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As we travel through Costa Rica, I’ve been reading Joan Didion’s memoir, Where I Was From. She was from Sacramento, incidentally, and the book spends a great deal of time on early Californian history from the late 19th century (the Donner Pass and Gold Rush days of hard-scrabble individualism) to the early 20th century (days of exploitation and domination of the land by the ruling class families, e.g., Irvine, Hollister, Boswell, Stanford, Royce, Chandler…you’ve heard of these guys and their cities, schools, and businesses I’m sure).

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I came to California in the 1950s and much of the landscape Didion remembers and describes disappearing, I, too, remember and often reflect on its disappearance. I’m talking about simple things like an open desert landscape in the near-distance of my life, tumbleweed rolling down my street on a windy Halloween night, orange groves and walnut groves to roam through, dirt and gravel alleys behind mom ‘n pop stores on Ventura Boulevard. I’m talking about more complicated things as well, the ineffable feelings of expansiveness, of possibilities, of the future before us and our chance to arrive there with our hopes intact, our dreams still vital.

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You can say it’s just lost youth I’m mourning here, but I think it’s more than that. I see clearly what we’ve lost in the Costa Rican wild landscape that has surrounded Nettie and me these past couple of weeks. I see it in the faces of the people, I hear it in their voices, I find it in the land they farm, in the sugar cane fields they harvest, I feel it in the muddy, rutted road to our temporary home. It penetrates me from all quarters.

And last night, Nettie and felt it deeply in our spirit…yes, in our spirit, as hifalutin as that word sounds.

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It began in the morning with a horseback ride, which for us was a rather daring thing to do given our past disaster with trail horses. I’ll save that tale for another time. Suffice it to say, that on this beautiful morning thanks to the expertise of our guide provided by Esteban Alizondo on whose ranch we were staying, everything was perfect.

After a four hour journey through farmland and trail, across creeks and sandy river beds, Nettie and I began to blend into the scenery. We began to close the gap between “us” and “it.” It being the landscape. It being the sky. It being the air itself. It being the moment.

We were closing the gap, but we could still see the gap.

Then, at end of day, we went to the forest hot springs, Termales Del Bosque, in the quickening twilight as the rain forest grew dark and the night came alive.

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These thermal springs are a half mile hike into the primeval forest, a hike along a rocky path that descends through dense trees, over streams and through stands of fern and red-bulb ginger, then descends even further until the trail opens into a shallow rock ledge of pools steaming in the darkness.

We’re the only ones here it seems, and for a moment we feel utterly transported to another period in time. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an Indian emerge from the impenetrable flora enveloping us with feathers in his hair and tribal colors marking his skin. As our eyes adjust to the shadow world, we see two heads of two women in a hot spring not far from us.

We continue walking, not wanting to disturb them. We’re greeted by a man who shows us where to change and explains that the pools are of different temperatures…the higher pools against the hillsides are hotter since they are closer to the volcanic source of the heated water, and they can be very hot, 128 degrees.

We find our way to a pool that is just the right temperature for us and we slip into the mineral rich water. As we settle up to our necks, as the fire-flies spark in the tree canopy above us, as the frogs charge the evening with their cadence, as the insects add their harmonic resonance, as the visceral night wraps itself around us, we let ourselves merge with the vibrating air.

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We hover here, in the womb of water that feels like our ancient home, our mind floats away from us and into us at the same time. There’s no need to speak. There’s no need for language. Our thoughts, too, begin to dissolve. Our eyes gently close. Our world becomes the rhythm of the night.

We never want to leave.

 

 

 

 

2 Responses to Back To The Forest

  1. Frank Z says:

    Thanks for the great comment, V. I’m delighted this post resonated with you.

  2. victoria says:

    WOW! sounds like you did have a ‘spiritual’ experience! being at ‘one’ with the feeling that there is something more than the material existence we now live. This week’s blog brought tears to my eyes, coz I was feeling what you wrote -thank you for sharing – love V

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