As our days draw to and end here in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, we decide to join a forest tour with a guide named Henry Pizarro Espinoza. We’re told to choose an early morning tour to beat the crowds. Crowds in the forest? I already begin to worry that a tour is not a good idea.

When we arrive at the National Park, the crowds are already here, and I’m sure the experience will be more like a Disney tour than a forest tour. I’m sure we won’t see any animals. I’m sure this won’t be a “real” experience.

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But Henry seems real, his attention is real, his careful grace and penetrating knowledge along the trail are real. He tells the few of us in his group, to slow down, to look carefully. He stops and points.

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“Do you see it?”

We look. We don’t see anything.

“The Jesus Lizard,” he says. “Right there. It can walk on water.”

We still don’t see it.

Then suddenly one of us sees it, then another, then Annette sees it, then I see it. So clearly. Right there in front of us.

He tosses a pebble near the lizard and it does indeed scurry across the surface of a drainage ditch, its feet like tiny flippers skimming the surface. Amazing.

We move on down the road, and then Henry turns to Nettie.

“Don’t move,” he says with some drama. “Something is watching you. Its eyes are wide open. Behind you, a Pit Viper. Deadliest snake in Costa Rica.”

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We all move, we all step back. We don’t see it. Is he kidding? No. He’s not kidding.

Suddenly the viper resolves out of the fabric of the world and appears crystal clear in front of all of us.

Nettie carefully steps away.

Now as we continue along the road, the crowds seems to disappear and the animals come into clarity all around us.

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There’s a sloth high in the tree…

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We look closer and we see the sloth…

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The green iguana in the leaves. We see it.

SPACER LINE FOR PHOTO PLACEMENT.Iguana

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The gray iguana in the pipe.

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The locust on the leaf edge.

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The raccoon in the underbrush.

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BatsBats on tree trunks.

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Even the rowdy squirrel monkey challenges us from his perch in the banana trees.

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As I seem them, all of them around me, I likewise begin to see the experience itself for what it actually is. It’s a real rain forest tour. I’m in the middle of it. The road doesn’t matter. The other people don’t matter.PHOTO PLACEMENT.

The next day, our last full day here, we sign up for a horseback ride to the Nauyaca Waterfalls. Another tour. Another group of people. We engage with them. They are interesting, sweet people.

A couple from Ontario, Canada are especially delightful. A couple from Bordeaux, France. A couple from Boston, newlyweds. Kind people. Helpful people. A man traveling alone from Medford, Oregon. A quintet of sexy twenty-something girls and their testosterone-besotted boys. Fun to look at them. Fun to see them living and broadcasting their thrilling life.

While on my horse, I watch the forest around me carefully. I don’t see much, an occasional bird perhaps. The horses are calm, they plod along.

Then I hear it in the distance…the rushing water. Soon, I glimpse pieces of the waterfall through the dense trees.

We arrive at an overlook. The vaqueros tie up our horses. We all walk down steps closer and closer to the waterfall.

The noise of the falls rises. Everyone changes into swimming trunks and bikinis. I hang back to get my camera.

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When I turn, I see a group of people standing and swimming in the pools. They are indistinguishable from one another. My wife, Nettie, blends in with all the rest at this distance.

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Where is she? I can’t find her.

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For a moment, I can’t see my own life.

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I look closer, carefully closer.

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There she is. My world comes into focus.

My world is right there in front of me.

Quickly…I reach out to grab it…to hold it close to my heart before the waterfall of time chases it downstream.

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5 Responses to Careful…Or You’ll Miss It

  1. Marcy says:

    Hi Frank! We met at dinner at Barba Roja. It was great talking to the two of you! We finished up our vacation with the zip lines. I read that you were initially apprehensive about them. Mark was OK with the zips, but he was a little more than concerned when he found out the only way down was by rappelling. Not on the list of things he thought he was willing to do. He survived. We had a great time but came home with some type of jungle illness -TBD.

  2. Sunny Tneoh says:

    Thanks Frank for helping us to be careful for the real issues in life when there is so much noise in our hyperconnected world. Have a nice day Cheers

    • Frank Z says:

      Thanks, Sunny. Great to hear from you again. I’m delighted this piece resonated with you and hope all is going well in Malaysia with you and your great family…the heart of your life. fz

  3. Frank! Indeed our horseback riding tour was made all the more memorable due to meeting you and Annette! Costa Rica is incredible. I am enjoying a whole new experience through your eyes! Thank You!

    • Frank Z says:

      Hey Elizabeth, welcome to My So-Called Paradise. We did indeed enjoy meeting you and Brian on the trail to the falls. What a wonderful day that was, and made all the more memorable in meeting both of you. Maybe our paths will cross again…or maybe we’ll make them cross by visiting one another in the not too distant future. fz

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