By Charles Upton
Guaimaro mornings are peaceful. The insects seem to chirp more quietly in the soft hours before daylight while my coffee pot gurgles a warm bubbling aroma. Sitting in the forest, it no longer seems loud but speaking at an appropriate volume. The previous racket of insects, birds, toads, wind and rustling leaves is no longer foreign but comforting and familiar. The occasional rockfall from the loose choosy cliffs is not jarring but an acceptable accent and emphasis to the song of this place.
I have been blessed in my time here to be invited to share many different parts of the territory, sit in peoples homes and share meals. Most of my explorations have been within walking distance, an occasional tuktuk ride or a short ride in a car for convenience. I have been privileged to see and share some of the more intimate parts of the landscape, some of the remaining old growth forest that has already lived a hundred human lives, the spring daylighting after an unknown length of time percolating and traveling underground and the rocks that speak of time without words.
The land here is something special and elusive, prodding the limitations of the English language. What can not be put into characters is a feeling and an essence of this place. I have felt this before in other wild places across the globe, from the cool composed power of the Himalaya to the sharp crackle of the Kalahari but the real difference here are the people, their love for this place and acute awareness of the mystery behind the veil. They know of the magic that permeates from somewhere deeper, infecting them with a feeling of being that calls for them to come and also to stay. I am a perpetual foreigner, a constant immigrant on a pilgrimage of wanderlust. My paperwork is just that, printed words on paper that allow or deny me entry, far more a hassle and limitation than a true reflection of who I am. Through this lens I view this place, coming here with a mind to live, learn, plant seeds and share my limited knowledge. From my simplistic, slippery starting point to now, I feel more comfortable with having more questions than answers. Belonging, ownership, human connections, obligation and needs vs wants all provoke my thinking. Who owns this place and what obligation does that entail? Is it owned at all? Perhaps not by any singular person or entity but is a collective reflection of all life and is owned as equally by all and none of us.
As I mentally prepare myself for my return to the land of my birth, I feel a sense of apprehension and even dread. What will it be like? How much has it changed in my absence? How much have I changed? I feel a strong sense of duty, to family and friends but also to the ongoing necessary work that has been started and remains far from being finished. Simultaneously I feel a sense of obligation to this place and to give back what I have taken. What previously felt exotic and foreign now feels comfortable. Not normal and mundane but it feels right.
Our Western minds engage in conversations about social constructs but rarely apply this thinking to the construct of private property. Instead, we find comfort in building our fences to keep things out while simultaneously penning ourselves in. “This is MINE” we say with conviction, scanning our limited domain while watching a bird fly in and pull a grub from the manicured and overly fertilized chemical sod before flittering on to a tree in the neighbors yard. The bird flippantly ignores the self imposed human constructions of ownership yet seems to do quite well for itself. Either blissfully unaware or consciously ignoring the rules, the bird is able to flourish in its being living a life, raising its young before being composted and consumed by the others. Tom Robbins said something along the lines of “rabbits don’t have jobs, when was the last time you saw a rabbit starve to death?” What hubris to think our species is somehow so incredibly different than all the others that we share this planet with.
We hold the knowledge and our collective backs are strong enough to do the labor. The seeds to grow the trees are here, as are all the raw materials of stone and downed wood to slow, spread and sink water into the landscape. The will and drive to make the changes needed are not intrinsically linked to money. It is only our self imposed limitations and constructions that make us think we can not make the real changes we all need.
“All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to find that it was vanity; But the dreamers of day are dangerous men. That they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible.” - TE Lawrence
Barichara, Colombia·Posted Sun, July 3