Past Blogs

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. 

 

Peaceful Sacred Valley

 

After the Cusco debacle, it was nice to enter into serenity by way of The Sacred Valley.

 

Among other things, the Sacred Valley is a place of transformation. It knits the deserts of Lima and Cusco to the forests that preview the Amazon Rainforest. It embraces Christianity while holding fast to ancient Inca ways in equal measure. It is the path to the most scared of Inca sites, Machu Picchu. The Scared Valley has a code of living that is simple, sacred and embedded in community. But it can also be a place for transformation of perspective if allowed to occur. Where I saw poverty, they saw simplicity. Where I saw hardship, they saw opportunity to live closer to Pachamama or Mother Earth. A number of thoughts I had about the area were less than accurate.

 

 Example. Much to my dismay…there are no wild llamas and alpacas bounding among the spire-like peaks that bordered the valley as I expected. There was lots of whitewater, some forests but nothing running through the woods- though we saw a really cool Motmot (a colorful bird with a long tail) that I spotted. Well. Ok. I didn’t spot it, my sister did but I am still claiming a percentage of the find because I asked her if she could see anything out the train window.

 

It’s a slow train. One hour and forty-five minutes to travel 53 kilometers. Not that we were in a hurry. And it had complimentary snacks! I’m all about snacks. Coffee, ‘coca’ tea, pound cake! (It does beg the question of why one can get really nice snacks on a train whose ride is less than two hours and the ticket costs roughly $110.00 and one can spend $650.00 on a four hour plane ride and they can’t seem to pry a bag of pretzels out of the galley. And don’t even bother asking for a ‘bottle’ of water. They can’t do that, ‘then everyone would want one.’ And wouldn’t THAT be a disaster?)  I digress. Back to the valley of happier thoughts.

 

Carlos was our guide and he was raised in the town of Ollantaytambo and he famously said to our group when asked about the little town, ‘We don’t need money so much. We barter with potatoes and corn for other things someone else might have like meat from a cow. A little money is needed is true for maybe sugar, things like that. But mostly bartering. It is a good way. It is a way to make sure everyone in the community has what they need.”

 

Simplicity. Keeping your hands in and on the Earth.  Supporting your community.

 

The Scared Valley was designed, by way of the Inca Trail, to allow one to meet hardship and beauty in preparation of the mind, body and spirit for the deservedness to enter Machu Picchu.

 

Well, we took the train, the shortcut. Typical. Hopefully we will have been purified enough not to turn to ash once we get there.

 

I guess we will find out.   

 

A Guy Named Paul in Cusco

 

It was a wonderful night in Cusco, Peru. Nice dinner. Nice Wine. Good Hotel. Soft beds.

 

I was having a wonderful dream which I can’t remember except that someone was calling to me. Gently. Softly. Then suddenly with more urgency. I was thinking, in my dream, ‘Why are you so upset? Relax…’

 

“Roxi!”

 

I got annoyed with this person in my dream until I discovered I was awake and it was my sister Laureen calling me out of a blissful sleep.

 

“My heart rate is 138.”

 

“No it isn’t, it can’t be…you’re resting in bed. Your Fitbit is nuts…”

 

So she tells me how it has been going steadily up every time she lies down and she feels ‘funny’.  Ok. That was wrong, I admit it. She didn’t look good either so maybe she was right, Fitbit or not.

 

We tried the usual array of cures, including calling the desk for oxygen. They brought it up (they seemed like this was pretty much standard procedure), showed us how to work it, told her to use it for 5 minutes, then call them to pick it up and left.

 

And then we ran out of O² after three breaths.

 

Yup. The tank was empty so we called for another. They brought a new tank, equally short lived and now it is 1:00am and she is not doing any better so I quite screwing around and called the front desk to send a doctor. The desk guy called back, said he found a doctor but –

 

‘Do you have money?’ What? OK. Everybody has to make a living.

 

Yes I say, I have a card too but he says ‘No-no! Must be cash’ and I tell him I have cash, cards, passports…Just send the DOCTOR! (Apparently I become irritable in the middle of the night.)

 

An hour later there is a knock on the door (now it is 2:30am).

 

‘Hi, I’m Paul.’ Well who the hell is ‘Paul’? I don’t want Paul! I want a DOCTOR. I want Dr. Somebody! I don’t need a Paul! I can find a Paul anywhere! (I did not say this out loud, because, you know, he might be the only Paul available in the middle of the night in Cusco.)

 

Despite my misgivings as to his alleged medical license, I let him in the room. After a quick exam, Paul wrote some prescriptions, collected his 200 soles in cash and left. I called the front desk once again to find a 24 hour pharmacy and they said they would look and call when they found one. In the meantime, Laureen propped herself up in bed in the sitting position, sucking on O² and looking pretty miserable with her heart rate dancing all over. So, no, I’m not sleeping either but I am getting greatly annoyed and vexed, which gathered in clouds as the minutes ticked by until they reached hurricane proportions by 4:00am when I marched down to the desk to find out what was taking so long.

 

Magically, they found a 24 hour pharmacy while I was standing there sucking on my fourth cup of coffee from the breakfast buffet (opens early) because what you want to do in times of stress is slam down so much caffeine you are practically slobbering when you speak to the front desk people who do not really, REALLY understand how close you are to jumping over the desk and committing hari-kari upon them.

 

I slurped more coffee as I waited while they drew me a map and I went in search of the all night pharmacy on foot.

 

 But it was closed.

 

I know! I couldn’t believe it either! I muttered something unsavory concerning the staff of the hotel – and the pharmacy –while I  walked back to the hotel, deciding how I should inflict some pain on the desk people when our very lovely tour guide showed up (called by Laureen). She calmed the waters a bit and then took me to the REAL 24 hour drugstore.  

 

Several hours and three drugs later Laureen felt a lot better, so we took the train to the Sacred Valley (which is next up time in the my blog) and beat a hasty retreat out of the nutsy altitude of Cusco. We only had to return one more time to make our connection to the Amazon Rainforest near the end of our trip. But, we had drugs from ‘Paul’ and would only be staying there a few hours overnight so a week later upon our return, we had expectations of a good night’s sleep, the former altitude problem erased from our minds when I heard a tiny whisper from the bed next to me, just as I was going to drift off.

 

‘I have some bad news for you….’ 

 

I knew there was something off about that darn ‘Paul’!

 

Cusco: A City of Firsts

 

Cusco, Peru was a place of many first for us. First time at a high altitude, first touch of the ancient Inca ruins, first taste of the famed Cuy or guinea pig, our first time crossing 30 feet of terrain and stopping to catch our breath in oddly surprising, unable-to-speak gasps and our very first experience with altitude sickness.

 

What is notable about high altitude is how your lungs shrink to almost pea-size and just walking around seems to take all your concentration (because most of you is trying to breathe) which makes it hard to really appreciate those ancient Inca ruins. And they did not disappoint. The architectural skills of the ancients is really astounding as precision cuts into stone, combined with anti-earthquake stacking leaves one wondering how it could have been done without Divine intervention. Along the whole cut of each temple stone, the mortar-free seam was so tight one could not even slip in a piece of straw between the interlocked blocks creating a flush, level wall that even modern times has trouble mastering. Mind boggling.

 

But the altitude of where the ruins rested was even more impressive. Cusco nests at 11,000+ ft. The air is ‘thin’.

 

Admittedly, I would have been even more impressed with the whole package if it weren’t for the trying to breathe thing that occupied my mind. I remember thinking, “Just get enough air, it can’t be that hard. There has got be oxygen somewhere in these molecules right, just get a big breath…that’s right…what did the guide say? ‘Take our time? Quickly now!...what the heck does that mean...don’t worry about it…just breath…nice big breath…OMG! There is absolutely no oxygen on this damn mountain! I am on a mountain right? Or is it a hill? Crap! It’s just a hill!’

 

These were my first experiences of Cusco. I did recover well enough on the bus ride back to the hotel to tell my sister I think I was having hallucinations (certainly from oxygen deprivation) because I kept hearing the tour guide say, “Quickly now! Take your time…We will stop at the Pee-Pee room next.’ But no. I was assured by my sister that that was indeed what I heard. I would comment more on the language barrier more but she (our guide) spoke three complete languages and I spoke one, plus ten words each of three different ones.

 

We rested at our hotel for a bit and, feeling restored, went into the night for a bit of supper. Everything is up and down in Cusco, well, really all of Peru, and the quaint narrow streets were cobblestone dotted with Peruvian women in brightly-colored regional dress sitting with alpacas so tourist could pose with baby alpacas and the women for a very small fee. (I am sure if I would have jettisoned a few non-essentials like my extra shoes and two pieces of clothing I could have slipped one of those adorable baby alpacas in my pack.) We passed on both because we were in search of food. Cusco had a large number of Italian restaurants and we were looking for a Peruvian menu but we settled on a fusion place of both cultures and tried Cuy ravioli followed by a nice sauvignon Blanc of Peru breeding. Cuy is the famed guinea pig of Peru and while it was interesting, it left us undecided and we made a mental note to try it again to make a judgement. Then we retired to the room for the evening and that’s when things really got interesting.

 

Cusco was the one fly in the ointment of our Journey. Hence it has a new name I have bestowed on it, undeserved to be sure, but nonetheless, it remains in my journal as ‘The Poison City on the Hill.’

 

And I will tell you why next time. Until then…just breathe.

 

The Roaming Dogs of Peru

 

Whenever I visit another country I see what one would expect- a large population of what I deemed ‘street’ or feral dogs and Peru was no different. My sister Laureen and I had the pleasure of visiting the cities of Lima, Cusco and the Pueblo of Machu Picchu as well as many small towns in between I cannot remember the names of, all home to a large number of free-roaming dogs in various degrees of cleanliness, though they did look well-fed (At the Machu Picchu site I saw a black dog napping in the middle of the plaza with an untouched sandwich next to him.) and surprisingly social, both to people and to other animals. And happy. (I asked quite a few of them.)

 

I had my pre-conceived notions about feral dogs. Short unhealthy lives filled with the strife of trying to find enough to eat, a safe place to sleep and socially deprived of human companionship. (We all know how dogs love to be spoiled, love to be touched.) But slowly I began to change my perspective, even if just a bit, and was educated in the local cultural attitude.

 

When asked about the ‘unfortunate’ lives of the feral dogs, two different people, in to different areas of the country pointed out that, though they do indeed have a feral population, most of the dogs I saw were family companions and lived and were cared for by their specific guardians. The people just have a different attitude about what it means to be a dog. In their view, they should be free to roam about, visit with other people and dogs and if someone else in the community feeds them or disciplines them for being too rough with the chickens, well that’s the way it goes.

 

While it would make me completely crazy and anxiety-ridden to have my dogs running hither and yon, getting into heaven only knows what; the lifestyle of the Peruvian dogs does have its benefits. The dogs we met were very social and calm in almost any situation- loud noise, traffic, mobs of tourists (most of which handed out treats) and the occasional wild or semi-wild animal had seemingly no effect on them.

 

As I said, it would make me nuts. But it does lead to a question of what effect our own concerns have on our US dogs. Are we overprotective to the point of creating neurotic, nervous dogs unsure of how to conduct themselves in canine society or unusual situations? And is it a reflection on our own society? Are we Americans wound just a bit too tight and it is reflected in the behavior of our dogs?

 

Dogs running about the street are not, in my opinion, the best idea for obvious reasons. Free-lance breeding, the spreading of disease and a high mortality rate serves the good of no one, but the social piece of this tale is very telling and worth looking at in more detail.

 

Are our dogs here at home in the United States becoming more mentally balanced or less? And before I get hundreds of e-mails from outraged guardians and breeders let me clarify I am speaking in general terms and do not condone creating a feral state. But one cannot deny there has been an increase in behavioral issues, need for medication to alleviate anxiety and upswing in unpredictable reactions in our dogs.

 

I’m just saying perhaps it may be in our dogs’ best interest to embrace a bit of the feral lifestyle, loosen the leash a bit and relax into some mental health. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea for us either.

 

Next up on our journey- Cusco, Peru.  Where our adventure turns to a bit of misadventure…

 

Surf and Ceviche in Lima

 

The vacation. That long awaited space of time where we forget our traditional and harried life at home, spend money willy-nilly, forget about diets and work issues to focus on the exploration of another possible way to live. A journey of sorts. A peek at what could be.

 

Mine did not disappoint. I went to Peru with my favorite travel partner, my sister, and we went all in as if we were holding a royal flush in a high stakes Texas no-peeky poker game. We travelled to Lima Peru, climbed Machu Picchu and stumbled around the Amazon Rainforest in some surprisingly cool weather. Even the Amazon was not tank top and shorts weather- more on that in upcoming posts.

 

But I’m going to talk about Lima in this blog since it was our first taste of Peru. And speaking of taste, Lima is known for its varied and fantastic ceviche (it surpassed our expectations) which is a dish made from fresh, raw fish and seafood cooked by using citrus juices – limes and lemons with onions and whatnot washed down with a ridiculously delicious (and oh so powerful) drink known as a pisco sour. We like adventurous eating (and drinking apparently) so we partook in the entire list of standard ‘must tries’ including Cuy, or guinea pig. (We tried it twice to make sure we could cross it off our list, but we were not impressed.)

 

Of course, I am quite in tuned to the animals and our first morning (We came in to Lima at 11:00 p.m.) we had a window seat to the ocean while we ate breakfast and were treated to a lovely little Blue-Grey Tanager who danced in the window for 20 minutes. Up and down the window he went doing I’m not sure what, but it did seem like he was welcoming us to his country. Our server said the local people call him the ‘Bow String Bird’ because when he sings he sounds like a violin in play.  From our perch above the water I was sure I spied seals in the surf so when we finished breakfast we dashed down to the cliffs overlooking the pacific and we did see about a dozen ‘somethings’ bobbing along the curls of waves and I was sure I would be seeing someone from the pinniped community. Further inspection revealed they were indeed surfers. Human surfers. Turns out Lima has a large surfing community…who knew? 

 

We did spot some awesome birds and loved the strolling down the boardwalk, seeing the different birds (bananaquit, Peruvian Dove, Long-tailed Mockingbird and flowers I only could guess the family of much, less the name individually.). Then of course one had to take a break at a seaside restaurant in the afternoon, order a Pisco sour and dip into the ceviche, all done in slow motion because we were after all on vacation.

 

As expected Lima had its share of street dogs - and family dogs, almost no one on a leash and we will talk about them in my next blog.

 

For now, just float on over to the beach, sip on that imagined Pisco Sour and nibble some ceviche. Take a vacation in your head on your break today and take a peek at what could be.

 

The Vortex of Travel

 

For the next two weeks The Intuitive Animal Blog will not post as I will soon check off two – TWO- items off my bucket list, Machu Picchu and the Amazon Rainforest.

 

Consequently, I have not the mind set for deep thinking, or possibly not thinking at all if it does not concern what to pack and how to pack it, shopping for things to pack, making many lists of things to pack and all other manner of odds and ends – that also need packing. I have equipment and clothes piled all over the house, checked off the vaccinations, exchanged USD for PEN, delved into research of possible sightings of this bird or that animal and various other activities that make the hours fly by during the day.

 

Machu Picchu, cloud city of the ancient Incas and a vortex communion, has long been on my list and the Amazon Rainforest, well, I mean who doesn’t want to experience that at least once? And it will not be one of those quick ‘I had my toe on Machu Picchu and then I ran into the rainforest for an hour’ kind of trips. No sir. We spend two days on Machu Picchu and four days deep in the Rainforest…deep in the Rainforest.  The lodge, which doubles as a research base, has two hours of electricity in the morning (otherwise it is candles and lanterns) and our room has only three walls so one can full dip into the feel of the Rainforest. How perfect is that!

 

So, I will soon be off. My mind is open for whatever experience The Divine sees fit to gift me. I will of course be sending back pics if possible but that may have to wait until I get back.

 

Now, back to packing…