Stepping Out: Araucanía Jones

above the hills, above the clouds

above the hills, above the clouds.

This past weekend I went along with my host father to the mountains. We went hiking and exploring on a two-day, overnight trip. I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but there’s no way I could have predicted exactly what the next two days would hold. It was an adventure to remember! We headed out of town on the dirt road that led into the wilderness. It was just about wide enough for two cars, but we drove in the middle whenever possible to avoid the slant of the road. I quickly found out that the drive was the beginning of our adventure…

Have you ever been on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland? This was kind of like that. Except, instead of being fixed on a track, we were on an open road, almost fishtailing on numerous occasions. Instead of lasting three minutes, the drive took an hour. And instead of going 15 kilometers per hour we flew a solid 85 (Mom, if you’re reading this, don’t worry, I’m alive)!

Anyhow, we arrived and parked the van. We walked up into the hills looking for a trail, but there wasn’t one, so naturally we made one. I have the scars to prove it. We climbed for a while, randomly stopping to take pictures, but when we reached the peak, it was breathtaking. The sky was such a pure blue, the trees so incredibly dense, and the view was stunning. It was definitely worth the hike.

My host father, whom I have now dubbed Araucanía Jones, is an animal. He’s 60 something years old but you wouldn’t know it by watching him scale mountains. He mows down trees like nothing. He doesn’t even look at the ground to see where he’s stepping. He doesn’t need maps either; he just remembers which way he needs to go, and heads in that general direction. He told me he’s traveled up and down all of Chile, and he doesn’t like going anywhere twice. That’s why we set out to climb this peak that he had never summited before. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a way to get to the top, but I’m not sure that it’d be possible without climbing (and lumberjack) gear. After all, we were in a national park, and most of the mountains were marked on the map, but this one wasn’t. Probably a reason for that! Nonetheless, we saw some outstanding landscapes.

I also discovered some new flora and fauna that I was previously unfamiliar with. Two of these, I swear, are straight out of a Dr. Seuss book: the Araucaria tree and the Chucao bird. The Araucaria tree is covered with green spikes right when it sprouts out of the ground. It then grows incredibly tall and its wiry, squiggly branches unfold at the top. The trunk is then adorned with a green, spider-like silk that I believe is a natural product of the tree. It’s a super interesting specimen. The Chucao I never actually saw, but I heard it plenty of times. I literally almost laughed every time it sang out. It sounded so cool!

We camped over night and made some steaks, which naturally we ate with our bare hands (I mean, we are men). We then slept, both of us, on a single twin-sized mattress, in the back of the van. I didn’t sleep much… But morning came and we did some more exploring. He led me to a beautiful lake, a gorgeous waterfall, and a small lagoon that was a slice of paradise. The colors in the pond were out of a fantasy movie, so vibrant and vivid. It was such a beautiful place. I’m excited to explore some more of Chile, especially with my own personal guide, Araucanía Jones.
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And Yet Significant

I saw myself as a mammoth,

            I viewed the globe as small;

I considered myself significant

            and stood one hundred feet tall.

I puffed out my chest like a dragon

            and carried myself with pride;

I looked down on everyone else;

            I swelled and swelled inside.

But then I came upon an obstacle,

            thinking it nothing too tough;

I figured I’d leap right over it,

            certain I’d done enough.

Instead I came up quite short,

            falling flat on my face;

Dazed, I rolled myself over

            and lost myself in space.

The world seemed to keep expanding,

            but all I did was shrink;

The universe made itself known to me,

            causing my heart to sink.

I counted the hail as it pelted my back,

            the waves as they breached my hull;

I numbered the flames as they melted my dreams,

            the demons that flanked my soul.

I looked up at the heavens,

            then gazed around at my wreck;

I inwardly looked at my smallness

            and saw that I’m just a speck.

All along I’d been wrong,

            seeing myself as a beast;

But now I see that I’m nothing

            but a grain of sand on the beach.

I’m nothing but a wisp in the field,

            a withering flower, a breath;

I’ve not got a chance in hell

            of ever bettering death.

But in looking around at the universe,

            in pondering up at the skies;

I noticed there in the heavens

            a pair of yearning eyes.

In fear I locked mine with His,

            wondering what He would do;

Humbly I bowed even lower,

            giving to Him glory due.

What happened next was a whirlwind,

            an unexpected lift;

He stamped on my soul a seal and said,

            “My child, take this gift.”

What He gave to me was a marker,

            a seal that said I was His;

He restored unto me belief;

            that’s what a miracle is.

No longer do I fear the galaxies,

            no more do I count the rain;

I know that I’m not a behemoth,

            but God’s chosen me all the same.

Despite the fact that I’m tiny,

            no more than a speck of dust,

He’s called me by name in love,

            just as He does each of us.

So don’t err on the side of giants,

            nor on the side of the small,

But know there’s a gracious Father

            who loves you with His all.

Soy / I am

Camino,

rodeado por niebla,

oscurecido por la sombra del mundo.

Veo,

pero sin claridad,

sin color, sin resplandor, sin agudeza.

Siento,

aunque siempre entumecido,

superado por tinieblas aplastantes.

Estoy,

y aún no estoy,

nada más que silueta, que fantasma.

Suspiro,

cerrando los ojos,

abriendo, en lugar de ellos, el alma.

Sueño,

viendo allá algo nuevo,

algo diferente, poderoso, y real.

Creo,

en todo lo que antes no sabía,

en la verdad, en la vida, y en la luz.

Soy,

liberado de lo oscuro,

rodeado ahora por lo glorioso, lo radiante.

 

I walk,
surrounded by fog,
darkened by the shadow of the world.

I see,
but without clarity,
without color, without brilliance, without acuteness.

I feel,
but always numbed,
overcome by crushing darkness.

I am,
and yet I am not,
nothing more than a silhouette, than a phantom.

I breathe,
closing my eyes,
opening, instead of them, my soul.

I dream,
seeing there something new,
something different, powerful, and real.

I believe,
in everything I never knew before,
in truth, in life, and in light.

I am,
freed from the dark,
surrounded now by the glorious, the radiant.

Stepping Out: Moving South

Tonight I embark on the next chapter of my journey. I’m taking an overnight bus from Santiago to Victoria, the city where I’ll spend the next eight months of my life. The past ten days have been spent here at the country’s capital and epicenter. Although I’ve only come to know small pieces of this vast metropolis, I’ve experienced its hustle and its bustle. I’ve endured the weeklong orientation/training, which was pretty arduous but also helpful. It was fun (albeit interesting) living in a rather unpredictable hostel. It was also really cool to meet the other volunteers. Everyone is from somewhere different, and at a different place in life, but we’re all united by this common adventurous spirit. It’s been awesome getting to know some of them, so it will be sad saying goodbye. But, as much as I’ve enjoyed it all, I’m glad to be moving on to a place that’s smaller and quieter.

Thankfully, I’ve been able to find little niches of stillness, both to settle and restore my soul. Whether it’s meant closing my eyes, plugging into music, or sitting outside beneath the trees, I’ve found opportunities to do one of my favorite things: to write. Without a doubt, it’s become therapeutic for me. It allows me to quiet myself, block out the noise, and process all that’s been swirling around in my head and my heart. It’s also the place where I’m reminded how good the Lord has been to me. It’s in those still moments that He speaks to me through the Spirit, refreshing and restoring me. In doing so He reminds me to look and listen for Him elsewhere, and that’s what I love so much about these peaceful moments. They’re not just temporary moments but rather they permeate the rest of my life. I’m sincerely lifted in spirit.

The town I’m headed to, Victoria, is known as the gateway to Andean paradise, which sounds pretty promising, but I’m not sure how much faith I’m willing to stake in Wikipedia. Nonetheless, I’m excited to leave the busy city and head for the countryside. It’s bittersweet that I won’t be able to look out the window on the drive, but at least I can try to sleep, and when I wake up, I’ll be arriving in my new hometown!

My host family is an elderly couple with no kids left in the home, though I imagine there are probably children and grandchildren coming and going. They live five blocks from the school at which I’ll be working. I believe it’s a middle and high school, but I’m not positive. The town has a population of roughly 33,000, which seems like a decent size to me; not too big, not too small. I’m very much looking forward to seeing and exploring the town. I’m also incredibly anxious to meet my host family, my teacher, and my students. Although it’s technically the second chapter in my journey, it’s really the beginning of it all. It’s the reason I came down here, so bring the adventures on!

Santiago’s Light

Beneath Santiago skies there are walls

            of ivy, of lattice, of murals, of noise;

wherever you look they’re towering tall,

            be them brooding or be them coy.

Deep in the heart of the city they stand,

            left and right, ahead and behind;

they corner the eyes of every man,

            by happenstance and by design.

 

Ivy grips their wooded heights,

            towering, green, and alive;

then there’s the lattice on stucco white,

            patterned, but uninspired.

There are also murals of colorful splash,

            graffitied or painted well,

but you mustn’t forget the noises brash

            that morning and evening swell.

 

On all four sides they covet your eyes,

            haggling for your sight,

but always above there will spread the skies;

            the skies of Santiago’s light.

The Dawning Soul

Born from the ashes,

formed from the dust,

breathed into being

by light.

Sealed into soul,

stepped into skin,

surrounded by day,

by night.

Strapped into sinew,

buckled into bone,

imagined first,

then made.

Led among trees,

filled by the waters,

restored by both sun

and shade.

Broken in the valley,

lost in the dark,

stumbling on doubt,

on fear.

Afraid of the shadows,

scared by the shrieks,

cowering over there,

and here.

Called by a voice,

led by a hope,

lifted in spirit,

in heart.

Saved from the cavern,

rescued from plight,

delivered in full,

not part.

Taken in hands

weathered and pure,

my malleable clay

you hold.

Secure in your hands

loving and strong,

my delicate clay,

my soul.

All I Ask

What I asked of you yesterday

            you still have not done;

What I asked of you before

            you never will do:

I asked of you the worldly,

            but the world you wouldn’t give;

I asked of you the tangible,

            but things you would not yield;

I asked of you the fleshly,

            but flesh you wouldn’t betray;

I asked of you the terrestrial,

            but the dust and clay you’ve kept.

What I ask of you today

            you still delay to do;

What I ask of you this moment

            my heart still must prove:

I no longer ask for the flesh,

            nor for worldly things;

I no longer seek the earth,

            nor that which leads below;

Instead I look to the soul,

            and all that dwells inside;

Instead I ask your forgiveness

            for all I sought before.

What I’ll ask of you tomorrow

            you have already done;

What I’ll ask of you for eternity

            you have already given:

I will ask of you your mercy,

            oh, to feel your grace;

I will ask of you your heavens,

            oh, to see your face;

I will ask of you your vision,

            all you’re dreaming of;

I will ask of you your perfect,

            ever-lasting love.