for a second. But it was too late anyway. Catapulting upward, the plane slid onto the currents of the super airway -- a fizziness in my stomach.

In this strange terror, I started to giggle. If this was my last moment on earth, why cling? I surrendered to the exhilaration, the adrenaline. I unclenched the chair in front of me, leaving my handprints. I covered my mouth, half laugh, half sob.

From the window, the landscape unfolded in sepia. It overwhelmed the eyes - this canvas of earth and sky. We were so small. A dot. From below, the dry arid desert, the sparse palms and green dabs, the crevices of ancient rivers – as if tears evaporated over these running streams centuries ago. This was another world – dramatic and breathtaking. The quest for the sacred markings left by the Nasca shaman. Of course, the shaman did not need technology to see the aerial line drawings, some the size of football fields or did they? Why would they create such lasting earth art work? A celebration to the cosmos in the shape of a spider, monkey and condor?

As the wings of the plane dipped downward, something transcendent was happening. The desert, the motion of sun particles – it all felt integrated and whole. The plane was now over the first shape and then another and another – it happened so quickly, this experience…a moment suspended in space and time.

traces of ancient rivers
tree and hands
about to land

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