“Very little grows on jagged rock. Be grounded. Be crumbled so wildflowers will come up where you are.” -Rumi
Nature has always given me peace, but I have never experienced such calm before I walked through the garden at Hotel Tolimán in San Lucas Tolimán at Lake Atitlán. While our visit to the village in Patulul at the beginning of our trip to Guatemala changed my perspective, our day at Lake Atitlán wakes my soul.
We walk from the path to the garden entrance below, led by Maria Pacheco. She is the President of Kiej de los Bosques, one of our partner organizations that changes lives through the sale of jewelry made by Guatemalan artisans under the Wakami brand.
“Sometimes when we are focused on survival, we forget about beauty,” Maria says.
A surge of heartbreak sears my chest. Maria is describing the struggle to find beauty when there is little hope of reaching beyond poverty, but I feel something more personal. I feel the weight of my 30-year-old struggle with my body and my emotions.
I feel my dark dragon that I have barely begun to fight. I had spent the last month surviving, void of gratitude or mindfulness. Barely able to function outside my home. Feeling surges of anger toward my beautiful baby who has done nothing wrong. Led into darkness by postpartum depression, unable to see beauty.
As we move into the garden and the expanse of life grows before us, a feeling of wisdom and peace permeates the weight in my chest. I feel lighter.
We climb slowly through the garden, each level unfolding a new section of fruits and vegetables and herbs and trees. We roll lemongrass through our fingers and hold basil to our nose. We bend down and smell the deep, rich fragrance of the ruda (rue) herb that dispels negative energy.
Maria explains why the plantain trees are placed in a large circle: in the center, compost from the hotel and garden are turned to create both heat and nutrition for the trees.
The smiling caretaker of the garden greets us and shares a message of harmony with the land, of peace and prosperity, of connecting to the bounty that is before us. I begin to sense the wisdom in gratitude; I begin to understand how so many Guatemalan people are always smiling, giving thanks to God, grateful for the gifts they do have. The caretaker’s words sing of hope and he ends by hugging each of us and thanking us for being there.
Gardens and living land are a gift. Being in harmony with the earth is essential. Healing the wounds of poverty by giving life back to the land is one of the ways the Wakami dream can be realized.
The dream is:
That all communities have houses,
That all houses have a window,
That from all windows a garden may be seen,
That in all gardens there is a ball,
That all balls belong to girls and boys who go to school,
That all the schools have PTA’s with parents that work,
That all those who work may reach the markets,
That markets MULTIPLY houses with windows,
That in the new windows birds and trees are multiplied,
So the sky may be blue and the sun bright for everyone!
We leave the garden renewed with purpose and board the boat on Lake Atitlán that will take us to our next artisan visit in Tzununa.
Maria requests that we stop in the center of the lake, and as the boat slows, she explains that this spot is one of the most tranquil places in the world. She invites us to pause in a mindful moment and leads us into her personal meditation.
As I rest and allow thoughts and feelings to rise and fall with my breath, I am swept with gratitude, light, and beauty. I feel my heart lifting and my hope beginning to return.
I know that even in sorrow, felt deeply inside a tired mind or felt in the sick bodies of children without enough good food to eat, there lies an opportunity to be grateful and grow the wisdom of gratitude to realize that pain is temporary.
Today, I am grateful for Maria’s kind eyes, for my daughter Estrella’s laugh, for my husband Felipe’s safe warm arms. I am grateful for my Threads sisterhood and my Guatemalan sisterhood. I am grateful for words, which allow me to give breath to my memories.