Ken Weaver received his MFA in creative writing from the University of Maryland - College Park and his M.S. in physics from Cornell University. He has taught creative writing both at Maryland and in a remote Miskito village in Nicaragua. His work has recently appeared in Juked, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Twelve Stories. He also writes regularly about craft beer culture, and his first book, The Northern California Craft Beer Guide, will be published by Cameron + Company in May 2012. For more on him and his work, see his website.

We’ve published two more stories by Weaver: “Wood Liquor” and “The Escape Artist.”

Laguna de Vuelo

posted Jul 20, 2010

I’d originally submitted an article about the Laguna de Vuelo, a mid-size lagoon in the R.A.A.S. region of Nicaragua, to a number of respectable guidebooks: Lonely Planet, Footprint, Moon. I was innocently hoping to see it in print (perhaps in the History subsection of Bluefields, near the end of the book) nestled alongside contrasting and seemingly ineffaceable stories of Contra wars and hurricanes. It was a simple request. They responded that my article was fantastic, that this wasn’t the sort of crap they were used to dealing with, that the lagoon did not exist.

Nicaragua’s R.A.A.S. (Región Autónoma del Atlántico Sur) remains an awkward footnote for much of the western half of the nation: autonomous, but impoverished; inaccessible by most methods; at best, an economical stopover for tourists proceeding toward the Corn Islands. An amalgam of Creole, Mestizo, and indigenous peoples, I tucked myself away inside the cultural folds of the region for nearly two years, following a romantic getaway that had awfully soured. I became immersed (lurking the municipal docks, guarding vacation homes; hammocks in the north communities) because the other option was to stick out, to be exploited, to be expelled.

It’s not easy to explain, nor is it a situation I would expect or necessarily desire others to find themselves in. My point is, I had little or nothing to offer at the time, monetarily or spiritually. And not much has changed. Gratitude for a physical location tends to be a very abstract thing.

In any event, my submission went as follows:

“Further than Pearl Lagoon, than Ebo Lagoon, than even Wouhnta Lagoon, hides the Laguna de Vuelo. It’s called “de Vuelo” partly because of the constant bird presence. One day, it’s said, a disgraced campesino lost himself in a remote corner of the bush, where the lions and monkeys and mud devils sleep. Everything around him thickened. The trail disappeared, and the moon and the sun were reduced to small slivers of light overhead, indistinguishable from each other. After a week without food, the campesino weighed ninety-five pounds without his boots. He thought of his family, first, then certain other people he had left behind, and then his memory wiped clean of all these things, as if the world around him had seen a sudden, inexplicable loss of pressure. But he continued walking until he arrived at a section of the bush which abruptly opened itself up to brown waters, coming from the unnamed Laguna de Vuelo. The surface was shit-covered and oily, with muddy edges, and the thick perimeter of trees and vines hiding the lagoon from the outside world were scarred by the ravages of a recent hurricane. As he fell, he considered his family, first, then those others he had left behind, and then everything became dark again, until he opened his eyes up below the water. When describing the experience later, what he focused on was a dim, subterraneous glow, illuminating the lagoon from underneath the debris. There was a rhythm to his voice that hadn’t been there before, and he talked about his glimpse into the core of the world as though it had happened to someone else. The lagoon, tucked away some fifty miles northwest of Bluefields, is unknown outside of this village.”

One shouldn’t look too hard into it. Honestly, I should have simply allowed the matter to rest, instead of attempting to publish it as an unattributed narrative, and then, seemingly, fiction.

Putting myself into the editors’ shoes, one can imagine any number of consequences resulting from hard-to-reach travel destinations, and it makes one wonder what else these travel guides leave out: not for lack of tourism value, but due to the tiny likelihood of people getting to them safely. Maybe there’s a special guidebook for this sort of thing, offering self-guided spelunking, hidden landmarks, compass headings for the less-likely ascents of Everestů It could open with an editor’s note that concludes: “Sometimes the danger of never going at all is far worse.”