The gourd sits on my table. A gold-carved design caresses its top. Equally ornate metal straws sit inside. The gourd was once my father’s, used for drinking Yerba Mate, a tea Argentinians drink as a national past-time and obsession.
My father’s bombilla remains with me although he left almost two years ago. It reminds me of him and his beloved Argentina I just came back from after three weeks traveling the country with my love. We flew into Buenos Aires—a city of rich culture, as ornate as my father’s bombilla, but not a place my father raised his family. After celebrating the holidays with friends, we visited my father’s apartment—a place he resided in for many years after working elsewhere in the world…a place where he’d found his “heaven on earth” before leaving this earth.
A couple now live there, up the old circular stairwell and marble floors, behind the wooden door—of another era, of the “Belle Epoque” style, as my boyfriend pointed out—that leads to what was once his apartment. My father’s love for his apartment was so grand that it seemed the walls sung back to him, and even cried upon his departure. They had swallowed all the joy once shared there—the feasts with friends and family and a place to come together as I had with my father toward the end of his life. They marked an era in my father’s life—beyond the hard work, and years as an immigrant away from the place he loved—where he could truly feel alive, as if for the first time.
As we visited Buenos Aires, a city whose beauty is comparable to Paris, we felt its struggle, its eternal battle with poverty, corruption, and runaway inflation. How could a place so rich in culture, art, and literature, with an ornate elegance carved into its walls as it was in my father’s apartment, struggle to live? Why do so many people like my father, or my boyfriend, have to leave this country to live well?
As we journeyed through Argentina, its complex history traveled with us… from the streets of Buenos Aires, which seemed to have more bookstores than any other city in the world—including Boutique del Libro, where I presented my novel, Niña Duende: Un Viaje del Espíritu, for the first time in Spanish—to the mountains and lakes of the south where I fell in love with its duendes, its nature spirits, that they sold as dolls and puppets in stores (I brought back with me these duendes in exchange for copies of my novel I left with them. It’s not every day that I meet others whose creative work, like mine, honors these duendes!).
We also traveled further north, to Córdoba, where my love grew up, to a sacred land that offered a safe place to remember Argentina’s past, to years of military rule, of painful struggles for an entire country that has learned to make the most of what has been.
I was reminded, as I plan my next journey to Spain, to my childhood home, where I will share my novel, that the land knows all…that the land that resides within us, always knows what has been, the history of our childhood, of a nation’s struggles, and waits for us to return to her, to remember, to feel the pain and beauty that lies behind it.
I am home now, in New Mexico, here with this ornate gourd sitting on my table. It is a piece of history that carries a spirit, as did the walls of my father’s apartment. It holds a part of my father and the country he so loved that he couldn’t return to until the last chapter of his life.
Aren’t we all like my father’s gourd, carrying a piece of history, a piece of this earth that has lived the good and bad? In late May, I will soon be like my father’s gourd, carrying a piece of history, a piece of love for the land that raised me—for Spain—that I will return to with my novel, Niña Duende: Un Viaje del Espíritu, which is about duendes, nature spirits, and the spirit of a place that never leaves us…never leaves us, even if we’ve tried, many times, to leave her.
My Novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is a story of returning home to the earth inside and all around us. It’s now available in Spanish as Niña Duende: Un Viaje del Espiritu. Click here for its Spanish Version on Amazon , its original English version on this Amazon Page or at www.michelleadam.net. It can be ordered at a local bookstore or directly from me (for those outside of the U.S.) as well. Also, watch a brief video on “duende”, “the spirit of the earth”: YouTube Video
Michelle Adam is an experienced writer, teacher, and healer. She recently published her novel, Child of Duende, after twenty-plus years as a magazine and newspaper writer. Her articles have appeared in The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine; Hibernia Magazine, an Irish magazine; Vista Magazine, a Hispanic insert of major national newspapers; and multiple other publications.
Michelle has also been a photographer and artist; has taught middle school students Spanish for the past dozen years; and has worked as a healer and shaman. Michelle has created healing and teaching circles of song and sound, assisting others in awakening the spirit of the earth, “duende,” within them, and creating a space for the celebration of life.