Monsters and Dust

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Introduction: The Cultrum Synchronicity and Ruta 40

1 .

Bariloche was the last place with a sense of stability before the long drive south, but even in this picturesque ski-resort town there were signs of unrest. One afternoon I was drawn to a symbol written on a wall in black spray paint.i This familiar symbol, the four-way peace sign that I thought Patrick Walsh had invented in Chicago had been hanging in my apartment there for years.ii Yet here it was, already potent with some ancient meaning. When I went back to my cousin’s house for the night I asked her about it. She showed me a book about Mapuche art and found the symbol, which is called a Cultrum.iii Among the things it represents is the woman, the drum, the four directions (N, S, E, and W), the perfect roundness of the Earth, movement in the space, and the four footprints of the Choike.iv I wrote to Patrick immediately, and he was just as surprised as I was when he saw what I found. After a minute of pondering the coincidence there on the street, I was struck by the message next to the design: “Fuera Winka Invasores!” I had never heard this Mapuche word winka, but I knew who they meant.

2 .

On the second of two days driving down a dirt road through Patagonia, a band of about 15 motorcycles passed our bus going the opposite direction. The lonely road made the stir all the more jarring. We had hardly seen another person that day on this desolate stretch of Ruta 40, but beyond the novelty of seeing other travelers I also noticed a wave of awe pass through the bus.

As they flew by I fumbled for my camera to try to get a picture of one of them. Our opposing speeds were so fast I missed the first few, but finally I caught the third to last rider in the group. The figure in the photov disintegrates into the background. The aura of diffracted lightvi around the edge of this solo rider is the most focused, magnifying the land we pass in opposite directions. You’ll see what I’m talking about if you close one eye and put your finger a few inches away from the other eye, then focus past it onto this text. The text will warp a bit and get bolder as it’s saturated with black.