This is an episode of my experiences traveling the jungles of Central America.  If you would be interested in reading more such episodes, please let me know in the comments for this article.  I will be happy to write more.  (Note: These experiences formed the basis of my novel, “The Doubting Snake”).

A heavy rain danced on the swollen River Chepo.  I huddled under a bean pod tree in my dugout canoe, basically a long log carved into a canoe.  Once in a while, I grabbed a bean pod, opened it up to reveal the beans covered with fuzz and popped the sugary, fuzzy beans into my mouth, sucking out the juice. 

Suddenly Miguel appeared on the shore, walking along what appeared to be a trail along the river.  He grabbed a branch, leaned out over my canoe and asked, “Are you hiding from the rain?  It is good to get wet.”

I realized how ridiculous it was to hide from the rain when the temperature in this Panama jungle was over eighty degrees.  I saw other people paddling up and down the river in the rain.  So I returned to town (a group of about six stick huts). 

Miguel was already there and had apparently told people that I had hidden from the rain.  A few children ran up to me holding pieces of paper above my head (to protect me from the rain) and they laughed. 

Back on Long Island, my home, I hid from the rain and from the cold and from the traffic, etc.  It seemed that a large part of my life was hiding from things.  Here in the jungle, the mood of the people was to connect with the environment and with each other.  When I realized this difference, it was startling.  Hiding was the theme of my life up North and connecting was the theme here in Central America. 

Carlos was visiting and asked me to come back to his stick house up in the hills about three miles away.  He would answer the question I asked him yesterday about healing.  Carlos was an approximation of his Indian name.  The Spanish people of the town couldn’t (or didn’t want to) pronounce his real name.  Carlos was around seventy years old, wiry and vibrant and lived alone.  He was the best know healer of the area.

I had asked him, “When you heal, what do you feel?”

Carlos brought me into his hut.  After walking all those hills (and after having paddled up River from Chepo City to get supplies) I was ready to go to sleep.  But I was anxious to hear his answer to my question.  Carlos built a fire and kept adding wood to it.  Yet he didn’t seem to be preparing a meal.  Usually meals are cooked on a stone table.  Several sticks are laid on the table like spokes of a wheel and they are burned.  The pot is placed on top of the burning sticks.

But Carlos made a fire in the ground in the middle of his hut.  After a couple of hours there was a large pile of burning coals in the fire and it had gotten dark outside.  I was still waiting for him to answer my question but knew not to rush him.  Everything to him was a ritual.  He threw some herbs on the fire.  I can only describe their smell as “friendly” or “delightful”. 

We both continued to stare into the coals until I realized that it was morning.  I don’t believe I slept at all.  I remember either a sensation or perhaps, it was a dream.  The coals were burning away an army of what I would call “antagonists” which “lived” in my back.  I could only interpret this as the tension in my back (probably caused by sitting in one position all night).  The coals seemed to burn away these antagonists or bad feelings and my back was filled with warmth. 

Then my sternum seemed to split open and I felt another “army of antagonists” living in the front of my body also burn away (again probably tension).  As the front and back of my body seemed to melt and open, the “friendly” smell of the burning herbs filled my body as if to take the place of the bad feelings.  I felt very happy and positive as if I didn’t need to know anything else. 

My concentration was broken as a woman started talking outside and I smelled breakfast of eggs, rice and beans.  Carlos said something to her in an Indian language and she brought the food inside.  He told me to go outside before eating.  I looked at him wondering why I needed to go outside, especially since it was raining.  Then I remembered that I shouldn’t be afraid of the rain.  I went out expecting him to follow but Carlos stayed inside.  The cynical thought came to me that he was going to eat all the breakfast.

Suddenly that thought felt like one of those antagonistic feelings living in my back.  As the rain poured down my body, this feeling was quickly washed away.  Little by little, a lot of feelings inside of me were washed away.  Soon, there was little of me left, as if the coals had burned me up and now the rain was washing away the cinders. 

Carlos called me back in and I sat down.  The woman, middle aged with a hint of a little girl still inside of her, gave me a plate of breakfast.  As I began to eat, Carlos told me to look outside (the door was just a big opening in the hut).   The rain had stopped and the sun was bright.  Butterflies and birds began to visit the plants around the hut and every plant was glistening.

“Like that!” Carlos said.  I said, “What?” 

“I feel like that when I heal,” and he nodded out the doorway.  I continued to watch the flurry of wildlife activity against the glistening plants as I finished my breakfast. Perhaps I understood what he meant or there was just too little left of me to care.  I wanted to go out and be in the hills.  As I looked back at Carlos, he poked his chin towards the door as if to say, “I answered you so now go home.” 

As I walked the hills back to the little “town”, there was less of me than before and more of the jungle.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply