Sunday, 31 July 2011

Perla. More Adventures in Chile.

The Andes from the Caretera Austral.

Okay, so my screen play has gone into hibernation, and there's no coaxing it out. So I will wait, knowing it's springtime will come. I will not give up on this, even though at the moment it feels like it must have died, it's so absent from my heart's grasp.

So back to sharing a few unpublished stories from my first visit to Patagonia in 2006.


I have taken over a week to wander down from Santiago, the capitol of Chile, to Puerto Montt, the famous gateway to Patagonia. I've traveled by train and bus, stayed in a eucalyptus forest with a vet, ridden the historic silver, battered,two carriage train on a single track beside a raging river, lodged in a Tyrolean type cabin close to a volcano, and now am en route to the very far south of the spine of South America. I'm heading for the Parque National Torres del Paine. Chile is a long thin country.

Puerto Montt, Chile. March 2006.

I make the call from the bus depot. I'll guard your bag says a friendly woman.
Is that necessary my eyes ask hers.
Be very careful around here she says with intensity.

What does she know I don't know, I wonder?

The deep slow hesitant voice sounds strange on the other end of the phone.
“Yes, room free, one person? Perla not here, she back soon. You come ten minutes ?"

“I’m on my way.” I reply slightly apprehensively.

My guidebook says Hostal Casa Perla has a charming garden and it’s a good meeting place. No mention of a psychopath landlord. I’m a little worried about the voice.

The taxi takes the longest possible way to get to Casa Perla which is actually just a stones throw from the bus station. Hey ho, maybe he has a wife and ten kids to feed.

The owner of the hostal, Frederick with the strange voice, opens the door and I step into another world. I’m shown my room then he beckons me into the kitchen which looks like a film set for a 1930 'immigrant' sitcom.

I watch silently as Don Fredrick positions his stiff elderly body horizontally onto a long wooden bench. Then awkwardly, rearranging his thin legs, he lights a cigarette and stares vacantly at the antique wood stove which is also the cooker. Perla will be here soon he tells me.

I examine my room or rather my library with a bed in it.

I seem to have landed in a junk shop that also sells paintings and books. Every surface is crammed with interesting objects and the walls are covered with Frederick’s stunning paintings. Later I find out that this cultured talented man, Perla’s husband, was a well known artist and an academic before he became the victim to a stroke.

The couple have hosted visitors from all around the world for the last 18 years, and the garden, as described in the guidebook, is pretty.

Perla arrives.

She is a small stocky Chilean woman of European descent with diminutive features and a turned up nose. She’s about sixty. Most of her brown hair has been shewn off. She looks German to me. I ask her. No ,no she says. My grandparents were German. I'm completely Chilean, please!
Perla loves to read and she loves music.

Too chubby to be likened to a pixie, but pixyish in her darting eyes and quick movements, she’s a kind of hyper active sprite.

I think I may have invented her! Is she really real ?

This four foot ten energy ball is a collector of art, but she’s tired of guests. She's fatigued by one-night passers by. Fed up changing endless sheets, and bored by questions about Patagonia. A wearied hostess fueled by the need to put food on her own table.

“I’m going down town in five minutes, get your bag and come with me, I’ll show you the shopping malls” she says.

Shopping malls? Do I look like a shopping mall sort of person?

Perla reminds me of a very bossy, very kindhearted Dutch friend in Spain. I'm a little bewitched.

"Come come.” she orders, and off we scoot to the top of the hill where we will catch a “collectivo."

The collective taxi's (collectivos)operate by demand. You flag one down, climb in, wedge yourself in , tell the driver where to stop, pay about 50 centimos and off you go. The taxi will carry up to five passengers and shopping. Each taxi has a number on it's roof.

When we arrive at the shopping Mall, Perla tells me to catch a number 5, or 55, or 25, or 75, home.

“Stand by that skip over there,” she says. “Wave, and one will stop”.

She disappears.

Puerto Montt is a port city, steeped in pioneer history, the gateway to Patagonia, and the home to a very active underworld, so the guidebooks warn. It is not advised to walk alone around the harbor after dark.

It’s 6.30pm, getting dark.

I am a bit freaked I’ll forget the number of the taxi and where to stand, so for the next hour while shopping and browsing I chant and mutter to myself “skip, skip 55, or, skip skip skip 5/5/5. I also have to remember the name of the crossroads where to get off, which is Cruce Trigal.

The shopping mall is vast and full of harassed mums with noisy kids. It’s on three floors.
I buy some supplies from the food store for tomorrow’s journey.
On the second floor there’s a shop full of treasures from India. It’s an Aladdin’s cave bulging with glorious things. This is retail therapy at its best, and I didn’t know I needed it.

I wonder if Perla is a tiny bit clairvoyant?

When at last I get into taxi No 55, it’s pitch dark.

I am the fifth and last passenger to squeeze in. To my horror I find myself totally tongue-tied and unable to get a single word out of my mouth. The taxi speeds off up a hill. Eventually, Trigal becomes Tigal Trisal Tiggle, nobody helps me.
Finally I must be getting close to it, because somebody says,
“Oh Trigal! Cruce Trigal!”
“Cruce Trigal” everybody in the car repeats in unison, in a bored kind of a way.

I feel extremely stupid for a moment. But really it’s all hilarious in the bigger picture of my strange and wonderful wandering exploring life.
The taxi stops and I roll out into the middle of the road. Horns hoot. Cars swerve by. Clutching my treasures from the wondrous Indian shop, and my food supplies for the next days journey, I stagger “home" to Perla.

Perla tells me she will leave breakfast for me in the kitchen as I have to be at the airport by 6am. She's not in the mood for more conversation. Breakfast will be a flask of hot water, instant coffee, with bread and home made jam.

The hostal goes to bed early. All lights seem to be out by 9pm.
I think I'm going to be sleeping in the last guest's sheets !
The bed is hard. I don't mind.
I'm happy.
I'm safe. My angels are always with me.
I'm in Chile, about to start a great love affair with the country, though I don't know this yet.
Tomorrow at dawn I'm flying 2000 miles south, to far away Punta Arenas. My mission is to find a particular mountain and a particular turquoise lake. I've been bewitched by a photograph of both, for over two years .

REAL Patagonia is now just hours away. My mountain and my turquoise lake are three days away.

I had wanted to go south slowly, by boat, it's a four day journey. But recently one of the two boats sank. My maritime dream plunged with it.

Still, I have no hurry.

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday. ~A.A. Milne

"Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe."
~Anatole France

I wish you a wonder-filled weekend.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Finding the joy within. Encontrar la alegría en su interior.

Relaxation is the prerequisite
for that inner expansion that allows a person
to express the source of inspiration and joy within.
-Gary Zucav.

I am so stuck with the screen play, I've stopped thinking about it. Life is putting healing opportunities in my path so instead of writing a movie script about how creativity heals, I am being asked to do it. In the flesh. Over and over again. And this gives me great joy. And now it's time to rest.

La relajación es el requisito previo
para que la expansión interna que permite a una persona
para expresar la fuente de inspiración y alegría en su interior.
-Gary Zucav.

Estoy muy pegado con el guion, he dejado de pensar en ello. De repente, la vida me ha dado en mi camino las oportunidades de curación para que en lugar de escribir un guión de película acerca de cómo la creatividad se cura, se me pidió que lo hiciera. Una y otra vez. Y esto me da mucha alegría. Y ahora es tiempo para descansar.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Wisdom begins in Wonder. Soctrates. (In Spanish and Ukranian)

I've learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.
- Maya Angelou

Wisdom begins in wonder.

La sabiduría comienza con el asombro

He aprendido que la gente se olvida de lo que dijo,
la gente se olvida lo que hiciste,
pero las personas nunca olvidarán cómo las hiciste sentir.
- Maya Angelou

Я дізнався, що люди забудуть, що ти сказав,
люди забудуть, що ти зробив,
але народ ніколи не забуде, як ви зробили їх відчувати.
- Майя Анжелу
Мудрість починається в здивуванні

'If you judge people, you have no time to love them.'
Mother Teresa

"Si juzgas a la gente, no tienes tiempo para amarla".
madre Teresa

"Якщо ви судите про людей, у вас немає часу, щоб любити їх.
мати Тереза

Some of us are born wanted. Some of us are not.

'The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new.'

Pema Chodron

Algunos de nosotros nacemos quería. Algunos de nosotros no lo son.

"La verdad usted cree y se aferran a que te hace disponible para escuchar algo nuevo."

Pema Chodron

Деякі з нас народжуються хотів. Деякі з нас немає.

'Істини ви вірите і чіплятися за змушує вас недоступні почути щось нове.

Пема Чодрон

Today I had the disturbing thought that maybe my screenplay needs to be a novel ?

Hoy he tenido el pensamiento perturbador que tal vez mi guión tiene que ser una novela?

Сьогодні у мене був тривожні думки, що може бути, мій сценарій повинен бути роман?

Wisdom begins in wonder.
La sabiduría comienza con el asombro.
Мудрість починається з подиву.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Signs Signposts and Messengers?

The screen play has become like my shadow. It goes everywhere with me, though most of the time I can't see it because the conditions aren't favorable, ie., I'm to busy focusing on something else.

"Is there a difference between happiness and inner peace? Yes. Happiness depends on conditions being perceived as positive... inner peace does not." ~ Eckhart Tolle

This blog is about regaining my writers inner peace, amongst other things.

Back to procrastinating with my screen play , because Sasha can't be a savant.
No. She can't. Not possibly.
Much too complicated. Maybe she can just have an outstanding, unforgettable, haunting voice? And perfect pitch ?
If she's going to be the protagonist in the movie, what's her flaw? Or, what's her special need she has to overcome?

I love how the Universes sends us the perfect messenger or sign or signpost when we come to a cross roads in life. Writing, for me, is one way of deciphering these messages.

Two significant messengers have appeared in my life these the past two days. They've come to help me find Sasha's special need, I'm sure of this, and to put the story solidly on a new track.

I never dreamt I would be able to veer away from my original film synopsis, which I found in Patagonia. But I have, and it's thrilling. It's also challenging. At the moment,it's like trying to run in thin flip flops through deep sand across a long beach. It's a slow process. The destination is unknown. No, that's not true. Destination: Cannes Film festival, 2013. I'm inching my way towards Cannes, though sand. That's where I envision my film being shown, so strong is the confidence which lies underneath this project. The objective : to touch many hearts with an inspirational story of healing unimaginable loss. Topical always, but especially today after the killings in Norway.

The first messenger this week has been a Russian film called The Island .

The second, a book called, 'If I get to five,' (What children can teach us about Courage and Character), by Fred Epstein, a neurosurgeon specializing in Children's brain and spinal tumors.
'Call me Fred' he says to his young patients. No white coats in his children's hospital.

The film is a dark believable story of a strange tormented healer monk living 'beside' a small monastery on a remote island somewhere in Russia. It left left me feeling like the sea and the island landscape it portrayed. Icy. Vast. Predominantly blue gray. Uneasy. The ending, a clever twist of fate, making a lie out of the unhappy monks adult life. However bizarre his behavior became, I never doubted he was a healer. I loved this part of the film.

At the end of the movie, I reminded myself about the joy I want to invite into my film story. The monks talked about joy and peace, but none of them except the wacky artist abbot seemed to be having any joy, or much serenity.

The films setting : I was fascinated by the starkness and beauty of the small Russian monastery where most of the action takes place. Surrounded by water, reached only by rowing boat, set in the 1970's, its exotic wooden 'onion' domes, and its separate skeletal wooden bell tower, silhouette the landscape at all times. The monastery and chapel are built on top of snow covered permafrost, surrounded by calm water, a lake or is it an inland sea? A lake I think.
The snow covered island is connected by wooden walkways.

'Crazy' Father Anatoly lives in a shed near the monastery, by himself. He tends the boiler, sleeping for penance on the coals he shovels daily. He is permanently filthy. The sky is always gray. The story is set in winter. The monks, bearded, black robed, pray in their tiny wooden chapel, or , stand on huge smooth marbled rocks, swaying towards the ocean. They call to Jesus to redeem them from their sins. Father Anatoly goes to further lengths to beg for his redemption.

The Abbot is a weak man , with lessons to learn from the protagonist, the 'mad' healer Father Anatoly who has a secret which haunts him, 24/7.

The abbot is still attached to a few worldly treasures ,including his fine hand made leather boots, his gorgeous red duvet, and his painting studio with its magnificent resident hen . The hen's eggs are required for the abbot to make his own tempera paint. He is a fine and serious artist.


The book. Where to start? And I haven't finished it yet. So many things are touching me profoundly. Lancing me I think is a better word. It's a book on many levels,covering many topics. But mostly it's about the healing power of love, the healing power of music, and the healing gifts of the clown/mime artist. These by chance (?), happen to be the themes of my film.

One day, the author, neurosurgeon Fred Epstein, after reaching the top of his professional tree in New York, realizes that technical skill and the excellence of newly designed apparatus to remove brain and spinal tumors from children is not enough. Love is what is needed. And comfort. He realizes this while reading a poem written by one of his young patients who died aged 17 .

'...I am struggling, O Lord, to stay alive
I am losing my sacred strength
I am living a life of confusion
And death is very near.
I ask you reader, whoever you may be,
Take my trembling hand and warm it with care and sympathy.

I believe that love is the soul purpose of man's life
And without love life is sterile and without meaning.
But with love life has wonder.
With love life has color and beauty.'

From a poem by the late Chris Lambert

Reading this poem demolished Fred, he says. The poem led him to re route his life, and he embarked on creating a brand new hospital to be family and child friendly. The hospital would be called , the Institute for Neurology and Neuro-surgery, (the Inn).

You might assume the author had had a glittering academic career. But no. He explains as a child he was probably ADHD and certainly dyslexic at school. He was extremely slow to learn to read, and born into a family of high achievers in the field of helping others. He was considered unintelligent. He describes how his learning process was not the norm.
I know many people who fit this description, myself included. It wasn't until he finally started his medical studies that his brilliance was able to shine.

He talks about his little patients with such... I cannot find the words...maybe respect and love, but there's somehting else. And he shares how he as father used to love telling fairy stories to his own children at bed time.

One of his favorites was the Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson. It gives an explanation of how evil comes into the world, Fred recalls. How it threatens to freeze our hearts, and how it ( evil) can be vanquished by love.

The fairytale tells the story of a wicked hobgoblin who creates a warped looking glass that reflects everything beautiful in the world as ugly, and distorts everything good into evil. One day the mirror falls to the ground and breaks into million pieces. The tiny fragments of glass float through the air. One sliver splinter lodges in the eye of a young boy named Kay and freezes his heart into a lump of ice. Kay turns against his lifelong playmate and devoted friend Gerda, mocking her mercilessly and tearing a rose from her garden. The first blizzard of winter arrives bringing with it the Snow Queen. The Snow Queen lashes Kay's little sled to hers and whisks him off to her distant ice palace. Early next spring, little Gerda journeys far and wide across the frozen tundra until she finds Kay imprisoned in the Snow Queen's palace. At first he stares at her coldly, without love or recognition. But Gerda's warm teardrops melt his heart frozen heart. Kay begins to cry himself and the glass splinter falls from his eye. Kay and Gerda gallop home on the back of a reindeer, their everlasting friendship redeemed and renewed.

Redeemed and renewed.

Father Anatoly ,in the Russian film, facing his own imminent death, is redeemed by a fascinating flip of fate, or is he redeemed by two messengers sent by... God... an angel... the Universe?

His redemption comes unexpectedly, as he prepares himself to die. Is he mad? Or is he just being a bit more of himself ? He has the liberation of one who cares nothing for social norms. I think he has become mad with guilt, and his savior ( a young woman), has become mad through grief. It makes sense to me.
The recognition of a a soul mate, a young demented woman possessed by an evil spirit who is rowed to the island in search of a cure, enables Father Anatoly to connect with another human being for the first time in over thirty years. The young womans father accompanies her. The father, the other messenger, is an Admiral in the Russian Navy.

The young woman speaks Anatoly's language. They screech to each other mimicking the call of wild birds. Anatoly's face lights up for the first time in the film. And as he asks Jesus to free her and heal her, he too is freed from his guilt, and a few days later dies redeemed. This last redemption scene is the one I can't share with you. It would spoil the movie. That's if this interests you enough to want to watch it!

So what is the 'message' for my screenplay in these stories ?

That's tomorrows task.
Time to walk out on the mountain now that the heat of the sun has subsided, before the full moon rises.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me. I value and delight in the fact that these stories are being read all around the world. Thank you from my heart. You help me get clear.

"Is there a difference between happiness and inner peace? Yes. Happiness depends on conditions being perceived as positive... inner peace does not." ~ Eckhart Tolle

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The human spirit...

We work on ourselves in order to help others, but also we help others in order to work on ourselves.

Pema Chodron

Cancer is a word not a sentence.
John Diamond.

The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.

We are continually faced with great opportunities which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems.
Margaret Mead

For Helen. With so much love.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

To touch the soul of another ...

My dear friend Julia, near Ollantaytambo , Cusco, Peru.

'To touch the soul of another human being is to walk on holy ground.'

Stephen Covey

Photos of children in Peru, digital images of an angel originally made of paper and modroc, to celebrate our fourth food- aid -drop- off to more than seventy families living in remote settlements above the tree line, near Machu Picchu. Well done Wither.

Last years winter food drop off. Wither takes five basic supplies, rice, sugar, salt, matches and soap to over seventy families. The supplies goes up on horse back and on llamas. It is a three day trek to get to the families.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Lunch with Father Christmas at the Glacier. Patagonia 2006.

I thought it might be fun to share some of my unpublished adventures in South America with you, as well as the unfolding screen play story, especially as the screenplay is becoming extremely intense.

Lunch with Father Christmas at the Glacier.

Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina is world famous. It’s a three hour drive from El Calafate where Father Christmas and I are staying.

Jeff (Father Christmas) and I have chosen the Alternative Glacier Tour starting at 7am. We will be picked up outside our budget accommodation, and join a bus load of young world travelers.
This is the only way you can get to the glacier, except if you hire a car. We considered the car hire, but decided the guided tour would be a lot more fun.

Jeff is a big man. An extrovert. Originally from the East End of London, 25 years ago he became a sheep farmer in Australia. He is boyish, friendly, loquacious , and endearing.

The alternative tour leaves town by an old not much used dirt road. It includes a vigorous two-hour hike with a guide and a half-hour boat trip across an opal colored lake to the face of the glacier. All other tours take the main road though flat prairie like land.

After bumping along the dirt track for about half and hour,avoiding pot holes, in the purple far distance we see the shimmering mountains of the Parque National Perito Moreno. Snow -clad, majestic, they wait to receive hundreds of visitors today.
With wild excitement I feel I'm being 'drawn by a star,' once again. This is why I am here. These mountains feed my soul.

My guidebook paints up a picture of today’s destination:

Because of it's magnificent natural beauty, this national park and was declared "World Heritage" by UNESCO in 1981.
Perito Moreno National Park, is a virgin wilderness where jagged peaks are reflected in limpid lakes, and condors wheel overhead.

There is less than one person per square kilometer here.

Unfortunately for me, despite the spectacular views, the bus journey quickly becomes one the worst days ever for my cursed food allergies. All my energies go into preventing the food inside my body from finding a way out.

I try a simple mediation, hopeless. Counting to fifty and backwards, hopeless. Picturing every house in my village and the families who live in each house. This works till I stop visualizing the scene. Then, OMG, what am I going to do now ? Stop the bus without a tree or bush in sight ?

Just as I have this thought, we stop in the middle of a vast expanse of ochre colored prairie land. Twenty of us pile out into the cool early morning air and stampede towards a watering hole/shack/cafe.

Our young guide elbows his way into the only rest room. Oh NO ! I gasp. I have to be first. Waiting graciously in queues has never been one of my best life skills.

At last, safely locked in the rest room, one of the worst five minutes of my life unfolds. Slight exaggeration.
I am very ill, throwing up everywhere, awful terrible pain. No paper hankies. No towel. No soap. Thank God for the basin and the one trickling, cold water tap.

Then it passes, it's all over, and I float back to life like a feather flicked by the wind.

The delightful shack/café looks like it’s been nailed together by a poet, an amateur carpenter, and an artist.

They sell freshly made coffee peculating on top of tall pear-shaped iron stove. The smell is strong and somehow deeply comforting. There are fat cheese sandwiches in brown bread and honey and chocolate cookies for sale, handy for people how have forgotten to bring a packed lunch.

Plump long-haired sheep, lean brown goats, dogs ,cats, and horses wander nonchalantly around the cafe under a vast blue sky.

Back in the bus, we head north towards the glacier. Because we are having an alternative experience, we detour and stop beside the opal colored lake.

The water is limpid and very cold. In the distance we can see a small piece of the glacier, the rest is hidden by pine trees.

We begin a challenging hike along the rocky shore of the lake, then veer inland, scrambling up through a dense forest dotted by enormous boulders.

The unfit stragglers have a hard job to keep up. At various points we see the whole
magnificent glacier.

I find myself striding up with the leaders despite my inappropriate green slip on shoes!

“You’re like a mountain hare” Jeff tells me when we pause to regroup.

He lags near the end of our party . His recent four day hike in almost constant torrential rain, sleeping rough, has taken its toll. He explains this with a grin, stuffing a caramel in his mouth, then stroking his beard. His eyes twinkle. My heart skips a jump.

Three days ago when I met this larger than life sixty year old Australian he was wearing blue carpet slippers and an XXL outrageous yellow Hawaiian shirt, the only dry clothes he had left he told me.

He looked like Father Christmas on holiday. His long white wispy hair was tied in a ponytail but most of it was standing straight out from his ears, as if he’d been electrocuted.

Jeff is everybody’s friend, and mine for a short while. Big smile, big belly, and big heart pulsing with life.

After our exhilarating hike though the pine forest above the opal colored lake, we arrive at the viewing platforms of the Perito Morneo Glacier.

It is truly an awesome sight, despite the coach loads of visitors who have driven three hours from El Calafate (like us) to see it.

Hundreds of visitors apparently arrive every day, seven days a week, twelve months of the year. Twenty people a day come with the alternative tour.

Jeff and I find a place in the shade and eat our lunch. It’s a hot day. It’s nice to have friend. I tell him this.

We’d searched the local shops for treats for this picnic the day before. His is an enormous special baguette, mine is a large shimmering glistening raspberry tart. The dark sweet red fruit is utterly delicious, the pastry crisp and still fresh.

Jeff ploughs into his gigantic baguette, which has all the fillings that were on offer in the bakery.

We offer each other generous portions of our special treats, but neither of us accepts the others.

A plain looking German woman in her fifties comes and sits herself right between us! She proceeds to munch her lunch, which is a sandwich and a piece of cake.

I feel very strange about this intrusion.

Jeff gives a grin then switches his interest to the glacier, which is just about 500 yards away from us.

Our German companion tries to engage me in conversation but I’m not in the mood.

Jeff gets up and invites me to explore the viewing platforms of the glacier with him. They descend in tiers till the last one is very close to the ice.

Swarms of tourist now encircle us. Swarms. I decline.

The glacier releases great thundering roars every now and again and huge chunks of ice crack and fall dramatically into the lake. It’s a thrilling sight to see and the noise of the thunder behind the ice is primordial.

My new friend slings his backpack over his shoulder and asks me again to go with him.

Our German picnic gatecrasher flaps and chatters in my face so I can’t hear what he’s saying.

I want to retreat to a private place to savor all the sights and sounds, especially the sounds, so I let Jeff slide away unanswered.

He disappears like a rainbow after a lovely little shower. And when we re meet two hours later, like the rainbow, I know he’s gone, for good.

“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson