I live at the foot of a 15,000 foot and then some extinct volcano called Imbabura, more colloquially named Papa Imbabura by the locals. Papa is supposedly married to Mama Cotacachi, which stands at 16,000 feet and then some miles across the primarily eucalyptus valley. Papa is said to be responsible for the weather in Peguche, the indigenous village in which I reside, while Mama seems simply to bear the brunt of some rather ribald humor regarding the occasional crust of snow that can be seen at her tippy-top. She seems not to influence the weather in the town of Cotacachi, rather she observes Papa's occasional boiling rage and is, according to legend, the recipient of some of his most ardent offerings.
Which is all to say that Papa must be really angry because the weather in Peguche of late has been less than ideal. Someone in Peguche, as another legend goes, and I am beginning to believe this particular legend, has angered the god and he has responded by pissing all over our fair village. Daily. Sometimes hourly. We have had thunderstorms, some of them of the violent variety, every day for the past week. And the rain. I grew up on the west side of Washington State so I am no stranger to the wet stuff, but this, well, the term deluge comes to mind. And whenever there comes a deluge, our house suffers the consequences. There is a lot of bubbling and fountaining of pipes; we are treated to the drip-drip-dripping from the ceilings, and sometimes, because of the wind, the rain slants sideways and comes in through the windows and, yes, through the gutter that lies exposed in my studio because my studio is an add-on to the original house and they couldn't figure out how to meld the two rooflines together, so they left it open where they meet and installed a gutter, which I can literally reach up and touch. So, at either end of the gutter is a rather large space, open to the elements and the wildlife (I have encountered a bird or two desperately trying to escape), which also allows the rain to insinuate into my studio like a ganglionic cancer. This is all to say that the god at whose rocky feet we worship, is not happy with someone in the village and I have taken it upon myself to find the culprit and mete out whatever is the appropriate punishment for this sort of crime.
"But what do you expect?" says the ever-positive Luis. "You live at the base of a huge mountain, and when it rains, water runs downhill."
So it's now he chooses to be scientific about it as I stand on top of a wooden cutting board, which stands on top of a wadded up plastic bag, which is fitted haphazardly over the drain in the kitchen floor to stem the tide of the reverse plumbing issue, while outside it is nearly impossible to see through the sheets of rain Papa is sending our way.
By the way, Luis was my first guess as the offending citizen and I was quite prepared to climb Imbabura and dump him without much ceremony into Papa's throat and end the madness, until he reminded me as he struggled in my fireman's carry on the way up the hill that he is actually a citizen of La Calera, closer to Mama, and thus not responsible.
"Drat," I say. A word that I would like to bring back to more prominent usage, because it's the kind of word that fits when you see water escaping from under the cutting board and plastic and running across the floor of your kitchen bringing with it that elusive fragrance of grey water, or is that sewage? "Drat." Remember that word the next time you find yourself under similar circumstances like, say, when the wrong people get elected to public office.
Luis, as he watches me prancing about in the rain, my thinning white hair plastered to my head, has very little to say. Just two things, actually. "Watch out for that bus." and "You know, you and Marita are the first and only gringos who have ever lived in this village. Maybe there is a connection there."
All right. Granted, our appearance in Peguche has not been without its trials. Some folks are not happy with outside interference, and I get that, while others seem pleased to have us traipsing around trying to understand how to fit into a culture far older and perhaps wiser than our own. So I feel I must consider what Luis has said. Maybe it is me (no one ever hinted that I might not be a narcissist), and I am the cause of such umbrage taken by the local volcanic god. If this is true, should I then sacrifice myself? While ignoring the Greek Chorus screaming out a resounding "yes!", I am determined to uncover a better plan. To appease this god, it will take more than mere human sacrifice, and just try to find a goat to put over hot coals and fan its burning fragrance up a mountainside that is determined to wash you out. No, it must be a technique only a Papa would understand. And I think I've finally found it.
Mama Cotacachi, who, as I re-read this post, has taken on a role not unlike a cypher, actually figures prominently in the solution to my problem. At least, that is how legend goes here in the indigenous wilds of northern Ecuador. I have noticed for quite some time that there has been a lack of the white stuff on top of Mama. Maybe it's been too mild ( we are on the equator, for Imbabura's sake), or it's simply the fact that Papa and Mama have had a little tiff and they are now on opposite sides of the valley, turned in the other direction, hands folded at their chests, each refusing to give ground to the other. This is a state of union that a great many Papas and Mamas have found themselves in. Someone needs to intervene.
"You must treat Imbabura with the respect he deserves," Luis says. "If he is the phallus of the valley, then your property as well as all the property in the village, stands on his scrotum and you must be very careful. You must not drive your picks and shovels too deep into his flesh. You must provide him with only the best natural fertilizers. You must caress the soil as if it were your own skin." Boy, these pagans turned Catholic sure know how to form a titillating analogy. But maybe there is some truth to what he says. Is the solution to my problem of Imbabura's madness simply some kind of agronomic reacharound? After all, gods are only human, as they say.
So, here I am, lying on my back on the scrotal skin of my local god, staring at the sky while the piss of the ancients falls all over me. I have taken Luis at his word, though, and have only been good and decent to Papa. I have provided his flesh with only the best chicken poop; I have planted only the most nurturing of flora and yes, I have petted his soil in only the most loving of fashions.
And so, as it turns out, Papa Imbabura is not unlike most men. In clearer language, men are pigs...Maybe I shouldn't say it that way, but if the oink fits. The solution is simple and has been in front of me all along. Sometimes it's geology, but sometimes it's simple biology. Imagine what must be building up inside a volcano that has been extinct for millennia. I hope that one day soon I will wake up and look outside my bedroom window to see Mama Cotacachi covered with a topping of white. Then, I believe, the rains will stop here in Peguche and we will return to eternal spring. So, I will take this moment to say to Mama Cotacachi, "Sorry, but the only problem facing us is that the prick on the other side of the valley just needs a little love."