Deva Nirguna introduces us to a creative art retreat in the heart of the living Mayan culture – it is an invitation!
“You have just got to go down there … to Lake Atitlan,” Anando demanded and not for the first time. Sarito had taken 5 years to get Anando there and now he was working on me, having just returned from the lake. “Ok, Ok…” I will take a week away from house and home in California and go.
High in the Mayan highlands I arrived at this incredibly scenic crater lake which was 20 odd miles long and several miles wide, surrounded by majestic volcanoes over 12000 feet high. We took a boat to the bay where Sarito and Anando lived, because there where no roads to get there, and started walking.
What a power spot this lake is and home to the living unhurried Mayan culture. The Mayan know everything is food for something else. They are food for the gods and so they dress deliciously, all the time, in their home spun colorful textiles famous around the world. They reminded me of Tibetans and the walking reminded me of Goa. It was a fatal combination I had to to be a part of this place.
On returning I organized a return visit, a tantric vision quest with the group I had been working with in Los Angeles and they all signed up for it. The group had a great week being spirited out of the big city and being dropped into this dreamscape of a landscape. We worked with a Mayan shaman and I felt so happy to be there. I made money and with it I bought a large spreading fruit tree called an Acate and all the land under it, right next door to Anando’s land. I went home and told the kids, “Hey we need to go and build a tree house in Guatemala.”
15 years later, Sarito, Anando and myself, all Poona 1 architects / artists are living here, and the tree house has become Atitlan ArteVista, an estate of studios and residences for creativity and expression in the arts.
As architects there where not a lot of rules and regulations here and that was creatively very freeing. The climate was very benign, no reason really to heat or cool… we are at around 5000 feet in the tropics, the land of eternal spring. Everything grows here from the tropical fruits towards the coast to the apples higher in the mountains.
The locals also were skillful crafts people from the women who weave to the stonemasons. Hey, their ancestors built Tikal, Palenque. It has been fun to build here. Now it feels complete, “Build and they shall come.” “Buildings hold the space for life to flow through them.”
Next year is an important Mayan Calendar year, 2012 a time of completing and new beginnings and we are opening the doors of our houses and studios for a few artists. We have suitable space for 4-5 painters, writers, digital artists, 3d artists or musicians to be in residence. We have a solar hot tub and sauna. We would like for artists to stay for a least a month. It takes at least that time for you to unwind.
The lake has always attracted an eclectic group of souls going way back. The eccentric English Spenser family built a house here in the 30’s that Che Guevara later hung out in. Aldous Huxley is famously quoted as calling it “the most beautiful lake in the world.” Currently each of the pueblos around the lake has attracted a different type of foreign community. Santa Cruz La Laguna, our pueblo, is located high above the lake where it is safe from rockslides and where the soil is better for growing. The rest of the bay is home to our Gringo community. We have rich Norwegians with impressive villas, eco-hotels, restaurants and a very good retreat center that attracted many healers. All are drawn by the wonderful ambiance of living in a road free environment. It’s tranquil. For the last two years our local community of artists have sponsored a community art center and gallery. There is a wealth of accessible talent here for improving your creative skills including at ArteVista Anando and myself with many years experience between painting and architecture.
It’s very inspirational here at the lake, the colors. The nature, the locals and the easy lifestyle especially given the nice quality of houses we have built. Come and find out.
The dry season starts in November and runs through till April. This is when the local gringo community, with a high proportion of creative souls, is at its fullest with people escaping the northern winters. May and June bring the first rains, the greenery and the birds. July and August can be insanely beautiful, the rain eases with clear mornings and thunderstorms in the evening. September and October have usually the most rain. It’s very safe here at the lake you arrive in the capital, Guatemala City, at a very nice new airport. Usually I have one of our drivers pick me up, rather than use the local transport, it’s a 2 and a half hour drive and a private taxi costs $75 for up to 6-8 people. The world heritage city of Antigua is on the way and of course you have all those Mayan pyramids to go to for inspiration.
For more information of Atitlan ArteVista go to www.designdevas.com and follow the links. To look at our individual work go to www.devanirguna.com and www.anandoleboeuf.com.
Deva Nirguna for Osho News