rainy season, a year on.

24 October 2012 § Leave a comment

A year has passed since the Costa Rica rainy season twelve umbrellas died in my hands. I hadn’t been careful since I’d arrived, bouncing over waves in the Caribbean, and tripping over girls’ feet in salsa class. My balance was off. I climbed trees anyway, to penetrate the jungle, to understand its abundance, to ask why it chose me.

Of course the rainforest doesn’t provide nearly as many answers as reflections. Sometimes I can hear the quetzal singing its cello voice up in the trees, Elieser my co-worker pointing through a thousand vines and tenfold leaves, lush and wild, to the neon green comma of resplendent feathers perched in the canopy. Viste? he would ask me, careful to not mumble too many words at one time. Of my many Spanish teachers in Central America he was the most patient, and asked the least of me. What learning I gained from working the waterfalls trail in Bajo Mono I sought myself, for days could be spent there in silence, admiring. Life surrounded us up there; insects which looked like Indy cars, or Christmas lights, accompanied our awe until we reached the hard smack of water falling from boulders just smaller than office buildings. Only machetes and smiles were useful those days.

The few times I needed my compass in Central America, it was tucked in the side pocket of my bag with a first aid kit, a thumb-sized Buddha, and a poem by William Blake. The memento collection survived to serve my nostalgia, and lives now in the trunk of my car, where I preserve most stuff labeled SEAN in disheveled, bags-unzipped chaos.

I wonder how much of my travelself is novelty. From that unique position I enjoy the new and shiny things in life, like mirrors, as I speed past, content with how I show up in them, and convinced that my velocity is known and loved by stiller beings. Sometimes too well known, and loved too much. Momentum, like loudness, is often mistaken for quality: Yes, Mr. Salesman, I can hear the speakers filling the room, but I wonder – can they fill the room with good sound?

Is it possible that those we meet while traveling are in their best-dressed selves, that the comedown post-return can be a reformation in itself, rather than a shift back to the character we played before taking off? And if so, what benefits does the world see from our adventuring? Do those magical lapses of time while climbing the edge of a tectonic plate, or hugging the sea, really change the world?

Mismanaged relationships, which are sometimes the result of a reckless heart with a plane ticket, if we let them, can cause devastation in our carefully assembled lives back home. And for the poor souls whose recrudescence goes misunderstood or ignored, may they learn how to integrate their insights, or expand themselves once again to find their tribe.

The matter is this: travel has taught me a lot more about me than it has about the rest of the world. I’ve learned how to show up as me, or as the best me I can in a given moment, how to tell the truth regardless of the apparent benefit of omission, and to sit in the fire when something burns. I have some problems to solve, and I’ve made a few mistakes, some of them irreparable. Worse, however, would only be if I never first had the chance to make them.

Thank you for reflecting what I’ve been about, and for showing me where I’ve moved. Sometimes I get lost – like when I leave the compass alone. But it’s nice to know someone is paying attention. And nicer still at times to learn they’re not.

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