Discovered in the Abandoned Valley
This past weekend, we went over to the vineyard to do some chores. Among other things… mice and snakes have been getting into our little casita, so we decided to put a little strip of cement under the door to block their access.
The work was not difficult. And we did it according to the local schedule… working in the morning, taking a two-hour siesta, and returning for four hours in the afternoon.
During the break, we wandered down to the river.
Old willow trees lined the river, bending and twisting in every direction. Huge pampas grass clusters filled in along the banks. And in the fields above, green clover lay between the grapevines and the river.
This valley was lived in for thousands of years, most likely in the same spots. We often find arrowheads, pottery, and morteros. But we found nothing there. So we headed down to the river.
Along the river banks, further upstream, there are elaborate terraces marked by stone walls. The dirt, in which the Indians used to plant corn, tomatoes, squash, and other crops, has long ago been washed out.
All that is left are the rocks, laid out in rows… hundreds… thousands of them. They outline ancient fields in what must have been an elaborate farming system… with water distributed over hundreds of acres of terraced fields.
It must have taken hundreds, maybe thousands, of people to farm so much land… by hand – keeping the water flowing through the canals… weaving their clothes… tending their llamas… and placating their gods.
What had happened to them all?
Stones Don’t Speak
The sun shone brightly, as it always does. The willows waved gently in the wind. The river gurgled over and around rocks… and occasionally, went quiet as it ran into a toma that would carry it along one of our irrigation ditches.
The scene was so enchanting, so beautiful, and so inviting that we were soon skipping from stone to stone, crossing to explore the other side… and then back. It was on one of these crossings that we slipped and fell into the river.
No trouble. The valley was deserted. The weather was warm. We simply took off our wet clothes and hung them over a tree limb to dry in the sun. Waiting, we lay down on the riverbank… and nodded off.
In our half-sleep, we wondered about the hundreds of generations before us.
What had they thought about? What did they do without TV or Facebook? Did they live in constant fear, worrying about an attack by tribes on the other side of the mountain? Did they have enough to eat?
Did they have their crackpot leaders urging them into pointless wars? Did they waste a big part of their time and energy on boondoggle projects? Did they have their scandals, their power struggles, their claptrap ideas?
Did they live as man and wife? Did they sometimes lie on the bank of the river and wonder about those who came before them… or who would come after?
All we know about them is that they were conquered by the Incas in the 14th century… and by the Spanish a couple of centuries later. But that is just recent history. What happened in those thousands of years before?
Everything has been washed away but the stones. And they don’t speak.