Arriving into Zacatin one must first go through Jerico.
Jerico is a 12,000 person pueblo that was recently made famous due to one of the town’s natives, Sister Laura Montoya, being named Colombia’s first Saint.
They’ve also been in the news for their resistance to gold-mining in the region as the effects of it on the water supply would extensively damage the traditional, agricultural way of life there.
At first glance of the street leading into Zacatin someone not familiar with the area would likely think there’s not that many activities to do there. And that person would be absolutely right. Almost.
There’s no downtown, movie theatres, malls, strip malls or stores of any kind.
There’s no stop lights, street signs or even any cross-streets.
While there is a road, singular, and it is paved – it’s of such a quality that driving over it is somehow more reminiscent a janky fairground ride rather than a means of regular automobile conveyance. Given the number of horse and cow farms in the area, this is understandable. Nature doesn’t have the same fetish for flat surfaces that man has and they largely outnumber the people there.
The houses along the road going in are decorated in white with orange dust near the ground and bright green, red, and yellow accents in the woodwork around the windows – colors that shine like the smiles of the inhabitants of them whenever you walk past them and their anxious dogs on your way to Jerico.
On the outside of several homes are framed posters of Jesus; St. George Killing a Dragon, and horses in profile or at play. Others, the fincas, hare large imposing gates and landscaped walls and barbed wire that protect the eucalyptus, aloe, hemp, banana, coffee, and other crops within. And of course there’s the cows that amble back and forth on their way to pastures. The area is the very definition of frontier rustic and you are just as likely to see someone on the back of a horse or donkey as you are them in a car.
Entering into Zacatin, you leave the main, paved street to what I’ll call the frontier road that is first lined with bamboo. On this path you start to go up a steep hill. At the top, about a hundred yards in, a four-way crossroad appear.
Should you go to the right, you will take a long walk the snakes back and forth along the the mountains Jerico was built around that provides for a quaint view of the town and ends at a cul-de-sac with a large ranche.
If you go to the left, you’ll head to a town with a population of 126 people. On the post which provides this statistic is other information, however in a fit of poetry this not-even-a-dot on any map has some sort of cement and dirt mixture covering up lettering giving its name.
Should you continue forward, going down and up a few more hills, eventually you’d come to my family’s house.
While there’s not much to do in the form of conspicuous consumption, but there are other pleasures of the area – though ones that only come through a certain kind of existential practice that few people are used to.
Some 500 feet from the front door of my family’s home is a small stream. While no wider than a normal car’s length, the beautiful and numerous animals of the air and ground which hydrate here is immense. In the morning it’s almost impossible to count the number of distinct bird calls. No surprise, given that Colombia is home to over 1900 species of birds. Watching them and the sly, shy creatures of the ground and trees, like red-tailed squirrels, that make a brief appearance is always a delight. Practicing silence and stillness, they will come quite close – though not so close as some of the incredibly color butterflies that if you are luck will land on your hand and seemingly look into you.
In addition to being patient, sometimes one must also be able to brave one’s own fears to find diversion.
Here’s an example of how I spent my last Friday night in Zacatin before the long journey across half the globe to The Content Castle that makes me feel it is such a special place.
After finishing a good meal with my mom, I decided to walk down one of the long paths nearby that leads to a horse farm adjacent a large field the touches the river, which has widened with distance from the roadway.
So far from any major cities, at night the stars are incredibly bright. But on this path they are insufficient to guide my steps as along the path a forest of birch trees emerges which obscures the way. You can see so little that one must put trust in your feet to ensure you don’t walk off the path. The trees give way to the fields the horses graze on during the day.
From this vantage point I now look down at a breathtaking view that of a hundred or so foot high peak on the left and on the right a grassy valley. The river bend was visually obscured except for occasional flashes of glittery shimmering, but still provided a beautiful soundtrack and the hundreds of fireflies that are swirling round and around like a dance, like a Van Gough painting – except for the fact that it is more arresting than anything I’ve ever seen in a museum. Considering that those works representing millions of hours of combined human achievement can’t hold a candle to these flying bugs at night, it’s a testament to a greater author.
But this isn’t even the best view. I’m still standing on the street, looking out from the side. To get to where I really want I must not just be brave but also crafty like a fox. To do this I walk to a particular post near the gate to the field – three hundred years from the gate to the farm – that I first spotted when casing the place out.
Then I’d noticed then a slackness when trying to read the areas defenses. The top line of the barb wire there was not connected by a thick staple like the other ones were. As I’d gotten closer to press the barb wire down to determine just how much it gave, I noticed two other things – the grass around this area was a little more worn down than that around it and that when I touched the post itself it bent significantly. I’d looked around and discovered with a slight push I was able to get over easily.
At this time that I’d jumped back over, the approaching sound of a motorcycle made me return to public property – but now that the dancing horses were bordered in their barn and the campesinos were in their casas I had no such fears of getting caught. Or better said I still did, but it being so reduced excited rather than frightened me.
Once over the barbed-wire fence I walked along a well-trodden path to the top of where and sat, looking down onto the view below. Having had to brave fears of injury, dismemberment, death, and incarceration to get there, somehow made the view and the feeling of freedom felt while being utterly along looking at such a divinely authored convergence of life all, somehow, made it that much more enjoyable.
It’s two hours before I realize just how long I’ve been entranced by glories of God’s creation. Once home I prepare for bed while crickets chirp and the love poems of birds provide the soundtrack which increases the feeling of peace I have.
It’s very simple here, yes, but healthy and sane in a way that even what I’ve just written can’t accurately explain. It brings about a change in state that rankles those used to constant input and action before it beguiles with its charm.
The isolation and nature allows for force quit of all the little programs that those running an urban and suburban OS normally don’t realize are slowing down their ability to find joy and contentment in the everyday. Decelerate and disconnecting parts of the cyborg-self and reconnecting with rhythms of the creatu around is, well, sometime better than being amidst the grandestly planned works of man.