I fell asleep to the sound of rain last night – heavy, crashing, stormy rain who’s sound envelopes your whole body, compressing your eyelids, filling your ears, and forcing you to sleep. I must have had a thousand dreams.
I woke up early this morning to the sound of a rooster crowing. I stretched and pulled back the heavy curtains covering my open window, the only thing separating me from the gorgeous mountain view, fresh air, and clear blue sky. The morning sunshine flooded my bedroom. I love mornings here, they feel so tranquil. Maybe that’s because the mountain barrier surrounding the city keeps the noise out, or maybe because the sound doesn’t wander up this high until later in the day. I always imagine Mérida as a small city embedded in a cluster of mountains at the highest altitude in the world, sitting amongst the clouds. That would explain the chilly mornings, the clean air, the silence, and the strength of the sunlight when I pull back my curtains. I like to picture it that way, even though I know for a fact that Mérida sits at an altitude of 5,000 feet.
I pulled a t-shirt over my tank top and threw my hair into a loose ponytail. I grabbed my book and my glasses and headed for the kitchen – my usual morning escape. I’ve adapted so much to the ways of life here. I silently and mindlessly prepare my café con leche on the stove, without so much as thinking of a coffee maker. I always check the inside of my coffee mug for ants before filling it, and I wipe down the table for the same reason. I take a spoonful of sugar from a giant class jar in the cupboard and add it to my coffee, then sit down at the kitchen island – always on the side facing the window.
I love looking at the mountains. One moment I’ll ever forget is when I was walking home from school alone one night. I was admiring the view of the houses and the mountains as the sun lowered completely behind their peeks and darkness spread over the city. I was trying to trace the rolling outline of the mountain range with my eyes until the darkness was so pure and so thick that it disappeared in front of me. I continued walking and then looked up again when I thought I saw thousands of little stars coming to life in the distance. There were strings of them twinkling way up in the sky, in a distinctive curving pattern. I stopped and stared – amazed – and then realized that what I was seeing weren’t stars at all. They were lights coming on in little houses perched side by side along the curve of the mountain tops. The houses just sat there, like little stars all in a row – like christmas lights strung from peak to peak, twinkling and flickering in the velvet darkness. I felt like I was in the center of the solar system, inside a giant ring of stars and comets. I felt so small standing in the middle of the street, gazing up at the overwhelming sight of the sleeping Andes Mountains, so quiet, steady and powerful.
I soaked up every bit of that moment – the amazement, the first prick of fear, the silence that made me feel as though I was the only person awake in the entire city, the sudden calm and satisfaction that washed over me when I realized what I was looking at. It felt magical, really, that people had lives up there, in little cabins far above the city – far away from the noise and the lights. I wondered how silent it was up there. I imagined a silence so profound that they could hear me breathing at that very moment. That was magical. And so was the thought that I happened to be in just at the right place at the right time, lucky enough to experience this moment – one that I’m sure I’ll never forget.