A Snapshot of Guatemala

This is my third blog post in 2017. I know, I know! I began the year with such good intentions: I wanted to publish once a month, and to write consistently from Guatemala. Now it is spring in Bristol, and the blossoms are already falling from the cherry trees. I returned from Guatemala over a month ago without a single post to my name.

Something I didn’t predict was the difficulty I had in finding either time or connection to post. Whether demonstrating or conducting my own research, my days were full; and although I filled two field notebooks during my month out there, wifi networks were scarce and enthusiastically volatile. Translating the scratching and scribbles of a notebook into a polished post seemed an overwhelming challenge.

Of course it’s frustrating: I’ve always believed that writing preserves the past, is a way to relive time (“escribir es volver a vivir”). But what about the notebooks? They sit expectantly on my windowsill, like pot plants waiting for the sun to fall on their leaves so they can bear fruit. They aren’t polished. Never mind: all life is a first draft. Below is a brief snapshot of Guatemala, written in my first notebook when I saw a burst of incandescence at Volcán de Fuego in the early hours of 22nd February 2017. Above the quiet dark in the village of Panimaché II, the eruption was raw light and furious sound. It became clear why volcanoes inspire so many myths and legends.


HORA: 01.46

Me desperté temprano en la madrugada – no se porqué. Algo me hizo despertar. Fue el volcán, que estaba haciendo ruidos parecidos a truenos de una tormenta enorme. Me quedé allá en mi casita por unos minutos; ya cuando supe que no podía dormir más, me levanté y fui al campo del futbol. Miré el volcán. De vez en cuando dejaba salir una caída de velas rojas, que de pronto se murieron cuando se golpieron contra el flanco oriental del edificio. De repente – ¡lo vi! – se cayó una estrella solitaria, corriendo a traves del cielo como si quísiera lanzarse al crater al apagarse. Se murió la luz; se terminó su vida. Una hora me paré sacando fotos; luego pasé minutos sin tecnología ni nada exepto yo misma, el sonido del viento, el milagro de la tierra viva que me se enfrontó.


TIME: 01.46

I woke in the middle of the night – I don’t know why. Something woke me up. It was the volcano, sounding like the rumbles of thunder from an enormous storm. I stayed in my tent for several minutes; when I knew that I couldn’t sleep any longer, I rose and went to the football pitch. I watched the volcano. Every once in a while, it let loose a fall of red candles, which in a moment died when they fell against the eastern flanks. Suddenly – I saw it! – a single star fell, dashing across the sky as if it wished to extinguish itself inside the summit crater. The light died. I stood there an hour, taking photos; then I spent several minutes without either technology or any thing except myself, the sound of the wind, the miracle of the living earth which faced me.

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