Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Costa Rica: The Last Time

By Donna L. Watkins

In a couple of hours I leave to go back to San Jose for my last week at language school. Yesterday as I sadly strolled through the day saying goodbye to everything, I realized how much I had gotten into the rhythm of life here at La Selva.

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Juvenile Male Mantled Howler Monkey - La Selva
I arose at 5 as usual, hearing the Howler Monkeys staking their claim to their area of trees. One by one the sounds of birds made the forest come alive until they all seemed to be singing one grand Hallelujah Chorus!

With 448 species of birds being seen here (369 observed on the 2007 Christmas Day bird count), it's quite a grand performance each and every day. A gentleman, at dinner a few nights ago, tallied up the birds he'd seen that day and the list totaled 87. It's a birding paradise.

A nearby male Montezuma Oropendola began his gurgling tune with the falling-off-the-branch dance as I call it (video on above posted link). I have so enjoyed their unusual performances which are etched into my mind from hours of watching and listening.

The true joy of my mornings were watching the Collared Peccaries wander around the cabin as if they'd come to greet me and bid me "good day." I'm the type of person that doesn't stand still for long, but I've stood motionless in awe of these gentle creatures that are thought to be aggressive. The males may bark and snap competing for a treasured Bread Fruit, but as a group with the little ones, they are a delight to watch.

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Collard Peccaries - La Selva
I've come upon them in the dark on the way back from dinner and since they don't have good eyesight, I'm as much a shock to them as they are to me, so we both jump a bit and then giggle about it.

They've been a picture of the simple life to me. Wandering about without a seeming care in the world, stopping to eat a bit here and there, cleaning up after getting a bit muddy, all the while looking for dreams to come true by being under the Bread Fruit tree when it drops a large ripe fruit.

I can't imagine how much I will miss them when I can no longer look out the window or walk out the door to see them nearby or going in and out of the forest.

It seemed from my first day's discovery of them I followed their example. I slowed life down, strolled here and there in and out of the forest, showed up for meals at the dining hall, and dreamed of being able to do this every day for the rest of my life.

In only 19 days I have fallen more in love with God and His Creation than I ever imagined. In it I see the detail, balance, and symbiotic relationships that allow rainforests to be the richest in diversity of species.

I also see what man can become by learning from the natural world. If God put this much love into the animals, birds, plants and other living things, how much more did He love us when He created man and woman.

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Passion Flower - La Selva
As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil - this is the gift of God."

The 6 AM stroll to breakfast was mystical as usual crossing the long suspension bridge searching the river trees for birds, iguanas on limbs, and a possible sloth high in a tree. Never did I cross considering the time common. There's something about flowing water that makes all the troubles in your mind and life go flowing away.

As I stood there I wanted to stretch out my arms, hoping the river would wash away the sorrow my heart felt on having to leave, and fill it back up with hope of discovering this same "sense of place" somewhere back home.

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Male Green Iguana - La Selva
I reminded myself that leaving meant it was only one week until my husband arrived, but my mind could not grasp having to spend that week back in San Jose. Another week of school and then we'd be have our little Honeymoon at New Moon. Focusing on that will enable me to turn my back to this place today and ride back to city life. I think I'll have the back seat soggy by the time we get there.

There's so much research continually going on at La Selva. It is one of two Neotropical sites that have been studied the longest and most intensively. The Organization for Tropical Studies that manages La Selva now includes over 60 universities and research institutions from the U.S., Latin America, South Africa and Australia. That positive energy of hope for a future of more rainforests and the discoveries that come with them is part of the wonder of this place.

My trail walk this morning was back to the SUR trail to spend some time in the area I chose for our Adopt-A-Trail Program. This opportunity allows me to be a part of La Selva for a year which makes me feel a little like I'm still on the trails. This annual support is used for projects such as trail maintenance and improvement, swamp access, environmental education, invasive species control, and increasing biological corridors. The connection for me will be a solace as I leave.

© 2008 Kathleen Pol - Blue Morph Butterfly
The day I arrived I got to rescue a hummingbird that was in a bathroom at the screened windows repeatedly trying to get through to the sky. And only yesterday, the morning after my Locked Out Night I saw a Blue Morph Butterfly trying to get back outside on the landing between the floors in my cabin. He saw the light and sky and couldn't understand why the screen held him back. I got the desk chair in my room and carried it up there to rescue him.

These iridescent butterflies are 5 inches wide and they take your breath away when you see one darting past you in the forest with that flash of blue. They have provided many special moments on the trails, especially down by my favorite rocky river scene. They must enjoy the flow and sound of the water also since I've seen many there.

I guess these sun loving creatures just don't have the ability to think about going downward to get skyward. They exhaust themselves of energy and die trying. These two special moments I can take with me and keep forever.

Crossing the river at night for "the last time" last evening was quite solemn. The moon was shining bright. There was a greatness about walking on this long bridge each night with only a flashlight to shine now and then. Moonlight has been slim to none here in this wet tropical forest, so there was something bold and beautiful about the bridge at night. I would turn off my flashlight (after all, there's not going to be a snake on the bridge) and experience it without sight. It was like walking in the sky above the river on a cloud. I couldn't see the side rails and that little bit of movement made me feel like I was walking on the wind.

I have almost 500 photos (thinned from 3,000) from La Selva Reserve and a mind and heart full of memories.

View La Selva photo albums and more in Costa Rica.

Update: There a lot more photos now since I made another trip to La Selva the following year.

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