Tuesday, February 17, 2015

La Selva dreams (+1 Nightmare)

The La Selva Rainforest is like the setting of dreams that I had as a kid. Dreams where I explored and felt at home in the wild. And dreams where I was afraid and I had to run.

Every time I walked in the woods, I felt a change. The sounds and sights overwhelmed me and shifted my focus outside of myself. During our forest adventures, there were moments when I felt like a loud human intruder; barging through an ancient forest that didn't want me or need me. The trees that towered over me shaded the path long before I was born, and will (hopefully) cast their shadow long after I'm gone. There were moments when I felt one with the forest, completely enveloped by the dense green. My head would clear, my heart would slow and, I would be in this dream-like state. Finally emerging from the cool jungle interior into the sunlight was just like waking from a dream. Even routine walks had a surreal quality to them. I was in this rainforest-trance when something actually surreal happened to me.

I was running along the main paved path at twilight, where I had run many evenings before. We had only a few days left at La Selva, and I wanted to spend as much time on the trails as possible. Now, this entire day I had felt off- anxious, unable to concentrate. My hands kept shaking and my heart would start racing for no reason. I figured some time in the forest would calm me down.
On my way back, about 4 km from the station, I heard something emerge from the woods alongside me. I figured it was a pecari, one of the wild pigs that run rampant around La Selva. I turned, and found myself staring into the eyes of a puma. I could have reached out and touched him. He was bigger then me and was now on the concrete pathway, advancing right behind me.

Decision time. Will he pounce? Should I get down and cover my face? Should I run?
I didn't make a sound and never stopped moving. He ran after me as I sprinted. For the first time the rainforest was silent. All I heard was my ragged breathing. Each time I looked over my shoulder I was gaining distance between us, until the puma finally disappeared into the darkness.
I reached the station and emerged into the fading light. I wasn't sure if I was about to cry or laugh or fall over. A butterfly flitted by my face and I had to stifle a startled scream. I hadn't even thought to scream before. I had never run so fast or made such a primal choice: fight or flight.
I couldn't sleep that night.

Even now, when I think about the puma, it feels like someone else's story. That night, and all of my other (albeit less exciting) days and nights in La Selva will always feel like something that I might have dreamed.

Abigail Mahoney

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