|You can see the plumes rising from Turrialba|
In the first place, asking such questions was, well, blasphemy. My grandmothers had a stock response to any kind of question I had about traditions and the religion: "that's the way it is." No questions needed to be asked.
Or, there were always some stories on how the gods settled on those mountains, or how some chosen humans--often men--were directed by those gods to construct temples on some mountains. You either believed in those stories, or at least in those gods, or you did not. I found it increasingly difficult to believe in them.
But, I loved going up the hills. Come to think of it, walking up the hills to pray to gods was the only hiking I might have done in all my childhood. We never did a nature hike because we wanted to do a nature hike.
|The volcanic crater at Irazu|
As I think about those now, it seems as if those hills were designed to encourage people to hike. Imagine, if you will, a scenario like this: the elders talk to their fellow villagers about the importance of walking and hiking in order to be healthy. Nobody is interested because, well, we humans have always preferred doing nothing over doing something.
So, the elders come up with an idea to tell the villagers that the gods have instructed them to go pray at the top of a mountain, for which they have to climb a few steps. If they do, the gods will reward them, and punishments will follow if they don't.
The elders then work out a back-story on why the gods selected those particular locations.
|Doesn't it feel like the gods could be up here?|
Unfortunately, over time, this elaborate shenanigan became the truth. People forgot all about the "subversive" health benefit aspect. They built roads so that one can drive all the way to the top. They bypassed the hundreds of steps and the workout. Children didn't grow up jumping and running up and down the steps and, therefore, missed out on muscle and lung development. Children even started playing video games while traveling on buses and cars that took them to the entrances of the temples.
I like to think that unlike the "religious," who have forgotten those old ways, I am truly carrying on that very old tradition. I live with mountains always within my eye sight. I can't seem to go on vacations to places that don't have mountains. Mountains in France. Mountains all around in Ecuador. Mountains enveloping me in Orosi and San Jose. I am already drooling thinking about a vacation by the Canadian Rockies.
Thus, my back-story is this: I chose all these places because my gods told me that they live on these mountains. And that I will be rewarded for the pilgrimages I make. My oracle tells me that the reward is the very fact that I am alive to write about all these.
Ah, my gods must be crazy as we humans are.
|The basilica at Cartago|