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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Hidden Jungle Hawk

Hidden Jungle Hawk

On the island two weeks after the northern summer solstice, gray clouds hover in the sky.  The birds had finished building their nests during April and May, while the sky gave hints of rain with brief scattered showers.  The parched soil soaks up the water and different colors pop up in the jungle.  Bright colors are prevalent in tropical forests like bejeweled pins in the thick jungle of the Mother Nature’s hair.  Dark green, fire engine red and vivid orange fruits growing on the numerous trees greeted the month of my birth, inviting animals to eat them and disperse their seeds.  Usually, bright colors betoken either sex in birds, as when a dazzling turquoise, bright red and black Lance Tailed Manakin male seeks a lemon green female for a mate before and during the spring equinox.  A brilliant pink or purple blaze of flowers try to seduce pollinators, the several species of bees, which symbolize fertility and the honey of life or the hummingbirds, which symbolize tireless joy and the nectar of life, with their sweet smells and colors.  The forest is blessed with numerous species of hummingbirds and several varieties of stingless and stinging bees.  The rains bring forth another world to the jungle.  Each flower species, the one that blooms before the rains or the one that blooms after the onset of the dry season signals to a particular insect or bird to visit.  Twice a year, as I walk under the canopy, Mother Nature offers me a carpet of fallen flowers and petals to tread for my initiation back into Her real world.

I am surrounded by unusual sounds that change throughout the year, the mating calls of birds in the wet spring or the falling of leaves and branches in the dry winter.  I am consumed by the changing of unusual smells,  the sickly pungent of decaying leaves in the ceaseless rains or the sharp musk of beach soil baking in the sun and I know I am changing too.  Away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world I have space for centered thoughts, deep breathing, and appreciation of my jumbled past.  I am able to recognize and acknowledge the Divine’s presence throughout the meandering course the river of my life has taken.  The island and also our earth are home to countless distinct organisms with individual traits that define its role in the overall system.  I watch the comings and goings of my neighbors the leaf cutter ants and their endless paths through the forest, harvesting leaves in the day time between the summer solstice and fall equinox when birds are most likely to forage for insects in order to have enough energy to lay eggs and after sunset between winter solstice and spring equinox when they can regenerate their numbers. Ants symbolize industriousness, order, and discipline.  Mother Nature provides a variety of ways of living, which together make the forest function as a whole.  The same with our lives, we awaken, become mature and are ready to accept our gifts in the right season, the Divine’s plan for the natural world.

Bare wings

Bare wings

Wings to fly...

Wings to fly...

Fly forward..

Fly forward..

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Solitude

Solitude

RancheriaCoibaBirdtrip2009March 206
Roar

Roar

Star

Star

Beauty has its own heavenly language, loftier than the voices of tongues and lips. It is a timeless language, common to all humanity, a calm lake that attracts the singing rivulets to its depth and makes them silent. Only our spirits can understand beauty, or live and grow with it. It puzzles our minds; we are unable to describe it in words; it is a sensation that our eyes cannot see, derived from both the one who observes and the one who is looked upon. Real beauty is a ray which emanates from the holy of holies of the spirit, and illuminates the body, as life comes from the depths of the earth and gives color and scent to a flower.

Kahlil Gibran
Broken Wings

Beauty in the palm of my hand

Beauty in the palm of my hand

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Traid

Traid

Peace is experienced in a variety of ways.  Happiness is called by many names.  The language of numbers is definite.

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Tracking

Tracking

I spent five days at the UNESCO world heritage site, Coiba Island National Park assisting with bird tracking research. The island is 46 miles offshore encompassing 150 miles of unspoiled beaches. It is the largest island in Central America, about the size of Barbados. Coiba island is also one of the last places in Central America where the Scarlet Macaw (Ara Macao) can be found in the wild and in large numbers. The sight of a flock of Macaws flying overhead was humbling, I was stunned, paralyzed and unfortunately was unable to fish out my camera fast enough. The island has three endemic subspecies, the Coiba Mantled Howler monkey (Alouatta Coibensis), the Coiba Agouti (Dasyprocta Coibae), a short tailed, plant eating large rodent, the size of a domestic cat. Finally, a bird species I helped the ornithologists to track, the Coiba SpineTail (Cranioleuca Dissita).

Greeting the morning sun from Coiba Island

Greeting the morning sun from Coiba Island

We woke up every morning at 5AM groggily fixing snacks and bottling cold water for our trip and arrived onshore  to meet a boat that took us to a remote area Coiba where we spent about 5 hours hiking through dense jungle along a marked transect.

Vine Portal

Vine Portal

The path was hacked with a machete through the vegetation, an almost impenetrable tangle of vines and bushes and marked with colored markers tied to small trees or branches. We walked steadily through the jungle, grabbing onto vines for hand holds, using roots, rocks, and small trees to steady us as we meandered up and down inclines following the Spinetail and Ruddybacked dove calls and searching for nests.

Knots

Knots

The ground was packed with leaves and rotting foliage in certain areas, careful not to slip, each step measured for reliability. It was intense, and I loved it. With each deep breath, I filled my lungs with a variety of smells, sweet and fragrant from the newly blossoming flowers, since the rains began just a day or two ago.

Hungry Honeybee

Hungry Honeybee

Yet, as the day progressed the humidity and heat rose so our clothes were drenched,we sweat as much as the water we drank. Invigorated as we neared the end of the transect we sat in a clear patch to eat a snack, comparing our observations.

I learned so much on this journey, met some brilliant ornithologists and feel closer to the natural world around me.

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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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