Today was our group’s work day at Ninos del Sol, where we began as soon as we arrived. Most of the kids were at school so we had half a day where 15 of us helped build a greenhouse, three learned how to tend to the compost piles, and two worked in the kitchen to prepare lunch for 50+ people, including our group the kids, and the orphanage volunteers. The hardest workers were inside the greenhouse, where shoveling dirt and placing mortar between adobe bricks helped move the project along. Bridget and Cindy spent time shaking shovelfuls of dirt through a screen of chicken wire they rocked back and forth between them, prompting Bridget to laugh and say we looked like members of a chain gang. Given that we were all in our blue work T-shirts, she was right. It was a picture perfect day, so I took lots of pictures. Here are some of the TRK chain gang at work:

image

image

and some of Avishai giving a lesson in composting and organic gardening:

image

image

image

and a few from kitchen detail:

image

image

At about 2:30  the kids started coming back and we spent the afternoon doing crafts with them and building more of the greenhouse. By  the time we got back  to the hotel in Cuzco after six p.m. we were so tired that we all ordered dinner in and sat by the fire in the sitting area to have our second group talk of the trip. Before we left the states Allison and I decided we would ask the group to try something similar to what pilgrims do on the Camino de Santiago — they carry a rock in their backpacks almost the whole way and lay it down at Cruz de Ferro, a huge iron cross  on Section 6 of the Camino where pilgrims lay down their rocks and thereby symbolically lay down the burdens they’ve been carrying. Because all of the women on this trip have lost their mothers, and some both parents, we’ve asked them to pick up a native rock at the beginning of the trek, allow it to signify a burden associated to loss that they would like to lay down, and then we’ll all put down our rocks together when we get to Machu Picchu.

Tonight we talked about what some of the biggest challenges we’ve faced  as motherless daughters are, in preparation for choosing one behavior or belief system or thought process we’d like to leave behind. Hearing the women speak made me realize how this trip is important on so many levels, but especially for those of us who strive for perfection (believing it will bring us acceptance and love) and want to control everything (to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe from future disasters) — and how on the trail we are going to have to face those fears head on. We’re not going to do everything perfectly. We have to hand control over to those who are leading the trek and have faith they know what they’re doing and will lead us through the valley safely. These are huge challenges for many of us, and it takes an enormous amount of courage to be willing to face them head on.

I picked up a rock yesterday at Ninos del Sol. It’s about the size of a very small avocado. I’d like it to symbolize fear of losing my health, and the anxiety that comes with that. Some days I find it entirely amazing that I am 50 and still alive, but I’m also acutely aware that can change at any moment. I’d like to hold on to the gratitude and let go of the fear. I have a feeling that after carrying that not-so-light rock in my day pack for five days, I’ll be eager to lay it down.