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Meeting Puma Marca: Save the Mountains of Peru

Some people love the ocean.  I love mountains.  I have lived in and near the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia for the past 30 some years.  They have taught me a lot–about endurance, faith, presence, spirit, hope, and love.  Whenever I strike out on a hike up and around these ancient beings, I connect to a transcendent yet grounded presence.  My troubles fade as I open my heart to a consciousness greater than my own.  I feel loved and taken care of.  I know I am part of the landscape of forests and streams, red quartz and shale, caves and crevices, Mountain Laurel and Solomon Seal, box turtles and deer, and the ruins of ancient, Appalachian farmers’ homes.

This deep mountain love has been true for as far back as I can remember.  Hence, when I discovered about 8 years ago that the indigenous peoples of Peru believe that the mountains are sacred beings who source and advise them, I was not surprised. I was happy and inspired.  Here was confirmation of something that I had long experienced intuitively but which the society I grew up in never gave credence to.

When I finally was able to visit Peru this year, I was most excited to meet the Andes mountains, some of whose names I knew by heart: Ausangate, Salkantay, Huana Lipa, Huana Wari, Sacsaywaman, Illimani, and, of course–Macchu Picchu.  

As the airplane descended towards the Cusco region, I pressed my face against the glass and watched with great

anticipation for the peaks of the Andes to appear.  There was some cloud cover, but not so much that everything was obscured.  Some were bare rock and others had snow caps.  Their topography was so different than the low and gentle, forest-covered Blue Ridge.  These mountains, even through the clouds, show their intensity and vigor.

The plane landed and I walked on the tarmac to the gate and craned my neck to see the peaks rising up around the valley of Cusco.  I could not get enough.  I felt like I was meeting old friends after a long absence.

Walking around the city of Cusco and in the villages and towns of central Peru, the mountains always somehow show themselves–even if only momentarily in a chance appearance at the end of a long street.  

They are a constant presence.  In such moments, they are tantalizingly close, yet too far to really know.  It was not until the third day that I was finally able to meet up close the apus, as they are called in Quechua.

On that day, my friend, Juan had arranged with our already beloved taxi cab driver, Edmundo, to take us to the Sacred Valley, about 2 hours from the city.  As we left behind the urban sprawl of Cusco, we came over a mountain pass and down into a rich, deep river valley.

 We stopped at an overlook and Juan pointed out the Urubamba River running through the center of the valley.  The Andes rose up like giants on either side. Unlike the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are covered with dense vegetation, in this area of Peru, the Andes are more rocky with low, scrubby shrubs and small trees twisted by wind.  Their bodies are muscular like the physiognomy of a champion weightlifter. Stone outcroppings and caves occasionally break their mostly smooth surface.  The undulating ripples of their skin flow down to what look like roots into the valley below and rise up like branches of a great tree to rocky, jagged peaks.

Some of the Andean apus are lower and more inviting to human habitation and exploration. Others rise up dauntingly high and intimidating. This is particularly true in the Sacred Valley which forms a beautiful, lush, green bowl surrounded by many mountains.  They stand together in some cases in clusters or shoulder to shoulder, one beside or overlapping with others.The peaks in front can be seen clearly by the naked eye.  

Further behind these, more heads of the apus appear until they dissolve into the far horizon.  In this way, they give the impression of living together in family units. Humans then make their homes in the deep folds of their laps, on their strong shoulders, and even on the tops of their heads, as the Q’ero people have done for centuries.

After our stop at the overlook to take in the view and buy ancient, ancestral seeds of beans, squash and grains from the indigenous vendors, Edmundo, Juan and I continued down the road into the Sacred Valley.  It was a beautiful fall day in May: the sun shined, the temperature was comfortable and the sky was blue.  As we rounded a bend, a mountain peak covered with snow suddenly made a dramatic appearance.  

I gasped in surprise and delight.  The road took us a bit closer. I opened the window to see this distinctive mountain more clearly.

There was something incredibly powerful and magical about this mountain.  I asked Juan and Edmundo for its name.  They said, “Puma Marca”: Puma after the great cat living in the mountains and “Marca” for town or village.

As we drove closer to the village of Chichineros, our position on the road changed in relation to this great glacier-covered apu until he showed himself in his full glory.  

 The Andean peoples speak of mountains as either feminine or masculine.  So it is that Macchu Picchu is male and the mountain behind him, Huayna Wari, is female.  In this cosmology, both energies are required for the creation and maintenance of balance.  There is no inequality between the male and female–one is directive and challenging, the other is soft and giving.  Both are strong and compassionate.

As I gazed upon Puma Marca, I felt a great space open up in my mind as an impression of the cold air above the glacier touched my senses.  I felt power in my body like a lifting up out of the mundane day to day reality.  I was so moved, in the moment, I made up a song for this great apu: “Puma Marca! Puma Marca! Munaycha! Puma Marca!”  Munaycha in Quechua means beautiful, both outer and inner.

Indigenous peoples of the world–whether  from the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe, or the Americas–have always known that Mother Earth is alive and conscious and that every being upon her body has their own purpose and value fulfillment. Seth, the intelligent teacher channeled in the 70s and 80s by Jane Roberts defines “value fulfillment” as the inherent drive of every conscious entity to seek its own particular purpose and self-realization.  As each of us lives our lives and interacts with every molecule of Mother Life in all her forms, we assist in the furthering of one another’s journey.

Some beings, such as the mountains of the world, have chosen to be the most generous of Boddhisatvas–wise, loving, intelligent beings wearing a cloak of soil, stone, mineral, and water on the body of Mother Earth who source and teach the smaller, more vulnerable beings living upon them.  It is an act of great love, particularly as human beings in these times around the world are ignorant of the apu‘s sentience and so with impunity abusively penetrate their bodies– including most insidiously, mountaintop mining and fracking.

Indeed, during our 8-day visit to Cusco, there was a strike in the surrounding area to object to the Peruvian government’s plans to partner with corporations and mine the sacred mountains around the city.  We found out about the strike the day before our planned trip to the Sacred Valley.  As we drove over and between the mountains, alongside the joy I felt to meet these great beings of light, I could not help but wonder at how any human being could, upon laying eyes on these magnificent beings, consider violating them–stripping them of their majesty and laying waste to their beauty.

Whether one believes in the sentience of mountains and the non-human creatures living upon them, surely the grandeur and beauty of the landscape–valleys and apus–should be considered worthy of protection and preservation?  Can we not in the 21st cetury  seek to build upon and harness the beauty and power of the mountains as partners, not objects to be used and laid waste?  Have we not learned after centuries of destruction and the creation of so much ugliness across the body of Mother Earth that there is another, a better way to live?

The Inka were masters at partnership with the land.  They built terraced villages and even cities on the sides and even the peaks of the greatest apus.

 Macchu Picchu is but one example. Yet, what is less known is that the landscape of Peru is covered with terraces and stone houses and temples.  The Inka found their homes and planted their gardens in Pisac, Olliantaytambo and even Puma Marca, among other places from Ecuardo to Brazil.  They drew upon the deep underground aquifers coming out of the mountains and developed stone channels and waterways to water their crops, provide drinking water and healing fountains

for the people.  Their way was not of dominance and destruction, but of adaptation and integration.

At the tops of mountains, they positioned huge grandfather and grandmother stones and built temples designed to draw down from the heavens and celestial bodies above these

rarified, pure energies of light, just as the crowns of the apus do.  They clearly understand the transformative and nurturing power of water and light, stone and earth, mountain and valley.  They also understood subtle dimensions of light–the spectrum of light and energy unseen and unfelt with the 5 grosser senses which makes up the holographic matrix of reality and which enables as to exist as much as does physical food and sunlight.  The Inka thus respectfully and skillfully amplified the multidimensional resources of the mountains without destroying their massive and beautiful bodies–and thus, the very source of human beings’ physical and spiritual livelihood.

Hence, when I speak of my deep love for mountains and of my joy upon meeting Puma Marca and the Andes, I hope to awaken our human, instinctual, primal respect for these great beings.  Whether we look upon them as only matter consisting of soil, stone, vegetation, and water, or whether we believe, as I do,

that the mountains of the world are Light Beings–great Buddhas and Boddhisattvas who seek to enlighten all beings–nevertheless, as human beings, we should share a wish to save intact these immense and lovely bodies.

Perhaps you may someday walk upon the body of a mountain in the Blue Ridge, the Rockies, Himalayas, or Andes-or any of the vast numbers of mountain relatives on the planet–and feel their heartbeat and hear their voices singing to you:  “You are beautiful. You are pure of heart. You are loved. Sit upon my lap, lean upon my mighty shoulders, and know yourself as whole and healed, at one with all of creation through eternity.”

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