Thursday, August 08, 2013

STOP

Over the past few years I have been on many hikes here on Guam. I have seen so many beautiful things on these hikes.

I have found artifacts that hundreds had probably walked by, but never noticed before. I have found latte stones that may have gone unseen for centuries before I stumbled upon them, literally. I have seen sunsets sitting on rocks that seemed to be created strictly for the purpose of allowing ones eyes to swallow the sky in massive gulps. I have seen the ocean in so many types of blue at a given moment that it both looks like one massive solid color and a multitude of disagreeing blues at the same time.

Throughout these hikes the history and beauty of Guam has come alive in so many ways. I feel not only a stronger connection to the present day Guam, but also to so many versions of its throughout the past. Walking amongst latte stones where Chamorros walked hundreds of years before. Exploring caves where Chamorros and Japanese soldiers huddled hiding from American bombs. Imagining the changes over these time periods, but also grasping the way things have somehow remained the same.

Amidst all these memories, there have also been thousands of photographs. On many of these hikes I am overwhelmed with various things and forget to take pictures at all. Sometimes being overwhelmed is just a euphemism for saying "mampos yafai." We've been trekking and walking through the jungle and I am simply too tired to lift up my camera and take a picture. It is interesting sometimes to look back at a set of pictures from a hike. You might find many early on, one or two scattered throughout the middle hours, and then a couple more by the end. I am intrigued at how I sometimes take relatively few while we are on the way to a destination and even less while at a destination, but will take plenty on the way back. I imagine it has something to do the pressure of getting there finally gone, and the feeling that I can finally relax, even if there are one or two hours of hiking left.

There have also been, much to the irritation of my girlfriend several lost cameras and broken phones. Pagat in particular a place that has become a graveyard of lost items for me. Somewhere in the water beneath Pagat cliffs you can find a water proof camera of mine. Sometimes I imagine finding it years later, drying it off, charging the water and then watching the video I was making when a wave hit me and knocking the camera out of my hand and ripping the string from my wrist. Another camera, a cheap one purchased from K-Mart, got water in it while hiking down the Cetti River. I imagine that years later, fixing it up and seeing what images the water made on the aged memory card. Thinking about what kind of liquid portraits or jungle scenes it would create after having shut down and held hostage my camera for so long.

My favorite image out of all the many that I have taken is the one above. It is from the gate to a ranch in Yigo, that is the start of a trail to Anao. Anao is a lovely, somewhat long but very secluded hike. There are hikes where you feel like many people must travel there, because you can see the signs of their passage so frequently. Anao is different. You'll see trash, but it is not the type of trash your weekend hiker leaves. You'll instead find the trash of drug users, homeless people, fishermen, hunters and others who don't go into the young to "appreciate" or marvel at what nature offers, but instead make use of the jungle to hide or to harvest.

There are many ways to interpret this sign and its presence at the edge of a jungle/ranch trail.

It could be a land owner politely telling people to "para" and come no further. It might be a creative way of establishing your territory and sending people off on their way with a chuckle.

It could be simply a joke. Guam has plenty of intersections that may have had stop signs at one point but have them no longer.  Perhaps as a joke someone placed it there as something to smirk at each time they drove by.

It could be symbolic, a reminder to pause and reflect before you enter the jungle. Chamorros used to believe that wherever there were artifacts and latte there were bones, and wherever there were bones there were spirits of their ancestors. Chamorros still in some ways believe this now, albeit not with the same intimacy of the past. So this reminds you to stop and ask for permission.

It could even be a sign saying stop, just don't enter at all. Not for landowner reasons, but simply for nature's reasons. Maybe nature is saying to people, go away, stop, stop trampling on me, stop littering all over me, stop pretending you like me, just leave me alone. If Mother Nature did exist, no doubt her most ardent wish would be for the human race to disappear and leave the planet in peace.

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