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  • Ashli Akins

To unfragment myself, by saying no to flying

Well, today marked the end of “my year.”


I had made a promise to myself a year ago that, no matter the reason, I wouldn’t leave Peru for an entire Andean harvest cycle. 366 days. To be. To stay. To come home. And by doing so, to live deeper into my values and lessen my carbon footprint, not flying for one full year (a surprisingly challenging ask for my career).


For my entire adult life, I have left conversations half-finished, severed relationships inorganically before my heart was ready, and rushed through to-do lists - because I was living a fragmented life between two worlds. I got tired, physically and emotionally. Chronically fatigued from fragmenting, rushing, interrupting. The cadences of my heart and body did not align. I invest deeply, love hard, trust instinctually, and live with a bit too much zest and grit, so to force myself to fragment that which cannot be fragmented became a disease. Dis-ease.


Every project seemed to include a disclaimer of “antes de que me vaya” (“before I leave”). Sometimes it was just a quick trip - a funeral, wedding, or conference, but there was always some excuse for an interruption. A need to press “restart,” again and again. I began being seen as “always a visitor” no matter where I lived, regardless of where I called home. For a time, I literally and legally was not allowed to be a resident of anywhere in the world.

I felt disconnected, never fully understanding the shifting seasons, which felt ironic and hypocritical when my work was so intrinsically formed by them, here in these mountains. I couldn’t remember the last time I witnessed an entire harvest cycle from start to finish, through its rains and suns, seedlings and sprouts. And as I kept interrupting the earth’s harvests, I had inadvertently cut off my own roots.


This past year I said no to so many things. And by doing so, it opened me up to say yes. To being. To witnessing. To living, rather than simply surviving.

Today is the end. And it also just so happens to be my 35th birthday. So, as with all cycles, I begin again.

And, even if I weren’t in quarantine, I don’t feel the need to run away, to fly. I am here. Now. Aquí y ahora. And I’ve learned that one can really only be in one “here” at a time.


Photo by Cloe Whittaker, at the top of Pinkuylluna, in Ollantaytambo, Peru. May 2019.


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