When I last saw him, he was only 4 years old. It was in the little town high in the Andes, where he and I had spent many hours playing by the stream, watching the huasos dance, and learning to read and write at the little kindergarten. Despite our confined little world, we had experienced so much joy and freedom together. So, how were we to know that we would part one day? At the time, neither of us thought much of it, but little did I know of the impact that my departure was to have on us both and on my freedom.

With a warm feeling in my heart and a tear in my eye, I recall the innocent look on his sweet face as he waved me goodbye. That is how I left him just before boarding the large, steel condor, as he called it, that flew me with my family on a north-easterly across the Atlantic Ocean. In the years that followed, I flew countless times to different places all over the world. Many times, I made my departure, but never did it feel as intense as when I left the little boy whom I consider my early childhood friend.

Inti Illimani – El Condor Pasa 
In hindsight, my life has been one long series of comings and goings. When I wasn’t moving from one place or house to another, I was changing jobs, ending and starting relationships and friendships, or readjusting my beliefs and my way of thinking. Many departures, many arrivals on my journey through life. And every time I departed, he would appear before my mind’s eye and make me feel at home.

In fact, I can safely say that, in a way, he has been present at every important event in my life. Whenever I needed advice, guidance or consolation, he would turn up in an instant and say exactly what I needed to hear. Not that it always helped me, because often enough and against my gut feeling, I would cast his help to the wind. Not intentionally though. It was just that other people’s say seemed to overrule his soft and gentle voice.

Outer authority made a habit of deciding for me what was the right thing to think, feel, say and do. It was imposing its will on me and restricting my movements, literally and figuratively. And as the years went by, I felt less and less of the freedom that I had experienced in the time spent with my young friend. This went on for a long time. The external pressure kept building up until it became too much for me to bear. Then, on a sunny winter’s day, I caved in and would have shut myself down completely if it hadn’t been for him.

As with all those times before, he came and was there for me unconditionally. Only this time, I gave him my undivided attention. It was he who helped me to get back in the driver’s seat of my life. And so, I continued my journey. A journey that hasn’t yet brought me to my final destination, and yet, it’s a very exciting and fulfilling one. However, every journey has its surprises, as I discovered a few days ago. Once again, outer authority had intruded into my life and was infringing on my freedom. Immediately, I responded with anger. Who did they think they were, telling me lies and dictating what to do? The answer took its time, but when it came, I felt my young friend’s presence stronger than ever.

Inti Illimani – Dolencias (ailments)
So, I took a flight on a large steel condor to reunite with him in our hometown in the Andes. He hadn’t changed a bit and was still wearing his 60s style clothes. When he saw me, he smiled his boyish smile with his characteristic dimpled cheeks like he had done when I last saw him all those years ago. I got on my knees to embrace him and cried tears of joy as we held each other tightly for a while. Then we went and sat side by side on the edge of the concrete paddling pool like we used to in our childhood days.

“So, what are you so angry about?” he asked, looking up at me, wide-eyed.
“I’m angry about the world’s governments not telling us the truth so they can spread fear and hate,” I replied and again I could feel the anger building up inside of me. “Their masters, the big families and their multinational corporations, are at it again,” I began to rant.
He paid no notice. Instead he just looked at me with his warm and friendly eyes that seemed to smile at me.
“You know they’re not telling the truth, so, there’s nothing to worry about, is there?”
“Hmm, that makes sense,” I replied calmly, but it wasn’t until he made his next remark that I came back down to earth.
“I think the person you’re really angry with is yourself.”

Thanks to his childlike innocence, I had found peace again. From peace came a deeper understanding of what was going on inside of me. He was right, I was angry with myself. But why? The answer came with a deep sigh. Like many people, I had been conditioned to believe that what other people said was always true, and that my own beliefs were not. To be precise, I had let outer authority condition me, and every time someone claimed something to be true, I immediately accepted their authority and told myself on a subconscious level that my own truth did not count. I no longer took my own truth, and consequently, myself seriously. I was in self-denial. No wonder I was feeling so angry.

All of my life, I hadn’t been acknowledging myself, my needs and my desires. I had restricted myself and let myself be restricted by others. I had given away my freedom and my power. Then it dawned on me that he had presented me with the opportunity of regaining both. My heart melted and I burst into tears.
“Thank you so much,” I said dropping to my knees and wrapping my arms around him.
“You’ll be right,” he said.
It made me look up into his eyes and realize I wasn’t in our hometown at all but in my bathroom looking at my reflection in the mirror. His voice still sounded in my mind though: ‘We were never apart, Wim. You and I have been inseparable since birth. You know that, don’t you?’
“Yes, I do,” I said out loud, smiling with those same dimples in my cheeks. “We are one.”

Returning to my imagination, I kissed him lovingly on his little cheek and got back on my feet. I placed my right hand on my heart and said resolutely: “Whatever happens, I am true to myself, my needs and my heart’s desires. And I will never depart from myself again.”
He smiled warmly by way of reply. Then I took his little hand in mine and together we took the steps down the mountainside to the little stream. There we skimmed pebbles over the water’s surface until our arm muscles ached. Since that day, we’ve always been together. Wherever he goes, I go, wherever I go, he goes. Because, like he said, we are inseparable. We are me.

Inti Illimani – La Partida (the departure)
Condor: Freedom, inner vision, interpretation
Dandelion: Healing, intelligence, fulfilling wishes

‘Condor’ by J Mari on Pixabay
‘Dandelion’ by M Nota on
‘WB 1969’ by Carla Beunderman, née Pieper (my mum)


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