I went to Peru and fell in love. No, not with a person, but with life… and perhaps myself a bit. It happened so gradually that I didn’t even know it was happening until I got back home.

Peru makes you slow down. You can’t hurry because of the altitude. There is not enough air to hurry–you can’t breathe. And the steep uphill climbs encourage ambling. So, you see more. Feel more. Experience more. Enjoy more.

Perhaps falling in love happened while climbing to the sun gate at Ollantaytambo. The 15 kilometer round trip started on horseback. Strolling alongside the Urubamba river while the Peru Rail train went by felt like I could be back in the old west days.

That didn’t last long though because as the path quickly turned upward, my gaze was focused on what was just in front and beneath me than what was to the side. As my horse seemed to prefer the outer edge of what was always a narrow trail with a steep drop off, I didn’t spend too much time gazing outward.

As we walked up to the 14,000 foot summit, the scenery and weather changed drastically. It was as if we were moving through the whole year in a single day. The bushes turned to low grasses. The sunshine turned to clouds, then the wind brought in a fiercely cold wind and rain off the glacier. Nature was in all her glory, and it was fabulous.

The human remains in the cliff side served to remind me of the shortness of life. I was grateful that they were undisturbed by passersby and slept in peace. There is nothing like feeling your smallness in the wild to help you connect to the All That Is.

Or perhaps I fell in love in the Amazon jungle. Sun, sweat, bugs, rodents, piranhas, caimans, and monkeys ruled this place. It was clear that I was the trespasser who needed to be self-aware and move with respect here. There was no escaping the interconnectedness of life when I was being attacked by mosquitoes and could be pounced on by larger, more dangerous creatures at any time.

Nothing could be taken for granted. Most of our food had to be brought in. Electricity wasn’t available at all times. There were only cold showers. Darkness fell early. Some animals were waking and others were settling down for the night. Unlike our unnatural cycles in our modern, urban lives, we followed suit. It felt like the most normal thing in the world. It felt like living.

But maybe it was the night sky that stole my heart. The Southern Cross and Milky Way twinkled above, surrounded by a blaze of never ending starlight. Everywhere you looked were bright stars, magical stars that reminded me that somewhere out there was unimaginable life. It just went on forever. Such bigness. Such expansion.

Or it could have just been the rain. Simple rain. It rains every day somewhere, but here it felt magical. You could feel the plants and air respond to the coming of the rain. The whole atmosphere awakened in welcome for his wonderful bringer of life. There are no words for what the air felt like when the rains came. I reached out to touch it, but there was no need. It was all around me, soaking into my skin, feeding my spirit with its life-giving properties.

Seeing Nature in her unapologetic expression, I saw my own fragility and savage self. And loved it.

In Peru, I felt my innards, the everything around me, death, life, spirit, and here. I often feel alive and at One with Nature, but not like this. Life is raw. In Peru, it’s even more so. Here I fell in love. I hope you get to experience that some day too.