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A transformative travelogue from the most biodiverse region in the world

A transformative travelogue from the most biodiverse region in the world

Notes from the Costa Rican Jungle

“I don't think the meaning of life is what we're seeking. I think it's an experience of being alive, so that our experiences will have resonance within our innermost being and reality. So that we feel the rapture of being alive.”

-Joseph Campbell

The Journal

We explored the land with a local guide, Yaznir, who astounded me with his ability to see. 
At first, all you saw were pulses of green. Densely coiled vines wrapped around thick trunks, lush foliage that hung like fraying tapestries, palm fronds that arched to the sun. Verdant castles in the sky. 
Then swiftly, he'd point us to some spot in the distance, immersed in this dense wave of zinging green. It was humbling. I would not be able to see what he saw unless he zoomed in with his telephoto lens. 

Gradually, I realized the secret. You had to sharpen and converge all your senses into one point. 

Like a camera lens focusing, the obscure spot then opened to wonders like: 
Birds that lay wrapped in the leaves like colorful bon bons. 
Spider monkeys with their elegant obsidian hands. 
A sloth hanging in shadow with her baby. I'm convinced they'd make the best therapists. One glance at their cheeky smile will melt all seriousness from your heart and remind you of your place in this grand game of life. 

It didn't rationally make sense. 
In order to arrive, we'd have to take an airplane, stay overnight at an airport hotel, ride a 5 hour shuttle at 3 am, then embark on a 2 hour boat ride to this place, located in a country that I had visited only weeks before. 

Was it worth the fuss? Was it worth the expense?

Sometimes, the calls of our hearts are not convenient. It involves fuss. I tried to reason my way out of this one, but it still lingered for days, deepening in hue like the sky after sunset. I knew I had to go, and this was my window of opportunity. 

This place was the Osa peninsula in Costa Rica, coined by National Geographic as “the most biologically intense place” in the world. It harbors 2.5% of the planet's biodiversity, meaning number of species, in just 0.001% of its surface area. 

If you read my studio newsletter last month, you may remember that I was already in Costa Rica. It was my first time experiencing the jungle, and I was astounded by the sheer presence of life forms there, what was awakening inside me in this ecosystem.  

When I returned home, some part of me was still lingering there. I set the rainforest sound as my alarm tone, cooked the traditional gallo pinto for breakfast, and worked to the “Jungle Instrumental” playlist on Spotify. 
It was also going to be my mother's birthday, so I thought this would be a beautiful experience to share with her. 

So, after some deliberation, we went.

Our lodge, bordering Corcovado National park, was only accessible by boat, where you curve ball on choppy crocodile waters around mangroves, rolling rainforest, and pristine beaches cut like scythes.

We were dropped thigh-deep in the ocean and carried our bags to the shore. My mother is in her 60s, so this brought her out of her comfort zone, as many parts of our time together would. 

We stayed in a bungalow overlooking the black sand coast, sharing the same neighborhood with monkeys, jaguars, and other non-human residents. 

Entering the Jungle Book

In the jungle, life is so in front of your face. You feel the hot heaving breaths of mother nature weighing down your clothes, swirling around your ankles as you journey close to the breast of creation. 
Day breaks open with the chorus of a thousand voices, as if all the music genres of the animal kingdom were broadcast from the treetops. 
You have the classical melodies of the finches, the opera of the gray tinamou, the blues of the male curaçao, the rock n' roll of monkeys, the hip hop of woodpeckers, the heavy metal of jungle cats, and the alternative tunes of the coatis. 
SQUAWKKKK. My mom and I look up to see two trains of bright red feathers brushing across the sky. We look at each other, wondering the same thing: did you see that? 

Later, we learn that these belonged to scarlet macaws, flying paint palettes of primary color: red, blue, and yellow. You'll always see them in two, as they do everything together during their 60-70 year lifespan. A Shakespearean love. When one dies, the other quickly passes on as well. 

The Journal

Field Notes from the Rainforest

We walked with the walking palms, trees that move up to 20 meters a year. 

We stopped and marveled at the fine mud jugs hanging on trees, spit by termites. 

We passed by mother trees that leaked milk from their bark, tending to their community through a complex system of roots. 
Under one of these roots was a delightful find. Yaznir crouched down and pointed to a small disc covered in moss. He gently pried it open with a palm needle to reveal a trap door, laser cut by a spider. 
A shiny black body drowsily emerged, rubbing its many eyes, before we let it sleep again. I'm sure it's only a matter of time until it comes up with the “Do not disturb” sign. 
It didn't take long to notice that here, you were standing in a courting, mating, budding, bursting, feasting, fighting, dying, playing, hiding, resting, working, growing, sleeping, defecating, decaying rhapsody.
There was no function of life missing here. 

Jungle gates. You could spend a lifetime studying one footstep. 

As the days passed by, we started to sense the rhythm of the jungle's jukebox.  

Punctual pelicans became our clocks, flying in two-handed formations at the same hours every day. 

There are many ways to tell time, as the tides will also tell you. 
The loud morning chorus would transition into a mild lo-fi in the afternoon, when jungle residents would retreat from the midday heat. The soundscape would pick up again at sunset, when white faced capuchins often came for their coconut feast up in the palms. 

The sun then went for a bath, dipping behind the horizon. 
Have you noticed how the colors intensify after the sun dies to the day? Perhaps death leaves the most intense beauty in its wake for those willing to stick around and see. 

Learning the Jukebox of the Jungle

Night falls. We put on our rubber boots and gathered our flashlights to enter the buzzing steamy thicket once again.  
Just as the stars burst like popcorn in the sky, the ground burst with shadow creatures of all shapes and sizes. 

There were frogs, big and small. There were crayfish darting about with their glowing Jupiter eyes. There were spiders stitching their couture death shrouds for prey. 
The slimy, stingy, venomous, grotesque, and putrid are all part of the beauty, an inner voice whispered. 

Leaf cutter ants continued to march on, carrying flower petals and leaf pieces to their queen with the same devotion as wiseman carrying gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds of mother night.
My heart burst with gratitude. 
The day ended with a bonfire at the lodge, where two tapirs passed by.

I lay in the grass, studying the stars with the Stellarium app, feeling like a giddy child when I found Jupiter. I was so entranced by my embedment in the cosmos that I didn't notice the mosquitos devouring my legs. 

The lullaby of bioluminescent ocean waves carried me to sleep, to dream of condors. 

When was the last time you gazed at the stars?

Sometimes, the calls of our hearts are not convenient. They involve late nights, early mornings along unpaved roads, the shake of the piggy bank, an extra side gig or two, the quivering yes beneath the no. 

But time and time again, I have found it is worth it. Your heart will not lead you astray.
Pura vida,

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