How to fall in love with a river: El Río Arzobispo, Bogotá, El Río Monquirá, Sogamoso, Laguna de Guatavita, Cascada Candelaría, Villahermosa, Colombia, 2019
An examination of scales and perspectives
An examination of participating systems
A reflection on displacement and meanderings
A series of portraits
A participatory act
A pedagogical tool
A conflation and contradiction
A devotional act
A love story
‘Anyone who has seen a place in a picture and then visited it knows how different the reality is. You sense the atmosphere all around you and are no longer dependent on the angle from which the picture was made. You breathe the air of the place, hear its sounds, notice how they are reached by the unseen houses behind you.’ Empathetic insidedness demands a willingness to be open to significances of a place, to feel it, to know and respect its symbols - much as a person might experience a holy place as sacred without necessarily believing in that particular religion. This involves not merely looking at a place, but seeing into and appreciating the essential elements of its identity. Such empathetic insideness is possible for anyone not constricted by rigid patterns of thought and who possesses some awareness of environment.” Edward Relph, Place and Placelessness, 1976
“In Colombia, the Atrato River has been awarded rights because of what it provides for human life - not because it should be equated with human life. Its “bio-cultural” rights now include the river’s “protection, conservation, maintenance and restoration.” Nick Mount, “Can a River have Legal Rights? A Different Approach to Protecting the Environment”, The Independent, 2017
From the sky clima, tormenta, tempestad, vendaval, lluvia, nube, niebla, neblina, sol, cielo, bóveda celeste, aire, arcoíris, viento seco, alta humedad
In the beginning there was no fire. All the earth beings held a council on how to bring light and fire to the earth. They decided it was the birds who would be sent on a mission to the heavens to collect the power of the sun. Of course the bigger birds went soaring to the sun first, imagining that their wingspan and strength would surely take them closest. The eagle attempted the long journey first. He climbed up higher and higher, but soon a large thundercloud appeared across the sky and began to cover the entire earth. The dark wall-cloud shifted and shaped itself into a thunderbird with lightning bolts for eyes and who’s flap of wings produced thunder and rain. The eagle’s strength was incomparable to that of the great thunderbird. He had to retreat to the top of a high plateau, humbled by the power of the thunderbird. And on the high plateau he stays, to this day, watching for the thunderbird. Like a monk, he continues each day to take lessons from the clouds and the rain, to drink their knowledge. But like an archbishop, he sends the knowledge and messages of the cloud beings and the thunderbird down to the lower parts of the earth in the form of crystal clear rivers and springs.
Condor attempted the journey next, soaring so high that his body could not be seen from earth anymore. It was a long time before anyone saw him again. All the earth beings were hopeful that he had reached the sun. And after a long time, what seemed like ages, his body reappeared in the sky, coming back down towards earth. Everyone was hopeful that this bird would be successful. But as he approached, as if from a broken heart, he came falling from the sky right into the center of a large black lake. Slowly, it seemed like the water in the lake started to glow from the black depths. The water began to turn a deep green. No one saw the condor again. It is said that the condor’s body, upon attempting to reach the sun, was turned into gold before he reached the surface of the sun. And upon turning into gold, his weight was much too heavy for the sky, and so he plummeted back towards earth, landing in his watery abode. Many men have attempted to drain the water from this lake and take the condor’s golden remains. Other people have held ceremony in the middle of the lake, dressing themselves in imitation of the golden condor, sending gifts of emerald into the bellybutton of the world. Other grass beings, like bamboo, continue to try and drain the lake of its water, sipping from their long straw-like bodies, slowly, surely.
Next to attempt the journey was the colibrí, the hummingbird. Upon seeing the tiniest of birds approach the council of the earth beings, everyone laughed at the joke the little bird was playing. Everyone assumed that there was no chance for a bird that small to complete the long trip to the sun. But the colibrí darted away, and almost at the blink of the eye he returned with the power of the rainbow resting on his wings. The other earth beings were not sure if they had actually seen him leave, stunned by the lapse of no-time. Sunlight filled the darkness, fire warmed the cold. His agility and speed brought quartz back from the sun and the world filled with rainbows. And in gratitude, the hummingbird was turned into a city, providing life and homes for many people. It is said that you can climb to the top of a mountain, look to the north from high up above, and see the outline of her body. She is not the scale of a small bird, but as large as the thunderbird. Her beak climbs up the mountain, and drinks the sparkling nectar from the high altitude spring.
From the rivers ciénaga, pantano, marisma, balsa, balsón, cauce, cuenca, ribereño, fluvial, corriente, fluir, chorro, fuente, frío, barranco, riachuelo, quebradas
It was the land first who taught me who I was. She taught me about silence and humility. About internal intimacy. She was a constraint that I continuously would try to push, to mold with my curving body. It was her sediment that I would lift to my fluid lips to taste her sweet minerals. It was her protruding shapes that erupted into the sky that I would bend around, forming deep ravines. She sang to me in many tones as I traversed her languages and songs. It was the way the wind touched her textures and the light hit her colors; each sounded different, distinct. One day as I was traveling through a verdant and lush forest full of moisture and vapor, the curves of her body began to fade into the mist. And I reached a place where I was bending around the thick and deep roots of a tree. Out of the mist appeared a little girl, ladling my crystal water into her large clay jars. Adding twigs and leafs, berries and flowers, stones and crystals. She was a unicorn. She was the most beautiful girl, and to be quite honest she was the first girl I had ever seen. This magical being created jellyfish and medusas from her words and songs and sent them dancing right into my waters. She planted piles of gold submerged in my depths. I had never been so beautiful before she had adorned me with her magic. And in the midst of her spells, she almost made my waters tremble from both desire and sheer fright. She told me of a waterfall that was taller than the tallest of the tree beings, replenishing the weariest of souls with the purest blue energy. The waterfall gave life; it held the secrets of the thunderbird, the knowledge of the cloud beings, and the power of the rainbow. I couldn’t help wanting to immediately flow there, passing my weary waves over the invigorating stones and crystals, and falling freely over her edge, catching the wind in my hair, flying drop by drop to the icy pool below. But then she warned of the three-headed wolf that resided up the mountain, standing between us and the electric waterfall. This wolf was a dangerous creature, with a large body the size of a boulder and three snarling jowls at the end of each of its terrific heads. I began to cry and bubble with emotion. The unicorn girl took pity on me, took me into her hands, and caressed my surface. She told me that I needed to gather strength and swell so that my waters would spill over the earth’s constraints she had given to me. And that by swelling, I would slowly water a magical plant that would give me the power that I needed to fight the mystical lobo de tres cabezas. And so I swelled. And I meandered, making my way to every magical plant that I could find. My curves began to snake all around. And as my waters hit the roots of this magical plant, she began to blossom with the most beautiful and terrifying face. She was a bright and deep purple, the most intense color that I have ever seen. And she had seven terrifying horns that erupted from the center of her face. And I continued to devotionally water her gorgeous roots, fixating on her hypnotically beautiful and terrifying horns. With more water she grew more faces. And slowly the wind started to blow through her branches. It blew harder and harder as if the thunderbird were flapping his enormous wings. All of her thousands of faces fell into my waters. I knew then that I had been equipped with the power of the flower of purple life. It was the only thing that the lobo de tres cabezas did not like to eat. And so I, adorned with her violet and violent blossoms, flowed right over the mountain passing the sleeping lobo de tres cabezas and reaching the intoxicating edge of the electric waterfall.
After spending what seemed like an eternity in the cold and deeply blue waters below the waterfall, I had to flow on, continuing down, pulled in the direction of a large city. And here I must keep my story brief, because the grief that I felt upon traversing the city is still too much to bear. The people at first wanted to drink from my waters. They wanted to pray on my banks. They wanted to swim and bath in my wetness. And I loved them, and they loved me. But one day, someone came and covered me up, cemented me over, and sent me into the darkness of the underworld, away from the power of the sun, unable to see the rainbows of the earth anymore. They began to poison my waters. And I turned black. Someone decided that my black waters needed to be cleaned, and so they started trickling a white foaming substance into my sick black body. But the white foam doesn’t clean, it just mixes on the surface, marbling my body as if I were a snake shedding my skin. I wish I could shed this skin and be born again in the crystal clean minerals of my youth.