Monday, February 25, 2013

Washed Souls

 “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off of our souls.” - Pablo Picasso

courtyard of the ruins of las capuchinas, a convent
I love to travel because it serves the same purpose. And when I travel I feel bathed in art--the beauty of nature and the creativity of people.

Last week I tried to help you hear the sounds of Antigua, Guatemala. This week I want to share my favorite sights, the colors and textures and designs that dust off my soul. 

Antigua is nestled among four of Guatemala's 29 volcanoes.  They are spectacularly high for those of us in North Carolina whose “mountains” in the continental divide top out at 2,900’. What an impression they make when you turn a corner and wham! there one is.

I haven’t seen them erupt, just puff smoke. But here’s a video of last year’s activity on Volcan de Fuego

I’ve been florally deprived for months and flowers were growing over every wall, out of crevices, and in every little plot of land. I couldn’t get enough of them!  Antigua’s blossoms were like a fix for my addiction.

photo by Wanda Easley
Not to be outdone by the natural vegetation, the outside walls of the houses are painted colorfully. A single long wall on any block may have a different color at the property line.
The result looks like a series of solid colored sheets hung on a clothesline. Weathering of the paint, and repainting also produces layers which peel and create an antiqued look. 

This region has one feature unique in all the world--Mayan textiles. They're as colorful as the flowers, but more exotic. Hand-woven, the cloth is primarily made of cotton dyed in deep colors. The designs are geometric, symbolic, and vary in complexity. Many items are embellished with fine embroidery. Not just museum pieces or novelties for tourists, t
he trades-women still wear traditional clothing. It’s a good draw for selling their crafts.The resourceful women are quick to adapt their skills to new products. I bought a water bottle carrier, and a padded bag for my iPad.

Then there are the street artists. I've purchased watercolors on both trips. There are many high quality art galleries and craft centers too. 

Antigua's beauty starts from the ground up. It is  a living, breathing canvas for both eye and spirit. 

What places do that for you? When was the last time you enjoyed an art museum? a botanic garden? Where would you recommend a person go to shed the dust of daily living? 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Antiguan Medley

When I say I’m going on vacation, someone is bound to say, “Oh, what are you going to see?” 

chicken bus in Antigua
My recent trip to Antigua, Guatemala certainly gave me plenty to look at. But the city is distinctive no matter which sense interprets it. It composes its own medley.

In one neighborhood, the public bus’s attendant stands on the bottom step, holds onto the hand rail and the open bifold door yelling ”Guate! [Gwa-tay] Guate!”  He’s the town crier for the common man's transport system. 

The tires don’t hum on the pavement, because the town’s road are Spanish colonial cobblestone. Instead they hiccup and bump and squelch. 

At any time of the day firecrackers explode in rapid pop-pop-pops to celebrate birthdays. 

Old church bells peal out the hours and half hours all over the city. Some of the ringing is near and clear while others are mere whispers stretched thin and dissipated over distance.

fountain outside my bedroom
Music blasts through the walls and wafts in the windows. On the street, the vendors played snippets of folk tunes to attract buyers for their wooden flutes and clay whistles.

As I wrote in the hotel’s patio every afternoon I could count on an energy lift about 4 p.m. when a nearby dance class began. The teacher gave instructions, and the songs would roll on for half an hour. The beats sizzled, and I imagined the dancers short of breath and sweating from vigorously stepping, kicking, and swirling.

And mixed in it all, the patter of water falling into in the fountains.

child conducts the orcherstra

I was lucky enough to hear a small symphony orchestra at the top of Santo Domingo el Cerro.  One melody imitated a ticking clock. Romantic strings reflected the passion of a pair of lovers.

Later, I walked through the park and rich metallic chimes vibrated high in a pine tree. 

 Sound saturated my visit.  I love the Antiguan melody.

What sounds define your favorite places? 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Rekindling a Frayed Connection - Antigua, Guatemala

I am out of the country this week, enjoying a low tech vacation. I'll be back next week with photos and stories.

Take a peek here for prettier pictures than I can take!    Antigua Daily Photos