Past Blogs

MIRACLES

 

The Morning Glory seed. A tiny bit of a triangle. Drop it on the ground and soon there is a fifteen foot vine, with flowers that bloom bright purple that give up their beauty later in the season to create another little triangle of a seed.  Think about for a moment. Everything the Morning Glory is and ever will be, springs from a tiny little seed. Isn’t that a miracle? Oh there is cell division and photosynthesis and what not, but the fact that so much beauty erupts from almost nothing is a true miracle.

 

We think of Miracles as large events, grand scale, move the mountain type of things but most are quiet and small. They fall into the category of ‘the things we take for granted’, the things we expect rather than the wonder of a Miracle in bloom.

 

That little Morning Glory seed, it can become something or it can blow away in the wind, land where it is forgotten or even when planted loving in Mother Earth does not guarantee it will thrive – it takes a quiet little Miracle to produce a bloom from almost nothing. Maybe we see it as an act of science, maybe we expect the end result and so we think it does not belong in the Miracle category – but it is a Miracle none the less. A quiet one.

 

Look into the eyes of your dog. She takes in your moods, your faults and turns them to love. She forgives lies, all your shortcomings and every bit of human ignorance and forgives you completely. How is that not a Miracle? A dog. A tiny bit of seed. A sunset. A soulmate for our heart.

 

We are surrounded by Miracles every day; we just have to have the desire to see them.

 

Songs of Autumn

 

The time has come to let go of what was. The trees have told us so with the dropping of their leaves. No more are we to hear the chorus of Robin, Thrush and Vireo in the quiet of predawn; instead we awake to the scream of Blue Jay, the nasal squeak of Nuthatch and Cardinal’s cheerful chipping. Cricket and Frog have gone to ground, replaced by the rattle of leaves dancing their way across the streets and dry brush. But there are still sweet songs to be had and, to me, one of the most beautiful is the hollow honking of Canada Goose and family.

 

Their song can be heard at any time – in the dark of night, early evening or just at dawn, on a sunny day or in the midst of rain – as they sweep through the skies the constant rambling conversations between the extended family are easily identified even if the telltale ‘V’ is hidden in the clouds. (Their chatter always reminds me of family at a holiday dinner.) Not all travelers have to announce their mission.  Snow Goose and some others are not quite so talkative and more businesslike in their migration. And Swan hardly utters a word; if one’s eyes are not skyward at the right time, they will slip by in silence, unseen and undiscovered like an apparition in the mist. But Canada Goose always tells of his intentions, loud and clear.

 

I know winter is not far behind their journey. Their music tells me it is time to put away the patio furniture, time to thank my potted plants for the beauty they brought to my yard before I release them into the compost and back to Mother Earth from which they came. Fall does bring gifts of her own, nuts and apples and wood smoke and clear starry nights. With the release from the humid nights of summer one can once again enjoy bonfires, hot chocolate, flannel shirts and pumpkins. Misty mornings kissed by a chill. An occasional errand snow flake. An interlude of cleansing, of quiet.

 

The change of season is a thing I am grateful to witness. I love to see Mother Earth in all her many moods and colors. So when that beautiful song drifts down from the sky, I thank Canada Goose and family for the music and wish them safe travels in their long journey - while I step into my own journey of a new season.

 

IF I WERE A DUCK

 

Here in central Wisconsin we have been having what my dad used to call duck weather; that is to say gray, soggy skies with little hope of getting over 42°F exasperated by stubborn northwest winds. Perfect duck weather. This made me think – if I were a duck – I wouldn’t mind this winter pre-course. After all, Duck likes rain, or at least he doesn’t mind because everything rolls off those beautifully oiled, weather proofed feathers.

 

Of course there are other advantages. If I were a duck, I would be a very good swimmer, which I currently am not. I’m what you would call a sinker, a stone, an anchor of the highest quality. I am the first one to put on a life jacket in a boat. Though I can stay afloat for a few minutes, my true calling is non-buoyancy. So you can see where being a duck would be a worthwhile ambition if I were to spend much time on the water.

 

Then there is flying. Who wouldn’t want to fly? I’m not one much for heights but I wouldn’t be concerned about that if I could fly. Heights aren’t really the problem when all is said and done – it’s the abrupt landing that is the bothersome piece of it. Eliminate that and no one cares how high they are, am I right?

 

But the real beauty of Duck are those feathers, which he preens and primps like a fourteen year old girl getting ready to take a selfie, though he has a little more riding on the results given the sinking and abrupt landings and whatnot. Those feathers are priceless. Not only for the aforementioned reasons but because the feathers let everything roll off Duck. No matter what storm has happened upon him, it affects him not. Rain, sleet, snow, perceived insults, ill-born mood swings, personal attacks and politics…

 

If I were a duck, I could learn a lot about letting go, about letting things just roll off me.

 

Maybe it is duck weather - and time to spend a bit more time on my own feathers. 

 

WILD THINGS IN CAGES

 

Let me tell you a little story about the wild heart, one you may not have heard.

 

Maggie was 78 and lived in northern Minnesota in a home she was born in. For all those years, she drew her own water and she and her husband put up wood for winter, filled their larder with hunted and gathered gifts from the earth, and lived in accordance to what Mother Earth dictated. As time moved forward, they saw no need to change their way of life. Even after her husband transitioned, Maggie refused all attempts by her family to move to a place closer to town, a place where life would be a bit easier. She was happy in her small cabin in the wildwood.

 

But the day came when her wishes were overridden by family because she could no longer safely take care of herself. For a short time, Maggie lived in an assisted living facility but it did not last. She had trouble adjusting and would become confused by her surroundings, couldn’t sleep from the intrusion of noise and light – and the utter boredom drove her to a place where appetite and interaction had no meaning. Soon she went to a full care nursing home.

 

Maggie was the grandmother of my friend Lisa and the day came when Lisa asked me to attend the memorial for Maggie who had finally made her escape from the world she no longer understood.

 

Lisa relayed how difficult the weeks previous to the memorial had been. One night, when the spring moon was full, Maggie had slipped out unknown to her caretakers, became confused and walked to the river 2 miles away. According to the search and rescue dogs, her trail ended there and her body was not found, though divers searched the water for many days. There were lawsuits and lawyers and finger pointing. There was guilt and anger and what if’s and should have’s.

 

But none of that was necessary. Each party that touched Maggie’s life was trying to help her, to comfort her, to keep her safe. It was Maggie who made the decision.

 

I doubt she was confused. I doubt she had broken with reality. I doubt there was not Divine Intervention to help her open that window she used for her escape, with the moon lighting her way, with the unseen path that led to the river.

 

Lions and tigers and bears. Whales and wolves and birds of prey. And Maggie.

 

Some wild things can’t live in cages.

 

Inuit Elders and NASA

 

The sun does not come up where it used to rise. Stars and moon are not where they belong. Because of this, arctic days are longer, warmer and the Inuit Elders can no longer predict the weather as they once could. Their understanding is the current weather patterns are not due to global warming but the shift in the earth’s axis. So they decided to warn NASA of their findings.

 

The fact that Mother Earth has wobbled from her previous position is not in dispute – at least as far as science (and the Elders) are concerned but the reason for the event has many tentacles, from polar ice melts to earthquakes and yes, global warming.

 

 In the last fifteen years, thousands of tons of polar ice that had formed around the axis of the earth melts yearly, removing weight from the axis at uneven junctures and dispersing that weight throughout the oceans.  One can hypothesize how that would, over time, create an imbalance at the point of the axis, much like a fan with a blade out of balance. Sooner or later, it starts to rotate at an angle different from previous. In the case of the earth, she wobbles a bit to the left, which makes the days warmer near the arctic, which melts the ice, which in turn, over revolution after revolution, causes Mother Earth to wobble a bit further to the left.

 

There is also evidence of the possibility that the large earthquakes in Japan and Chile have shifted the balance of the earth, causing a wobble at her axis. Most of this is by nature, conjecture, since we do not really know very much about the inner workings of Mother Earth or her rational for doing those unexplainable things.

 

And while these explanations can seemingly let us ‘off the hook’ for global warming, it really makes us more accountable in the respect of not adding to the climate woes with our greenhouse gases. I’m sure these and other questions will be bantered about for quite some time (my viewpoint is that since we get everything from Mother Earth, we could spend a little time and money on keeping her as healthy as possible.) But I have a different burning question in my head…

 

With all the technology, research, researchers and funds at their disposable – how come NASA didn’t notice until the Elders told them the earth had shifted?

 

You really have to wonder what they are doing over there – good thing the Inuit Elders are on top of it.

 

SUNRISE

 

The world is dusted in charcoal, smudged and blended into indeterminate shapes. I stand with bare feet on Mother Earth, toes scrunching into the cool damp grass of a late summer dawn while I await the Light. Slowly I draw in a breath, deep, slow and sweetly scented with the faint smell of drying leaves and I taste the coming fall as the breath moves from my head to my feet, into every muscle, every cell of my body. Somewhere overhead the wild songs of geese echo in the distant darkness, making my heart wanting to follow, but my toes remind me for this minute in time I must remain still to center in balance, in harmony. Like the dawn.

 

On the third breath, charcoal turns to a midnight amethyst, precious and rare, and I feel Grandmother Maple, her roots are beneath my feet, her limbs crowning my head. I feel her presence rather than see her; I close my eyes and know that I, in this moment, am part of her and she part of me. My eyes drift open and other colors have made themselves known as the dawn slips closer, the sky deep blue, the stars have retreated, the east erasing the night with the promise of sun. I am centered. I feel the pulse of Mother Earth tap against my feet, I am connected to her, the sky and I blended, there is no border between myself and the air I am breathing, no difference between Cardinal in the branches above and my Spirit and as dawn brings clarity to the world, it brings clarity to my Being.

 

The east is born in oranges and pinks, painting the earth in greens and browns. I wait in patient anticipation and look to the very top of the crown on Grandmother Maple just as the rising sun kisses her uppermost leaves. The day is born.

 

As the sun spreads across my body I am also born. I have touched every leaf, caressed each blade of grass. I have breathed in every scent the windless air has brought to me and rolled every taste patiently over my tongue. And as that first kiss of the rising sun reaches me, I bloom. I am part of everything and everything is part of me. I am standing in The Light. We are one.

 

 

 

While I am in my physical body, there will never be a moment more perfect than this.

 

 

 

In this oneness, in this balance, I begin my day. Whatever next I do will keep me in this space or pull me out of harmony. More times than I would like, I am pulled out - by my own doing. There is no one to blame, no matter what is said to me, no matter who does what to me, no matter what I see as my day unfolds. I am responsible for keeping my balance, my harmony intact.

 

But if I fail today, and I often do, I can begin anew tomorrow. And with the new day I can once again try to master being a better person than the day before.

 

That is the true beauty of a sunrise.

 

CONVERSATIONS WITH AN OSPREY

 

Someone’s not happy. Baby Osprey, who is now quite large, sits in his nest by himself and slices the air with a staccato squawking, announcing to whomever will listen that he is upset. He is alone, unaccustomed to the feeling of this parent-imposed independence.  While one might think this is a normal part of nature, the nature of moms leaving their children to learn the way of life, I found this to be a different. His sad crying was so persistent I felt compelled to intervene after listening to his cries for three weeks.

 

For the last ten years, I have walked past this particular nest twice a day, at least five times a week and watched the parent Ospreys raise their precious clutch of one or two, teaching them to fish and to, in general, be successful Ospreys. This is the first year I have heard such plaintive screeching from a first year baby and it is odd that mom has left so early in the season. He has been serenading the wind in high-pitched heartbreaking frustration for over three weeks and that is, in my experience, very unusual. And just plain upsetting. So I had a little conversation with him to see if I could help in some small way.

 

Osprey told me he was missing his mom and that is who he was calling for, but she wasn’t answering. I asked if he knows where she was. Was she fishing? Did she tell him where she was going? Osprey answered that mom was going fishing but did not come back. Further conversation reveled that she had been gone a while but, he is safe and not too hungry. He declared himself to be a good fisherman, but mom is better. He isn’t sure what to do, so for now he will keep calling for her.

 

There are many reasons mom might be gone. Perhaps something happened during her fishing or perhaps it was just time for Baby Osprey to learn independence like a child who is dropped off at collage or kindergarten and grows homesick or lonesome, but aside from the logical science of it, the desperate nature of child without parent does demonstrate that family dynamics knows no species. It demonstrates how we might begin to see the other animals we share Mother Earth in a different light - an opportunity of squashing the notion that ‘animals’ (though we are also animals) are somehow less than our arrogant selves.

 

Osprey will make the best of his growing pains, as we all must do. I will continue to speak with him until the season changes and he can see the path he must take. But I must say, every time I speak with animals, I discover how much more alike we are than different and how we, as a society, rale against that notion. That is such a shame; it makes our world smaller than it is.

 

Until we begin to see the likeness ourselves in others instead of differences, we will remain in our small little worlds.

 

Note: This blog was written several weeks ago. At the time of this publishing, Baby Osprey has told me he is doing well and fishing ‘with much success’ though he is no longer in the area but moved farther south along the Wisconsin River (the natural path of migration to open winter water) where he hopes to find his mom.

 

The Inspiring Wood Frog

 

You may be asking yourself why simple Wood Frog would be inspiring. Is it his song? Or his cute little face? (He is a handsome frog.) It cannot be his swimming skills for he swims little and is a child of the wet woodlands, often hopping about in the leaf litter of the forest. But he (or she) can do something extraordinary – he can freeze two-thirds of his body and pop back to life when the rays of a spring sun warm his body. No harm, no foul.

 

You have to admit it is a pretty cool trick. One that has not gone unnoticed by our scientific community. Various research facilities have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of thousands of hours to discover Wood Frog’s secret as it may lead to all manner of benefits to us humans, including ‘freezing’ the dying until a cure of disease is found and possibly bringing cryogenics into play. I’m quite sure someone out there in the world of science is eyeballing the possibility of, someday, not even dying – to live forever. At least forever in our physical bodies.

 

But, consider this. Rather than spending copious amounts of resources on extending life in cryogenic freeze, would we not be better served by using these same resources and focus on teaching us how to better enjoy the life we have been granted? Direct our attention not to dying but to living- reminding ourselves of the beauty of the day whether that day brings sun or rain or the glory of the thousands of blessings we stand in, but take for granted. The knowledge and knowing that it is not the length of life but how our lives are lived that matters. To propagate kindness to our neighbor, gentleness to all living Beings and understanding to those who are different from ourselves, to find joy in the present and not concern ourselves with a future not yet born creates not only one happy life but ripples out to make many other lives joyful. And that makes the world a better place to live, maybe a life is not as long, but certainly more worth living.

 

It is the quality of our lives that makes us smile, laugh and love, not quantity.

 

Maybe handsome Wood Frog has found a way to have both, maybe we will too. But until then, it might be better to focus on where we are standing, rather than how long we stand.

 

Not a bad inspiration from a cute little amphibian.

 

Part 2 The Absurd Lifestyle in a Jungle Lodge

 

Ah, yes! The three walled, remove your shoes please, don’t leave without an escort, dipped in darkness by 9:15pm lodge deep in the Amazon Rainforest.

 

Let me draw you a picture.

 

Our room had three walls. The walls were thatching, the ceiling the same. The walls between rooms were also thatching. This made the walls thin, with a capital ‘T’. Everything that happened in one room was up for review in every other room. Privacy was something left on the canoe that brought us here. Now in the brochure, it had, at a number of points, reminded readers that there were only three walls in the rooms. The third wall was open. Not open by way of a window or screen, but open in every sense of the word. Open in the sense of, ‘Why hello there Mr. Monkey’…as he sits on our luggage. (This is, I’m guessing, why the suggestion of no snacks in the room would be a great idea. Previous guests in the thin walled lodge have been awakened by screams of hysteria because said monkey made himself at home and rummaged through, not only snacks, but also carried off plane tickets and passports.) The non-wall did have railing though, which made a nice visual ‘safety net’ so that we could, if pressed, pretend the railing would keep unwanted visitors on the other side.

 

It all sounded grand…in writing…but standing there with our backpacks, looking out at the dark, dark jungle through the non-wall in the limited light thrown by the lanterns, there was a realization absolutely nothing was between our beds and all of God’s beautiful wild Creation…which is how I was elected to take the bed closest to the non-wall. (After all, I am an animal communicator and as such, the reasoning was I could talk my way out of a visitation.) But we had asked the Universe for an adventure and while it did give us a moment’s pause to be exposed to not only the wild but also our own imagination, we embraced this absurd situation. It was, in fact, what we had wanted.

 

But no time to worry now, it was 6:00pm - suppertime…and we didn’t want to be late because of the ‘rule’. (See The Absurdity of a Jungle Lodge Part 1.) So we left for the dining room, i.e. the completely open, thatched roofed lodge, to meet the other guests. Habitually, we locked the door to the room on our leave, looked at each other, and began laughing. How absurd is it to lock a room that only has three walls - thatched walls – not to mention that we are to leave our key in a basket on the bar so that everyone has apparent access to not only our room (with three walls) but also the safe key (clearly marked on said keyring)?

 

For the next four days, life was going to be absurd.

 

Nothing between you and the night. And the animals of the night. And trusting the cultural mix of people that share the space to do you no harm. To live with all the Beings that grace this place in peace and joy.

 

Deep in the Amazon lies a lodge – where one must simply forget fear and old lessons and embrace whatever comes through door. Or wall.

 

The Absurd Lifestyle in a Jungle Lodge

 

Deep in the Amazon there is a lodge. A lodge with no walls, thatched roof, an airy kitchen with great cooks, a small but well-stocked bar and a somewhat absurd lifestyle. This was to be our base camp for the next four days.

 

When we arrive, we are greeted with a lovely fresh- squeezed tropical juice and told to remove our shoes and leave them outside on a rack – before our lips touch the glass of juice. Because of wear and tear on the wood floors in a jungle setting, no shoes are allowed in the lodge. Once all have obliged, we are then invited to a ‘lounge’ where orientation takes place – breakfast is from 7am to 830am, lunch from noon to 1:30pm and dinner is 6pm to 7pm. No exceptions. We don’t show up, we don’t eat until the next scheduled meal. This brings up the question of keeping snacks in our room. This is not a hard and fast rule, merely a suggestion - we would discover the reason later. There is 24 hour coffee and tea though. (Good to know.)

 

There is electricity from 8am to 10am and 3pm to 9pm and sometimes there is spotty wifi – then the lights go out. No exceptions. He hopes we all brought flashlights…

 

We are then assigned a room key, which is on a cute little carved wooden keyring and also contains a key to the room vault, an absurdity that will make itself clear in the near future. We were told that when we leave the lodge we are to leave our room keys in the basket on the bar. The room keys also have our room number on them – very absurd. At this time we were told that, in no uncertain terms, we are not allowed to ‘leave the lodge or room corridors without a guide.’  This did leave me a moment’s pause as he spoke on though I was preoccupied. What has happened previous that such a rule needed to be in place? A snatching by a jaguar? A poisoning by one of the many wild things? Or just a quiet but unexpected terminal walk into jungle oblivion?

 

While I considered that, my sister Lauri brought me back to present by telling me we could now go to our room. We padded barefoot down one of the three ‘docks’ that branched from the main lodge. We found the room, turned the key and voila! … a three walled room! That’s right. The room only has three walls. One is open to the rainforest. No window, no ‘open’ window. No screen. No nothing! Just a simple railing between us and all of God’s creation.

 

It is suddenly an absurd world…and there is more to come.

 

THE OBSERVATION TOWER

 

Opportunity knocked. I have a thing about Opportunity; when she knocks I answer and at least listen to the proposition, and so I stood at the bottom of a 300 foot high observation tower in the Amazon Rainforest with the intent to climb it. If the top is reached, the observer would be high above the canopy and witness, under the right circumstances, Toucans, monkeys and other ‘high society’ animals of the forest. Even though high places are not on my list of favorite things, I didn’t want to miss out on what might be seen from such a lofty perch. This required several minutes of self-talk; a pregame warmup if you will.

 

How to get up there was the question. ‘One step at a time’ was not going to suffice, so I delved into my childhood where nothing was off limits and did what I used to do then – I chose an animal to become. With the tower looming, I knew it had to be someone who didn’t mind heights and, having just seen monkeys the day before, I decided to ‘play monkey’.

 

 

 

It is amazing what we can accomplish if we choose not to be afraid. Consider how many times we neglect to answer Opportunity because we have fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of how others might see it or what they might think. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of heights…

 

 

 

Did I mention it was a very windy day? It was. The metal steps made a loud clanking with each foot I placed on the tread and so too did the creaking of the heavy wire cables as the tower fought against the wind, but I told myself I was a monkey and monkeys don’t care about wind or creaking or clanking. So I went up flight after flight and soon I was not concern about the aforementioned sound effects and just enjoyed the feel of the wind in my face until I reached about 160 feet, the top of the canopy. The canopy was dense and as I looked out over the condensed treetops, I kept thinking about being a monkey and, with 140 feet to go, realized from what I could see, the canopy looked exactly like the ground with scrub brush. Since I had already climbed the 150 feet, I knew I could continue because, in my ‘monkey suit’ I had already climbed 150 feet.

 

Everything was amazing at the top! I could see for miles, see the Amazon River with a few fishermen making their way to hot spots known only to them, the jungle beneath me meet shrouded in a bit of ground fog - but sadly I could not find mister Toucan. I did watch a King Vulture make lazy circles overhead for a good many minutes. (A really colorful and sizeable bird that I had never seen before.)

 

Then, from below, I hear the telltale sound of clanking. Another team was following us behind. No problem. I am not even thinking about being up high, I’m just enjoying the view – until they arrive and one of them says, ‘I wonder how many people can be up here safely?’

 

That one question was my demise. Slowly I started to wonder the same. Just how many people could be up here…on a windy day? And just what were the odds of surviving a crash and burn? Wouldn’t we fall over that way and end up speared on those trees? Moment by moment I became concerned, then afraid and then finally – I had to go back down (along with the dufus who posed the question).

 

Moral of the story?

 

Don’t let a dufus talk you out of your monkey suit if you’re not afraid. And don’t listen to those who are.

 

Brown Capuchin Monkeys

Monkey Spying
Monkey Spying

 

Little brown faces peeking out from behind the fig palm fronds, barking a warning at our presence as they stuff fruit in their mouths then scurry off to get some distance between their breakfast and the perceived threat of our presence– these are the Brown Capuchin Monkeys of the Amazon Rainforest.

 

I had seen various monkeys before. In zoos. In ‘habitats’. As sad little entertainers leashed to some unenlightened person. But I had never experienced them in the wild, where they are part of the environment, swinging through the trees eating figs and fruit, scolding each other and everything that displeases them and certainly never in large troupes. But now I can check that off my list.

 

My sister and I spent many mornings in the Amazon on birdwatching hikes and it was on the return of one of these when we heard a sudden snap of branches overhead as large pieces of fuselage from a fig palm crashed to the ground; we ducked our heads in alarm, then saw the palm fronds and branches twist and rotate in a violent dance. Up and down, to and fro as though a squall had materialized right before our eyes in an otherwise peaceful forest.

 

But the squall was just a troupe of Brown Capuchin Monkeys. The troupe was rambling through the fig palms, stripping dry peels of brown fronds and letting them fall as they went about their fig hunt.

 

Somehow, they looked nothing like the ‘habitat’ monkeys. They had a sense about them, a wildness the permeated not only their actions but also their character. Their unrest at people being in the area, their area, was palatable and brought a cacophony of scolding and branch ripping, adding to the squall. As I watched them watching me, I could see difference between wild vs. habitat. These guys scolding me from above were edgy, wary and ready for flight and had the physiques to make it happen, much trimmer but the hard muscled bodies were easy to see even from a distance. They had a confidence, a ‘we belong here, you don’t’ kind of snobby attitude along with the knowledge of numbers; they were all family, basically thought with one mind, one set of rules.

 

One does not see that in the zoo or ‘entertainment’ monkey. When we see the unhappy leash monkey, a very social little creature, existing without the confidence that comes with belonging to family, with monkey rules and order, without ‘backup’ one has to wonder how miserable they must be.

 

A walk through a rainforest on a beautiful morning reminded me that families come in all shapes and sizes and as much as we find our own family sacred, worry over our children, give them the best opportunity for a full and happy life - so does every other family on Mother Earth.

 

BROWN CAPUCHIN MONKEYS

 

Little brown faces peeking out from behind the fig palm fronds, barking a warning at our presence as they stuff fruit in their mouths then scurry off to get some distance between their breakfast and the perceived threat of our presence– these are the Brown Capuchin Monkeys of the Amazon Rainforest.

 

I had seen various monkeys before. In zoos. In ‘habitats’. As sad little entertainers leashed to some unenlightened person. But I had never experienced them in the wild, where they are part of the environment, swinging through the trees eating figs and fruit, scolding each other and everything that displeases them and certainly never in large troupes. But now I can check that off my list.

 

My sister and I spent many mornings in the Amazon on birdwatching hikes and it was on the return of one of these when we heard a sudden snap of branches overhead as large pieces of fuselage from a fig palm crashed to the ground; we ducked our heads in alarm, then saw the palm fronds and branches twist and rotate in a violent dance. Up and down, to and fro as though a squall had materialized right before our eyes in an otherwise peaceful forest.

 

But the squall was just a troupe of Brown Capuchin Monkeys. The troupe was rambling through the fig palms, stripping dry peels of brown fronds and letting them fall as they went about their fig hunt.

 

Somehow, they looked nothing like the ‘habitat’ monkeys. They had a sense about them, a wildness the permeated not only their actions but also their character. Their unrest at people being in the area, their area, was palatable and brought a cacophony of scolding and branch ripping, adding to the squall. As I watched them watching me, I could see difference between wild vs. habitat. These guys scolding me from above were edgy, wary and ready for flight and had the physiques to make it happen, much trimmer but the hard muscled bodies were easy to see even from a distance. They had a confidence, a ‘we belong here, you don’t’ kind of snobby attitude along with the knowledge of numbers; they were all family, basically thought with one mind, one set of rules.

 

One does not see that in the zoo or ‘entertainment’ monkey. When we see the unhappy leash monkey, a very social little creature, existing without the confidence that comes with belonging to family, with monkey rules and order, without ‘backup’ one has to wonder how miserable they must be.

 

A walk through a rainforest on a beautiful morning reminded me that families come in all shapes and sizes and as much as we find our own family sacred, worry over our children, give them the best opportunity for a full and happy life - so does every other family on Mother Earth.

 

Road to the Rainforest - The Amazon River

 

“To get to the Rainforest, you must ride the red river.” These were the words our guide told us as we stood at the dock, giddy with anticipation as a flock of green and gold Macaws made a riotous noise overhead to welcome our arrival. It was midafternoon and we had a three hour boat ride ahead of us. It was not a large boat, more a narrow canoe reminiscent of the typical river transportation (7 to 8 foot wide, 20 foot long and had fiberglass canopy to shade the bench seats that bordered each side.) but was of man-made materials with a motor. A small motor.

 

And there were ‘boat rules’ for the ten of us.

 

  • Put the life preserver on and secure it tightly.

  • Do Not – for any reason – get up from your seat, even if we spot wildlife. The boat WILL tip over.

  • Do not lean over the side of the boat.

  • Do not trail your hand in the water; something might think it is food – like Piranhas or Caimans.

  •  Do not hold your cameras, cell phones or binoculars over the edge of the boat. The Amazon River is filled with them.

 

Once underway we were served a typical lunch of the area – a rice dish served in banana leaves and juice aside – then journeyed up the river at small motor speed. By this time, Laureen and I had forgotten our adventures of the past night (we were again in Cusco overnight to catch the flight to Puerto Maldonado and, yes, she got sick once more!) and settled into our new journey, atwitter with the excitement the whole boat had caught. This was definitely going to be different experience, everyone could feel it. 

 

While the jungle and stained water quietly drifted by on our way upriver to the lodge we spotted a group of capybaras with young (large rodents that look a little like a cross between a pig and squirrel) which we watched for several minutes (nobody got up from their seat) and also a Spectacled Caiman. There was nothing else on the river, no boats, no radios blasting, and no towns to go by. It set the stage for what lay ahead - seclusion. Because it was nearing sunset we were told to keep a lookout for any Jaguars that might come down to get a drink. Unfortunately we did not get to see any but the possibility kept me searching the banks as it grew darker – and colder.

 

The temperature was in the 60 F range. That was much cooler than we had anticipated! I mean I was concerned with sweating through my shirt every couple of hours but as it turned out, I could have packed something a good deal warmer than the shorts and tee shirts I had. (Because of the boat size, we were asked to whittle down our luggage to backpacks that weighted no more than 11 pounds, so not everything I packed for Peru went with me and I feared people were going to get sick of me wearing the same light over-shirt, but I think that was the case for everyone.)

 

Three hours from our jump off point, we disembarked, donned our backpacks and flashlights, and then headed into the jungle for our hike to the lodge as darkness fell.

 

It just doesn’t get any better than that my friends!

 

Machu Picchu

 

This will be a bit of departure from the usual blog because Machu Picchu is not a usual place and rather than give you facts and figures I will let you peek in on my private journal notes in hopes that my readers can experience Machu Picchu rather than read about it. This was our second day on the mountain and we were unescorted. The following is unedited.

 

 

 

I breathe her in deep and soft from a perch above. Her stillness fills me. I have climbed the worn stone someone else has placed here to a quiet place and sit in the grass among the sky. That’s what it feels like- sitting in the sky. I can taste the clouds as they knit a cloak around me and the stone buildings just below, then dissipate as if breath on a cold northern morning. They mist the ruins, then leave. Lavender-grey. Wet. A kiss from an ancient time. The air is oddly different up here. It is alive with something unfamiliar to me. The mountain is alive. What was once here lives on this peak of green and lavender still... a place so carefully chosen by the Inca king many hundreds of years ago.

 

Was it here before the Inca king? Did he chose this place because of it or is this palatable Spirit born of the Inca king’s vision and obsession? I think it here before.

 

It is amazingly quiet. Most of the thousands of people here at midday feel something; for they speak in hushed tones, reverence for the Mountain herself and for those that still occupy her. Even if they are not aware of why respect is required, they are respectful.

 

I breathe in. I breathe out. From the corner of my eye I see, for a brief moment, a procession of brightly colored ancient ones. Then they are gone as is the chanting that accompanied them. Drifted away in the endless mist of cloud and time.

 

Who once lived here, lives here still.