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Archive for March, 2009

diamonds

diamond

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Memories are revered guests in the temple of my mind and like a welcoming host, I entertain them and listen to their stories. Each visit I decipher a different detail, recollect missed quips of conversation, bask in certain emotions and colors they evoke. Sometimes they require a nightcap, other times they only stay for tea. I try to invite positive ones and they may bring presents of longing perchance regret, I try not to keep the regrets. Here, on the island, where the hustle and bustle of the outside world is missing, I have space for centered thoughts, for deep breathing, and also for appreciation of the past, to recognize and acknowledge what I did not notice before.

Joy

During my daily hikes I always try to find an idyllic spot to sit, either by the ocean or in the dense forest surrounded by non human inhabitants. I watch the daily comings and goings of insects and birds, I cannot fool the other mammals, like the skittish Agouti or called Nieke by the local Panamanians. Each source of life taking their turns to inspect me. A variety of Leaf-cutter ant scouts foraging for tidbits, a black species of stingless Bees or tiny yellow Wasps hover around deciding if I offer nectar, Buho butterflies whisk by and I am surprised to find that I am the only one sitting still and quiet. Every other living organism is going about their business, concerned about living or being eaten this day.

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Oropendula nests

Oropendula nests

Forest-Collared Falocn outside the window

Forest-Collared Falcon

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RAYSin the Sun...

RAYSin the Sun...

More gushings...

More gushings...

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milkyway4

MilkyWay

The Island of Dreamers.

The name crept into the conversation one of the many starry nights during the last weeks of the rainy season this November. There were no visitors at the lab, only a handful of the long term residents spending an evening alone together. We opened a few bottles of delicious red Columbian wine, brought by an animated and gregarious Columbian, Jorge. I like to call him, the philosopher. Everyone was in a pleasant mood, enjoying each other’s company, discussing our day and various work projects. The milky way stretched out across the sky like a diamond studded charcoal cat. I could almost hear a purrr from the sky as we popped open another bottle, but maybe that was the soft hummm in my ear from the wine. We snacked on large juicy grapes, the size of golf balls, from the lab’s organic farm on the mainland, accompanied with cheese and crackers, yet very informal. We are all friends, have become unusual companions through the course of our stay here. Our group represents several countries. Panama of course, Columbia, Mexico,United States, Puerto Rico, India, Italy, France, and Russia. Between all of us, we have trekked the globe. We are seasoned travelers converging, bringing our unique experiences to the deck under the starry starry night. I love it when we have nights like these, when we share our very different and varied stories, in several different languages. Two of the Columbians are well traveled and are wonderful story tellers. Their stories are laden with detail and prose, told with flair, encouraging laughter from the whole group. I am there, within the story,whisked away to Cartegena, Bogota and the wilderness that makes up Columbia. I listen carefully, trying to capture the essence of their voice and characterizations, hoping to one day capture dialogue style and perspective. Then one of the Italians, Aldo, adds his point of view to a certain country in his sing songy English, slipping in a few Italian words, some of which I am familiar with from my University Italian classes, many many years ago. My belly hurts from laughing. We all argue about the best country in the world and I realize how much everyone is proud of where they come from. We are all here on this island for different reasons with dreams in our heads and goals in our hearts. We share our obstacles and listen to the advice that others give. Jorge exclaims, “we are the island of dreamers!” I wholeheartedly agree. “You are the writer, Alpana, write a story about the island and we’ll make a movie. I can’t wait to accept an Oscar!” he claims prematurely. How can I resist his enthusiasm? Who am I to disagree with that?

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Intent

Intent

There are no poisonous snakes on the island, or so I believe. None have been identified, yet, even by the scientists that have tried to record the diversity of animal life in this unusual area. There are boas and pythons but not too large. Beautiful blazing colors define the jungle from the canopy above to the muted colors of the ground below. I saw a small pseudo-coral snake, about width of my pinkie finger the other day, my first snake sighting. I tried to capture it. I am not afraid of snakes, I am fascinated by them. When I was a child and living with my grandparents in India, my grandfather, Dada, taught me how to pick up snakes and scorpions. We practiced on the rat snakes he found in the sugar cane fields on our farm. I loved it. Holding something wild and alive, powerful and so very smooth, almost always cool to touch. They can sense the energy around them. He also told me to be calm when trying to pick them up. Calm and confident, always have your strategy beforehand. That lesson came in very handy in the later years, when I finally learned to put strategy into action in my personal life.

I arrived here two years ago on a small lancha, boat. We rode for two hours from port, gliding above crystal waters, a few mantas jumping out of the sea. Approaching the island, the overgrown vegetation seemed to burst out from the cliffs, brilliant greens framed by various shades of beige and brown rocks. Slowly, we approached an azure blue protected cove, the service marina, my jaw agape. I placed one foot onto the shore, water lapping at my ankle and I immediately thought, “God, if I could only live here.” Intent, even if it was unintentional.

Two years later,now, I am a different person, but inherently the same. Redefined and basically renovated in order to survive, post marriage, post medical career, post, post and finally I want my environment to shape me. I am thrilled. Get over self, my expectations, and just be.

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pathway
pathways

Changes in life are inevitable. We may believe in fate, a master plan, destiny and inexorably chance. I look around me, into the lives of the many diverse people that I am in contact with right now, today, from all over the world, here on this isolated island and then it dawns on me, cluttering my over active mind, of the different paths I could have and probably should have taken and yet, this path, the one I am on now, brings me to this particular place on life’s journey. This island becomes a symbol of my growth, the tunnel into the hidden parts of self through the fresh breath of all that is vibrant and alive around me. I am awakened from a deep slumber by the haunting call of a lance tailed manakin or the grunts from a band of howler monkeys protecting their territory, croaking from the keel billed toucans. I am redefining my existence once more. My job, my successes or failures do not define me. I am not on vacation. I live here. I actually live here.

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