We’ve been back a week or so from Costa Rica and Panama’. It’s a time for reflecting on the trip, of course, and meeting up with friends and family at some point and giving them the highlights and maybe even showing them some pictures…depending on their interest or attention span.

I want to do these catch-ups soon because I forget things rather quickly these days and the events of the trip will soon merge together and cook down to an unrecognizable, though tasty, stew.

I also promised myself to write a review or two on Trip Advisor for some of the places we stayed and of some of the events we experienced. And that’s what got me thinking about the nature of the vacation experience itself.

surfSure, we did some cool, touristy things…river rafting, an estuary crocodile tour, jet skiing, sailing, snorkeling, horseback riding, hot springs, nature hiking in the cloud forest and around the volcanoes, even zip-lining…

…oh, yes, zip-lining…I remember that…

Upon reflection, though, the memories of the trip coalesce not around the events no matter how thrilling they were, but around the people we met along the way. A bit like life itself, the meaningful moments are illuminated through the prism of relationships.

Patrick and Nadine the first day of the trip at the Tacacori Eco Lodge, the Stebletons at Tamarindo beach, Esteban Elizondo in Arenal, Donna in Manuel Antonio, the gentle Ivana at Tulipanes in Panama, Henry Pizarro and Agata and Hector…and…Katie and Christoph from Germany…and…

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…Ulysses…our zip-lining guide…

Oh, yes, zip-lining…I remember that well…and how curious that his name would be Ulysses.

Nettie and I were trepidatious from the start. Did we really want to do it? Could we do it? Mundo Aventura had the longest and best zip lines around. One of them nearly a mile long, suspended over two waterfalls and disappearing into the far distance from a terrifyingly high launch platform. Surely, we could select shorter zip lines, lower suspensions. Surely.

We arrived early, talked to the line operators. “No” was the answer. The longest zip line could not be avoided. In fact, it was the first zip line we would encounter. We chickened out. We justified our decision…we’re too old, it’s too dangerous, Nettie’s afraid of heights, I need to stay in control. We signed up for the nature tour instead.

cicadaThat’s when we first met Ulysses. He was 100 percent native Costa Rican Indian, one of the few left. He offered to take us on the tour. He was supple in his movements, slight of frame and ever smiling. He spoke softly and quickly as we moved through the forest alongside a rushing stream. He snatched a large insect from the air, held it out to us, “cicada” he whispered, “song of the forest.”

He hurried onward ahead of us and I watched him, this primeval person so at home here in the dense foliage, gliding along, his feet barely touching the ground, handing us samples of edible plants to eat, pointing out hidden animals deep in the green.



It began to rain suddenly and heavily. He pulled a large-leafed plant over our heads, “umbrella,” he laughed as the rain glistened in his hair and ran down his cheeks.

Then he asked, “Why are you not zip-lining?” We hemmed and hawed…and then told the truth. “We’re afraid, we just can’t do it.”

“Oh you can, sure you can. With Ulysses you can. I know how you can.”

“How?” with said in unison.

“Don’t think about it,” he said in a sing-song voice filled with laughter, “You don’t think about it,” he whispered leaning in close to us. “Come with me and we won’t think about it.”

Nettie and I looked at each other, then back at this wise, primal person before us, and whispered back, “Okay, we’ll try it.”

His smile was bigger than the sun that began to break through the clouds, “Good,” he said, “let’s go.”

It happened quickly then…we ran with Ulysses across a cow pasture, ducked through a barb wire fence, jumped into an old bus that he’d called to drive us to the top of the mountain. We met Marcos another of Ulysses’ special guides. And suddenly we were at the bottom of the launch platform with many steps to climb just to reach the monster zip line.

Annette stopped, look up at the steps. I took a hesitating step. Ulysses came up to us, caught our eyes in his eyes, “Don’t think about it. Okay?” he nodded. We nodded back to him, “Okay,” and began our climb.



When we got to the top of the platform, the nearly mile-long zip line loomed before us. It was intimidating to say the least and we once again froze like cats caught in a tree. I was to go first, my eyes were fixated on the length of cable, the thousands of feet of empty space in front of me.

Ulysses helped me into my harness, my helmet and my leather gloves. He snapped my clip onto the cable.

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His smile changed, then, he stance toughened, his arms came up, but there was no threat, no judgment, just confidence he was conveying to me.

“You are ready now. Don’t look. Don’t think it about. You are ready. Step out. Let go. Step out.”



I kept my eyes on Ulysses, I trusted Ulysses.

I stepped out into the void and everything became a blur as the wind rushed over me and the world’s gravity turned my body into a bullet hurtling through space, screaming along high above the impossible tops of waterfalls with the slender trees far below me, my throat screaming out its own thrill and excitement with me nowhere in sight to slow anything down.

And I was not thinking at all. For once in my life, for the ride of my life, for the uncountable seconds or minutes or hours that this charged moment lasted, I was both invisible in time and omni-present with it all.

Oh, Ulysses! How wonderful to have met you. How perfect to find you here in the tangled forest of my thoughts, high above the cares of my mind and the foolish hesitations of my heart.

Don’t think about it





2 Responses to The Deep Wisdom Of Ulysses

  1. Cary Winston says:

    That was a wonderful story. I am glad you and Nettie were able to stop thinking long enough to have that amazing experience.

  2. Joe Noble says:

    the sum up story of my whole life, Frank!

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