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Changing Places: Kellen Meyer on Ecuador




My feet rested on the hard dirt floor of the hut.  Birds sang in the surrounding trees.  Flies buzzed past.  Large tree trunks shaped the oval dwelling.  Gathered grasses tied with vines made up the roof.  A slight wind through the hut cooled the humid day. 

Ten minutes earlier our small group of women had filed in quiet and respectful with only an Achuar greeting. 

We sat on a log bench at the far end of the hut.  The man of the house perched on a stool in the middle, engrossed in his work of weaving a basket.  His bent head adorned with parrot feathers, his chest draped with strands of bird bones and beans. Brown feet touched the earth below his woven skirt.  

Behind him his wife scooped chicha, a fermented drink made from manioc root, into small pottery bowls.  Bowls made by her hands and clay dug from the forest floor.  She squatted with her eight and a half month pregnant belly.  Nimbly brushing her dark hair behind her ear as she leaned over the big pot. 

The conversation between our guide and the man of the house lilted back and forth as we sipped from our bowls. Some things were interpreted.  Most were not.  I found myself shifting on the bench to watch the woman behind them.  Intrigued by her.  Her movements so fluid and sure.  She exuded a certain calm, tending to her home as we sat listening to the language and gestures that floated through the air.  

She pulled out a slab of rock with a hunk of clay on top and began the slow process of creating more bowls.  I watched mesmerized as her hands formed the rough clay into soft pliable pieces which began to take form under her gaze.  Shards of shell were used to smooth the clay and create the sides of the bowls we held in our hands.  Busy in her work, she took little notice of the conversation or the ten women sitting within her home. She had tucked four bowls beneath banana leaves to be dried in the sun before we left that day. 

Her work far from done.  Food still needed to be gathered from the forest.  Her foraging skills determined what they would eat that day.  She would tend to her children, strap the baby to her back, and traverse the forest in bare feet.  Their clothing she would wash in the river.  Safety from animals her constant concern. 

I remember thinking that this life would be so hard.  A life of survival everyday.

Then, she looked up.  Her dark eyes glanced toward her husband and then toward her children playing outside.  A faint smile touched her lips as her hands continued her rhythmic motions on the clay.

A smile so full of contentment. happiness. peace.

Her life. Her view. Her perspective.

I realized, in that moment, that maybe my life would appear difficult to her. The events and activities that my children participate in may seem unnecessary. That consumption of more she wouldn't understand. That to her she would see complexity in owning so much clothing or shoes or things.  To witness the way in which we survive each day in our own jungle and how we separate ourselves from our tribe. 

That moment shifted something deep within me.  Something I have yet to find words for.  A certain way of thinking that will swirl its way into creation.  I know I was forever changed by her that day. Her hands.  Her way. 

All it took was a shift in my own perspective to see it.

(Ecuador 2012)



Kellen Meyer lives in Colorado with her husband and four children.  Enchanted Mama (one of my absolute favourite blogs) is her beautiful ongoing account of their life together.  Kellen visited Ecuador with Pachamama Alliance.

Changing Places is a guest post series about the power of place to change us.  You can read other stories in the series here.  If you’d like to share your story, please contact me for submission details.

Reader Comments (3)

Love the stories in your Changing places. These people are amazing and their stories so inspirational

May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAudrey Miller

Thank you so much for this delightful opportunity Helen. I'm a long time fan of yours! Your Changing Places series is inspiring as are your words and photography. Hope we meet again someday. Have a lovely day.

May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKellen

This is really beautiful. Love to both of you.

May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLizzy

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