Straight from the heart

Dec 16, 2015 | 3 comments

American-born photographer Thomas Ives has worked for international news and feature magazines for over 38 years. His photo essays and images have appeared in National Geographic, Time, Geo, Stern, Newsweek, Life, Smithsonian, and many others publications. He currently lives in Vilcabamba with his Ecuadorian partner. For more about Thomas, click here, or here (en español).


Cow Consciousness

There is a rhythm to the campo. I can tell, within a few steps, who is passing behind the thick hibiscus hedge of my quinta on the dirt road: extranjeros or Ecuadorians. The figures moving are immediately recognizable by their pace.

While the extranjero, especially the gringo, generally has a more “Lean into it, come on, we got places to go” kinda gait, the locals unhurriedly meander, the kids batting things with sticks, the adults checking out fruit trees, or looking for chilena grass to take home for their cuy. If the gringo pace is close to a military quick step (two steps a second) the Ecuadorian is about a third of that. So while they are not going anywhere fast, that’s OK, because they seem to intuitively know, with each light step, they have arrived.

I believe this comes in part, from being of an agrarian culture tied to animal husbandry: patiently watching corn grow, calmly following the cows, or other slow moving livestock, down rural pathways or dirt roads. It’s part of the longevity dynamic: no hurry, no stress. Move at the pace of the animals: Cow consciousness, if you will (thanks to Ram Das or whoever coined that 60’s phrase … sorry, I’ve spaced out on exactly who it was.)

This delightful unpretentious ambling is apparent even in this still photo … the short stride, the relaxed body posture. The woman eating fruit they have picked along the way, the young girl compliments the mood, being lost in the carefree world of timeless make-believe, and simple joys.

And when we relax into this pace the magic happens: heart rate and breathing slow, our footfalls have more time to draw from the earth … they become one with our true mother, nature.

I quietly shadowed this trio on their way towards the river, in the direction of my home.

Sensing something magical was about to happen, I took out my cell phone and framed them as they approached the delicate rosette grass in the median.

In three steps la angelita fanned her sateen skirt into wings. Click! The moment was so quiet, so mystical, I would not have been surprised to see her take flight over the gentle world of the campo.

— Thomas H. Ives


Photo taken in Vilcabamba, 2012.

Copyright © 2012 by Thomas H. Ives / Contact


Thomas Ives

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