By the light of moon
Posted on April 8, 2012
By the light of moon there is not enough light, so I ramp up the ISO to 3200, slow the shutter speed to 1/30s, and set the f-stop at 1.8, and Marina laughs at me — “el gringo Miche” (gringo Mitchell) — for not knowing how to use my own “tecnologia”, and also for laying on the damp grass “en medio de la fiesta como animal.” Marina is an elder of the community of Cofan Dureno. She is the last Cofan woman in the community who knows how to sing in the way of the ancestors – a hauntingly pretty bird like singing, a recounting of history, myths and daily life in poetic impromptu verses.
I have written this before – “the last cofan woman who knows how to sing in the way of the ancestors” — but I don’t truly know what these words mean. What is it to carry an ancient song within you? What is to imitate the birds and sing of the origins of your people? And what is it to know that you are the last of your people with this knowledge, with this gift, with this ancient form of expression?
I do not know. I have asked Marina these questions on several occasions, and each time she has talked about the youth: “los jovenes no entienden!” (the youth don’t understand!) “no saben ser Cofanes!” (they don’t know how to be Cofan), “quieren ser mestizos mas que Cofanes” (they want to be mestizos more than Cofan). I have sensed all sorts of emotions: sorrow, anger, derision, and at times a matter-of-fact light heartedness: “si no quieren cantar entonces no van a saber cantar” (if they don’t want to sing then they will not know how to sing).
She told me once about a recurring dream: she sees her deceased husband in a tree above her; he looks just like he did when he died; he is collecting necklaces in the tree; he hands them down to her, one after another; and they begin to feel heavy, unbearably heavy, around her neck.