And so, I have a story to share, about my recent happenings and their respective unravellings…
Recently I met a fellow creative, a siSTAR whose reciprocal admiration had been building through online streams for some time... In other words, we loved each others work! When we met in Peru in person, the air instantly bubbled with beauty, excitement and anticipation! I offered a collaboration, a sharing of our hearts and art, money free, pure and simple - an exchange of celebration. She agreed and we set about planning an extraordinary adventure, honouring The Goddess through both of our crafts and each others bodies and beings. For the first time in a long time, I was going to be the focus of the art form, I was going to be the actual figure inside the image, celebrated, not for what I do but for who I am in my entirety. The possibility of such an incredible experience stirred feelings inside me that I hadn’t realised I had had, and I recognised the ‘medicine’ of our work. The more I attuned to the possibility, the more I began to believe that it was a destined outcome, the more attached I became to the plan. I suggested the most incredible place I could think of... -Vinicunca aka 'The Rainbow Mountains'! I had only seen photos but it looked like a piece of land that mirrored my soul. She too beamed at the possibility, we worked out dates and I set about organising the logistics.
I googled Rainbow Mountains tours, and the first group that popped up was Ayni Tours Peru. I wrote in the customer service box with questions after question, and every time, the kind lady behind the screen named Amanda would respond with a a reasonable and rational answer. Finally I wrote an email explaining our intention to paint and produce certain creations, with links to my work. We needed to know for sure if it would be ok with them to bare breasts up on the mountains? How cold would it be? and whether this was truly possible…?? She replied that indeed it would be, as long as the tour guide didn’t have to be naked also! I assured her that this wasn’t necessary. Our wickedly outrageous idea was being met with the necessary logistics, making it... possible! Without me even realising, my excitement became the glue of attachment. Though confirmation had been achieved by all parties… the morning would reveal a new perspective of this dream.
Upon waking, the wonderful 24years old Creaturess told me that she had 'changed her mind.' Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed, unsure if my upset lay more in not doing the actual project, or in the fact that someone had confirmed a project, broadcasted the collaboration to the online world, and then changed their mind. Questions about integrity stampeded through my consciousness: what exactly was integrity in this case? She was ‘honouring her feelings’ rather than 'honouring her word'… surely integrity must come from within? An honouring of self! Then why do I feel so let down...? There we were, living together in a small house for another 7 days, no where to hide or escape. Disappointed to the core, struggling to sift through my emotions, I reached out to my online networks and received many words of wisdom that helped me understand, be vulnerable and accept 'the way life goes' - it simply wasn’t meant to be for now. I wrote to Amanda, told her of the unfolding, thanked her for her time, and surrendered to spirit’s flow.
A couple of days later, in the midst of a synchronistic meeting with J’aime, a talented Canadian filmmaker with a passion for celebrating Indigenous wisdom, I received an email from Amanda from Ayni Tours Peru. She wrote that they were interested in my work and asked me what would I need to make it happen? Knowing at this point how big an event it is to paint someone into the world, I responded clearly: there are two options, I either paint people into the world on commission, OR I honour my other project, Emerging Earth People and collaborate with Indigenous people through this creative expression to honour our origins as human beings.
Her reply began “This is a stream of consciousness kind of email” and told me that her partner Domingo was Indigenous to the Cusco regions, and that they had a big story to tell about the environment, tourism and 'The Rainbow Mountain’. As I read her email, I sensed spirit’s great plan unfolding and my deep sense of disappointment swiftly transforming into an emotion that words struggle to define, but that evolved into deep deep sense of gratitude.
AYNI means ‘reciprocity’ in Quechua, the language of the Inca Empire and the local language of many from these regions and surrounds. Amanda and Domingo founded their company, Ayni Tours Peru, five years ago in the name of giving back to the local communities from the entourage of tourists coming to ’see’ other worlds. Their teams are made up of people Indigenous to the local areas, and local ‘homestays’ play a huge part in their tour packages. Visits to Vinicunca, also knows as the Rainbow Mountain, had been restricted to only a few local tour groups because that was all demand had required for all of history… until one fateful Instagram post last October. Instantly one stunning image of the Rainbow Mountains went Viral and the world quickly discovered a hidden magical and sacred piece of earth. The people started to flock in great numbers to see the magical rainbow mountains and small unauthorised tour groups from the city of Cusco began to take large groups of people to see the site, leading unconscious brigades of people on one day journeys, leaving rubbish behind whilst literally walking through the backyard of people's villages on the way. Amanda and Domingo continued their work with small groups, and witnessed the calamity of changes as they swept in, scatterings of littered packagings dotted the paths as hundreds of people a day from countries far and wide began flocking in to see the magical mountains - with no idea that their presence was changing this world forever.
Amanda shared this story with me and their desire to bring consciousness to travellers in these regions. My insatiable imagination rippled with possibility, yet again. As my work has developed over the last years, so has my intention deepened - and the opportunity to story tell through art and cross cultural collaboration via Indigenous Wisdoms has become a central focus of my work, and my life. For me it was clear, this project had taken on a life of its own, and had majestically evolved into something so much greater than I could ever have imagined! I shared the news with J’aime, invited her on a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and she jumped for joy at the opportunity! Spirit quickly manifests that which is in flow!
I wrote back to Amanda with our plan to co-create and collaborate, money free, promotion for all, and most importantly, in the name of our shared intention for elevating consciousness about the earth, connecting the visitors to the people of the lands and highlighting our human responsibility to care and reciprocate whilst we travel. Amanda agreed, we set a date and the dream became a reality - Again.
J’aime had to disappear after that day to complete other productions, and so we planned to connect the evening before the date that we were booked to journey to the mountains. the tour guide Domingo was also out and about on tours and was only available to connect the night before the date of our magical tour also. And so, I waited with bated breath to coordinate our meetings, what was needed from all parties and how this was actually going to happen… the night arrived and I trudged down the mountains to get wifi signal. I waited, and waited - and eventually Domingo and I connected. He tells me we need to be in Cusco (1 hr away) at 7am - 7am!? Meanwhile J’aime is no where to be found, not a peep. I tell Domingo OK, and hang up the phone feeling anxious. Although it would be a wonderful thing to paint him into the mountains, without J’aime to document the process, my enthusiasm is halved. Its a huge endeavour! And to be honest, I wasn’t even feeling 100%. I waited another hour and walked back up the mountain, feeling more and more comfortable with cancelling the journey the next morning..
5:30am - Dawn broke and still no word from Jaime. I called Domingo and he answered sleepily… Apologising for waking him up, I hesitantly told him that I had not heard from Jaime and did not know where she was or what to do. The film maker was missing! He replied that everything had been already been booked and we had to go. Again, I simply agreed. I hung up, had a shower, packed my bags and walked down the mountain again to catch the collectivo to Cusco, all the way breathing into surrender and trust.. And then, that joyful familiar trill of a whatsapp message sounded! Jaime was awake and well in a not-too-far away mountain, and just in time to find out that she had an hour to taxi it to Cusco and meet us. I told her we would wait for her, then breathed into gratitude as I skipped the rest of the way to the collectivo!
I arrived, shortly followed by Jaime. I noticed Jamie had packed extra light and asked if she had warm clothes? ( we were going to be sleeping in -15degree!) She had literally bundled herself and her camera out of bed, beanie-less, gloves-less, scarf-less… with one layer of tights on. Luckily in Peru you can buy warm things around every corner for very cheap. “Oh we are climbing?” she asked… “uhhh… yep” I replied. “..About 5000masl!” Jaime seemed to be taking the reality in, meanwhile I was so grateful that she had showed up... We had had very little time to discuss any details - and here we were, traveling directly into The Calling, whilst flying on the wings of trust.
Domingo, his team and the Ayni 4WD minibus soon rolled into Calle Puputi, and began bundling us and our equipment into the car. As we headed off we started to talk about the details of the projects, the climb and the journey, when Domingo suddenly asked, “So who are you going to paint?”. Jaime and I looked at each other in disbelief. “You!” I said. Domingo laughed as he replied, “Oh no no no not me.” My face must have changed from smile, to confusion… “Yes, Domingo - Amanda organised YOU to be painted. She didn’t tell you?” Domingo’s face became very serious as he turned around, faced the front and mumbled something about calling Amanda. Already this journey had been one surprise after the next - already I felt completely surrendered. What will be will be. I had already released the painting of this project so many times, that I wasn’t far from accepting that as a possible outcome. I was happy to be going on the adventure and not have to think about pulling off a rainbow mountain merge at this point! The five hour drive continue with Jaime and I chatting away. Our first stop allowed us to buy warm things for Jaime, have a juice, and stretch our legs. I sat on the step next to Domingo and asked him how his chat went with Amanda? He replied simply - “Yes, Ok I will do it!”. Hooray! A willing Emerging Earth Paintee, man of the land; it was on. We celebrated as we drove the next 3 hours to destination.
We arrived at the stop where we would begin our trek. Our mules and muleteer, Daniel, waited patiently for us. Next to him, a beautiful older Abuela sat with her tapestries and creations laid out for sale. I crouched down and began to sift through colourful hand woven bags, fabrics and threads. She smiled and waited patiently for me to choose. Finally, I skipped down to the team with a couple of precious creations, a full heart and the song of Gracias on my lips. A table had already been set up in the middle of the open terrain, tablecloth and all, ready to serve us warm vegetable soup. Jaime and I were feeling life guests of honour, and graciously sat down to our humble meal. Warm and soothing and light, for as Domingo explained to us, we would need all our energy to walk at this altitude, and too much food would require too much digestion. As the sun beat down, and Jaime managed to nut out an interview with me before we began our trek up the mountain.
The walk was beautiful! The mountains bore down upon us with their majestic colours and the streams of water revealed themselves all the way, signifying healthy earth and abundance. The air grew thinner and the coca leaves we chewed connected us to the earth and gave us the strength to keep going. Meeting locals on the way we stopped, greeted, sat and shared coca together, choosing the best three leaves from the bag and handing them to our new friends. One at a time, whispers of prayers and gratitude were blowed upon the leaves before they met their destiny inside the mouths of humble travellers. Blessings were passed to one another as we all continued on our ways.
Two hours later we arrived at base camp - somehow the muleteers had already arrived, set up a food tent, two tents for sleeping and had almost finished preparing tea and dinner - a beautiful warming vegetarian set made with lots of love. As we ate, we spoke openly of our agreement, our expectations and the art of collaboration and set the tone for open dialogue, and clear communications. After dinner we set up our humble home and settled into the starriest night ever seen, the galaxies above sparkled upon us and our cosmic mission. I showed Domingo an image of a spot I wished to find in the mountains and asked him if he knew where to find it… - he replied to my surprise “China!” Confused, I asked again… and he clarified that the rainbow mountains in the picture were found in CHINA. Literally. We laughed into the evening whilst taking one minute exposure galaxy photos.
We woke up at 4am and headed up the mountain by 5… Apart from two eager people who overtook us and beat us to the top, we were alone in our early morning climb. By the last 20 minutes, our climb had become a slow laborious stride as we struggled to breathe, each step was huge effort. The air thin, and the incline steep, the rainbows revealed themselves more and more with every step, egging us on until finally, we made it to the top! ….What we saw from the top was out of this world. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that a place so magnificent could exist. Bliss. And yet, there was no time to waste. The production was on and the sun was making its journey across the sky. Finding the right location wasn’t hard, as every perspective glowed with possibility. Though Domingo had done this climb 100’s of times, this was definitely the first time he would take his clothes off to be merged with the landscape. I felt honoured to be able to offer him a new experience in a place he knew so well.
The moment had arrived. I declared my gratitude to the spirits of the land, the people of the land, the synchronised perfect moment in time, pacha mama and padre sielo. We hugged. I wished him a good journey. He took off his jacket, then his jumper, then his shirt, revealing his bare body to the Apus and to two foreign women who he had only just met. Without a doubt in my mind, this had never happened before in human history! I began to work, as fast as I could, painting him, stroke by stroke, into the glorious magical rainbow streaks of earth, formed over thousands of years, immortalised through this merging experience in one hour! As we came towards the end, I was conscious of not wanting to cut his hands off in my post-production magic - so I asked Domingo where his hands might feel most comfortable, anywhere above the waist. Unable to connect with the question, I suggested he raise one arm as if pointing to a place in the distance, a stance I had seen him take on many times already in the short time we had been together. He raised an arm, but didn’t seem to be able to connect with the movement. It looked superficial and forced, and a shadow formed under his arm. Suddenly I realised if he simply pointed to the heavens, both the energy of the stance and the shadow under the arm would be healed. I suggested that he raise his arm right up, and it worked. Quickly I painted his arm into place, and snapped my picture. We made it! An expedition of the spirit, a collaboration of great magnitude - and we had done it. Quick hugs of congratulation before Domingo hurriedly put his clothes back on. His blue face smiled at the oncoming entourage of tourists, who had thankfully missed the show.
I was spent, needed to drink, pee, and all of the above. After fulfilling my needs I sat - and stared at the magnificent view. I knew that there was one more piece to do - as Jaime, superstar filmmaker, was awaiting her moment. But I needed a moment to breathe. As I took my time, Jaime interviews Domingo about the significance of being painted into the earth. The people had begun to arrive, we were no longer alone. I scoped the space to find the chosen spot for Jaime, and she finished the interview with Domingo. For some reason, I was struck by this beautiful understated greeny-blue space right in between the rainbow land and the black and white striped snow capped mountains. It was the space of sacred transformation, a space of sacred feminine energy. Jaime had wanted to include her grandmothers sapphire ring in the artwork, which looked like she was adorned with a piece of the sky! Somehow it felt right to Merge her with this seemingly understated, poignant perspective where rainbow meets light and dark. By this time, there were many people around! Some stopped to watch; most moved on to the higher perspectives. Jaime bared herself to the shoulders and braved the wind that had begun to pick up. We sang the tunes of the grandmothers as we Merged and sent prayers out to the earth, prayers of gratitude and love for the transformation of life. Half an hour later, painting was complete and I took the final pictures. Our work for the day was done.
Jaime and I collapsed as soon as we made it back to camp. Our sleepless night, coupled with the biggest expedition of our lives had taken its toll. We basked in the warm sun and memories of what we had just accomplished. Eventually sleep evaded us, so we sat together and shared feelings, stories, coca and cacoa until dinner time. As always, treated like princesses, we ate delicious food and the air was filled with gratitude. It had been a super special day, one that none of us would ever forget, and that the whole world was going to share soon.
After dinner we played under the galaxy again and made light art, writing our names and making pictures with my LED light and long exposure until the cold bit so hard we retreated to bed. Jaime and I agreed that the first night had been one of the most painful experiences ever - freezing cold, and so so uncomfortable! Having only just met a few days earlier, we hadn’t reached a ‘spooning' point in our relationship yet - but now, our life-changing day coupled with the icey night found us easily resolving to stick to one other like glue for the entire night. and it really really helped!! Its amazing what 48 hours in the mountains can do for a relationship! I managed to stay warm for most of the night, the dreams flowed and the morning didn’t come a minute too soon.
I send these blessings out to ALL of you who have chosen to read this LONG blog!!
Thank you for sharing this journey, your energy is felt and means a lot. May your days be met with magical synchronistic meetings and may we all remember to TRUST the great plan and see our goals as ’structures of possibility’ rather than outcomes we need to achieve! As we surrender, she weaves her magic into our lives with grace, humility and the most unexpected, unimaginable perfection.
WITH SO MUCH LOVE AND GRATITUDE,