Friday, September 25, 2015

Living in Green by Addie Cady

Living in the rainforest is living in green. The first day we arrived at La Selva I remember being struck by it—so much color my eyes couldn’t focus. Walking into the trees for the first time, rain-boots planting sloppy wet kisses on the mud, everything seemed to meld together, trees, vines, grasses, into a soup of greenery. I was blown away that our guide could so easily point out the creatures hiding within this tremendous swathe of biomass, a bird here, a blue-jean frog there, two iguanas peering down from the treetops, a mother howler monkey cradling her child, an algae-covered sloth, an ant the size of my thumb (all right, maybe not quite that large). What life!
            In the rainforest breathing is like drinking. The air is heavy in my lungs; it smells of decomposing leaves and pockmarked earth and budding, blooming, wilted flowers. On many stretches of path it wrinkles my nose with what has become the all too familiar reek of peccary, a pig relative that most resembles a massive rodent and that would be nothing but a nuisance if it weren’t so supremely adorable, curled up in piles of up to ten animals snoring under the midday sun. One day, on a plant identification walk with Orlando, one of the station’s naturalists, we were informed that the combined mass of all the ants in La Selva is greater than that of all its mammals. Right then I thought of those piles of peccaries and I shivered to imagine how many ants it would take to outweigh them. If there has been any theme to my studies of nature here in Costa Rica it has been merely a growing comprehension of its astounding scale.
            There is some almost intangible quality of La Selva that brings peace. Perhaps it is the sound of rain on clay rooftops as I sit on a hammock, flipping through pages of class notes, watching as the haze of morning is washed away in the downpour. Perhaps it is the slowness of movement, “tico time” as they call it here—a sense of no hurries, no clocks, pura vida. It might be the smiles of the kitchen staff as I ask to learn the Spanish names of foods or the astounded laugh of the heart of palm plantation manager as I tell him in halting Spanish of the snows of Massachusetts. He wants to know if I’ve ever built a snowman and he’s shocked to find out we leave our houses when there’s snow on the ground. “How do you get out your door?” he asks.

            All my life I have tried to grab onto the world and understand it by force. Here the understanding seeps in through my pores. In the colors, the smells, the feel of the air, the sense of security, even in the face of venomous snakes and bullet ants, I am drawn in. I have been here only four weeks and somehow it already feels like home.

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