what does a woman want?

What a great question. What would women answer?  They’d be as varied as the woman you talk to at any given moment.

Since 2007 I’ve been nursing my little Wintersong along, trying to figure out what–if anything–I want to accomplish with it. It’s no secret that I’ve been posting less and less these days. Lord knows I’ve probably broken every rule in the blogasphere, beginning with “post often” and “write well.”

Earlier today as I was doing my fat burning workout at the gym, I was hooked into my trusty old I-pod and heard a “little story” under just this title on a Modern Stories podcast and it led to a completely different post than the one that I’d planned. For several days I’ve been half planning to write a completely different piece–in effect “hanging up the keyboard.” What I was having trouble with was deciding whether for good or just for the summer. After I’d thought on it for awhile I decided that I may still not know what this woman wants other than balance in my life, but I sure know what I don’t want. That is to feel trapped in a routine I can’t keep up with. To have figured out what I DON’T want is half the battle I figure.

We’ll be leaving soon for a little rest and recreation in Florida, my old home state. I’m looking forward to showing my “southern estate–all 25 acres of it–to my grandchildren. We’ll also be taking them through Disney world, and I can’t honestly say I’m looking forward to the lines, but it’ll be a great experience for them to remember. We’re lucky to have the opportunity while we can still get around well. Younger daughter (#2) and her significant other will be joining us from NYC to spend a day with the kids at Universal Studios in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. (Their parents will be having a high old time at a Conference while it’ll take all four of the other of us–grownups–to keep the kids from killing eac safe. It’ll be fun even though I’m sure it will not be a tear- nor line-free day. In the evenings we’ll all be together and I look forward to some of my old haunts–or as many as we can fit in–and lots of seafood and southern cooking–lots of sweetened iced tea and grits cooked like only a southerner knows how to do it–in the evenings.

After we come back, we may do a dash-over to see a new vacation property in Oregon that daughter #1 and her SO recently purchased–just to check it out. Then as fall approaches we’ll be heading off to Italy. The last three days we’ll be concentrating on a vespa tour of Rome featuring a hands-on cooking class experience at a private home. We’re looking forward to eating what we cook.

The summer is barely beginning and I’m already seeing it disappear before me. So little time. All those words just to say what my readers already know. I’ve decided I’m not quite ready to hang up the old keyboard after all, but for the rest of the summer posting will be sporadic as and when I decide there’s something I want to remember. This is a good place to file those memories. I hope I’ll still have a few readers left when I have more time. I hope by then I’ll have a good answer to the question posed. In the meantime, I invite you to share your wants, either here or on your own blogs if you crazy enough to still be doing it.

the inca fortress of sacsayhuaman

After spending part of our morning on our own ambling around the city center of Cuzco, Hubby and I ate a vegetarian lunch at a small cafe near our hotel. We’d seen the Cathedral in the main plaza and now looked forward to a long, busy afternoon visiting the ruins surrounding the city,  Puka Pukara, Tampu Machay and the renowned fortress and religious site of Sacsayhuamán.

My focus in this post is the Inca fortress of Sacsayhuamán (pronounced like “sexy woman” which also makes it is easier to remember). The imposing terraced fortress is more than one third of a mile long, and located on the perimeters of the hills overlooking Cuzco.

Experts believe that the city of Cuzco was set up in the form of a puma whose head was the hill of Sacsayhuaman.  The origins are uncertain, but it’s generally attributed to the period of Inca Pachacuti (1438-71), the man who essentially founded the Inca empire, after he succeeded his father as emporer. (For fun information on Pachacuti and his people check out this article.) They conclude that it was completed by around 1508. Pizarro reached his first Inca land in 1526.

sexywoman by robert

Some of the boulders are estimated to weigh more than 20 tons; the largest is 12 feet thick and 25 feet tall. Without a doubt the Incas were highly skilled stone cutters.  Since the quarries that yielded the Yucay limestone used for the foundation are located about 20 miles from the city, it boggles the mind how they were able to move the massive boulders across rivers and down deep ravines, then up to the hilltop site of Sacsayhuamán.


Spanish conquistador and chronicler of Peru, Cieza de Leon, wrote in the 1550’s that some 20,000 men had been involved in its construction: 4000 men cutting blocks from the quarries; 6000 dragging them to the site on rollers; and another 10,000 working on fitting them together and finishing the work. Legend has it that 3,000 lives were lost when one huge stone being dragged uphill broke free.

However they cut the stones or managed to get them here, or how many men it took and lives were lost, they were so skilled they were able to fit the massive boulders together without mortar, so perfectly that a mechanic’s thickness gauging instrument cannot be inserted between the rocks of the walls as Ivanoff proudly points out.

Of course these mysteries continue to contribute to numerous fantasies that the structure wasn’t built by the Incas but rather by extraterrestrials who landed on earth thousands of years ago, or that only they could have come up with the technology which they used to teach the Inca how to do it.

feeling vibrationsIn fact many Spanish priests and historians of the day attributed the fortress to demonic enchantment because they viewed the Inca people as inferior.

Some people claim they feel an incredible cosmic energy here and that, rather than a fortress or religious site, this site was built as an astronomic observatory. Ivanoff suggested we might want to get close to the wall to see if we could feel the energy ourselves.

did you feel anything?

Nope. Can’t say that I felt much, but the wall was warm from the sun, and there was a bit of the chill in the air. Neither can I say it didn’t feel peaceful there. Maybe that’s what they mean about cosmic energy.

serpent in stone

If you remember the Cathedral paintings in my previous post about Quechua artists imprinting their religion into their paintings, it won’t surprise you at all to note the way the stone cutters and setters included religious symbols in the fortress walls. See if you can see the snake that represents the underworld in the Inca religion. Hint: Ivanof is pointing toward the head.


And of course the whole travel group is quick to notice, having been away from our home state for 12 days by the time we came upon this part of the wall, this boulder shaped like an inverted  Utah (the cutout should be on the right side) right there in the wall.

pasu & me by Judy

Some of us liked to joke that once you’ve seen one ruin in Peru, you’ve pretty much seen them all. But upon reflection this many days after returning home, I say or have you? Looking more closely, each ruin has its own story to tell. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow put it like this:

Rise, too, ye shapes and shadows of the past
Rise from your long forgotten graves at last
Let us behold your faces, let us hear
The words you uttered in those days of fear.

Revisit your familiar haunts again
The scenes of triumph and the scenes of pain
And leave the footprints of your bleeding feet
Once more upon the pavement of the street

quechua artists leave lasting impressions in cuzco cathedral

You may remember the post about our encounter with the protesters in Aguas Caliente and how we were delayed several hours leaving for Ollantaytambo by train after our visit to Machu Picchu. Because of that delay our bus to Cuzco was delayed as well, and resulted in still another delay as our bus driver maneuvered a typical traffic jam caused by a packed parking lot full of tourist buses and cars all trying to leave at once. Needless to say, we arrived very late to our hotel that night, too late for dinner in fact. Luckily we’d had sandwiches on the train which sufficed, and were all just very happy to be there at last.

The next morning we found that Cuzco had protesters too. It altered a few of our touring plans for the morning, but we’d seen many ruins already by that time and decided we could easily forgo a few in exchange for a few hours on our own to explore the city itself. Here we are in the main plaza, within walking distance of our hotel, in the middle of the city where the protest we encountered the day before was continuing. In fact we’d later learn there were demonstrations all over Peru. When we saw a member of this peaceful demonstration throw a supposedly symbolic stone, we decided to take the steps leading to less crowded areas of the plaza.


These Quechua women walking around the plaza are far too typical of modern life in Cuzco as they lead their pet llama around the plaza for touristas like Hubby and me to pet and admire. They’re just trying to eke out a meager living from the visiting tourists. Under the same circumstances, I’m sure I would be doing the same thing if it was necessary to feed my children. What is impressive about the people in Peru, in my experience, is that there are very few beggars. Most, like the street kid and other artists who are everywhere, are offering a commodity in exchange, i.e., their images for photos to show friends and family back home, or colorful paintings of Peruvian scenery and people to decorate our homes and remind us of our visits.


Sometimes, you can get even more interesting snapshots just by surreptitiously clicking the camera at random for more candid photos of city life, like these, when no one knows or cares that you have a camera in hand.





For me, after living in a perpetually new city like Las Vegas for nearly nine years, a city known for destroying historical buildings every year in order to make room for new ones, it’s always refreshing to find a city that finds value in both the old and the new.

Below is a wide-angle shot of the main square of Cuzco as it looks today. The Spanish Church of Santo Domingo is on the left, and the impressive Church of La Compañia built by the Jesuits on the right. Many visitors claim it surpasses its neighbor to the left as the most beautiful church in the city. Of course the plaza didn’t look like this when Pizzaro arrived looking for gold in 1533. From accounts of the original Inca Temple of the Sun as described by the first Spaniards to enter the city we can only imagine how magnificent they must have been.


They told of lavish ceremonies taking place here day and night by the 4000 serving priests. Decor was described as fabulous beyond belief with carved granite walls covered in more than 700 sheets of pure gold, and a spacious courtyard filled with life-size statues of animals made of pure gold standing in the midst of a field of corn. The temple was aptly called coricancha which means corridor of gold. Naturally, anyone whose original purpose in exploring Peru was to find gold, the first order of business would be to loot the palaces of their treasures, melt down the gold from the temple. Afterwards, they would build their own church and begin to convert the native Peruvians from their ancestor- and nature-worship to Catholicism.

Major earthquakes have severely damaged the church, but the Inca stone walls, built out of huge, tightly-interlocking blocks of stone, still stand as a testimony to the superb architectural skills and sophisticated stone masonry of the Inca. In fact, when it became apparent that the stone supports were too difficult to completely destroy, the new church  was built directly over the original Sun temple foundation.

Of course the church is again filled with impressive artwork, as well as gold altars and statues of the saints, including Jesus, gilded but no less impressive. In fact, art was another way to change the Inca culture. Spanish painters from the Cuzco School were brought in to teach Peruvians to paint pictures from Christian biblical history.

Ivanoff, our guide, told us about one such artist, a Quechua painter from Cuzco named Marcos Zapata (1710-1773), and one of the last members of that school, who is famous for adding elements of his own culture into his 1753 rendition of The Last Supper.

800px-Marcos_Zapata (2)It shows Jesus and his disciples gathered around a table set with roasted rodent of some sort–a viscacha or perhaps cuy–as well as an assortment of fruit and vegetables of the Andean diet then and now rather than the bread and wine of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting.There are also glasses of Chicha, a fermented drink usually made from corn, featured in mug-like glasses.

Other artists included aspects of the ancient culture in their paintings as well. One that I hadn’t noticed before Ivanoff pointed it out is an interesting difference and one I believe worth noting here. In Renaissance paintings of the Christ figure, European painters show Jesus with his head tilted slightly to the left looking upward–presumably towards his father, God in Heaven, while those by Peruvians show him with his face tilted to the right and looking downward–towards Mother Earth, Pachamama, perhaps?

I’ve only touched the surface of the wonders of the talent and abilities of the ancient Chechua civilization, but our brief exposure to the lasting impressions of the culture left by the artist Zapata and other Peruvian artists have taught me to look at religious art in a whole new way. My next post about Peru will feature the religious site of Sacsayhuaman, famous for its cosmic energy.