10 December 2006

The Dream: El Bosque

A bit of the view from the cabinThe day that the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet passed away, we were far from the chaotic bombardment of news clips and sensationalism as frustrated activists and military-conservatives battled for the airwaves infront of La Moneda. Instead we enjoyed an afternoon picnic in the forest with our young, shamanic friend Carlitos, dreaming of whether this mountainside retreat just south of Valdivia was finally the land we had been looking for. The dream, as we have come to call it, is to live more sustainably with the natural environment, building a home and maybe an artist family while raising chickens and planting potatoes. We had been spending our weekends these past months searching out properties along the coastal mountain range, thwarted again and again by prices and accessibility or strange indigenous land-use laws written only for large forest companies to pillage the last remaining stands of olvillo, coihue, and ulmo, the same stands we want to live among, to protect and be protected by. This site was too small, that one too far to reach by bus for daily commutes to the University or Queno's clothing design workshop... we struggled with whether our list of requirements for trees, water, and sky would ever be met. Dream-realizing, it seems, is a tricky business of being in the right place at the right time, following signs and having plenty of patience.

And then our friend Moises (Moses in Spanish), offered us the chance to visit his land in a regenerating native forest (clear-cut about 15 years ago, but growing back very healthily) where he had been keeping his honey bees among the flowering ulmo trees. He and his brother, Lalo, had been thinking of selling the land, hoping to relocate their bees closer to the coast where they spend most days and nights running the general stores in our fishing village. Four years ago they had bought the 4.5 hectares (about 11 acres) of temperate rainforest now springing back to life among the mountain slopes just south of Valdivia, an island of native forest in a plague of foreign pine plantations, and had built a small cabin there all by hand without electricity; the hope being that they could protect at least a small portion of native forest from the forest company chainsaws. Naturally, in selling the land, the brothers wanted to be certain that the new stewards would follow in the same tradition of respect for the natural environment and of course, the challenge is precisely what we are looking for.

So, that sunny afternoon while Santiago erupted in tear gas and the televisions continuously looped the same pathetic displays of conservative worship for the passing of a man whose most memorable achievements include the authorization of thousands of secret kidnappings, detainments, torture and death, we, on the other hand, innocently unaware, visited with hummingbirds, wandered the forest, drank from the mountain streams, and sat in silence taking in the vistas of the mountain ranges that mark the south of Chile, following the clouds and passing flocks of parrots overhead. And in one afternoon it was decided to accept the offerings of fate, the chance friendships and paths that had led us to a small fishing village two years ago and now to a forgotten patch of forest a little further south and a little more remote, with just enough space to begin realizing the dream of becoming part of El Bosque.

That evening, heading back to the coast, we toasted the death of the dictator and the beginning of a new path toward peaceful living among the trees. What challenges await us, we can only imagine, but the dream is already in motion, moving from conversation to realization, concrete in the faith (blind as it is) that we are ready for this next adventure.