That night my brain went haywire and I had the most absurd dreams. I was having a conversation with Whoopie Goldberg about The Secret Life of Bees, when I found a white frog on the road. I picked it up and my hands began to inflate. Thankfully Tilman was there with a needle in hand and managed to pop them. I then found a baby dinosaur in a bush and cared for it until its parents saw us and came after me. Suddenly, I was struck by an image of an elderly Peruvian man’s face glaring at me. My head began to pound when I couldn’t shake the image from my mind. Finally, I screamed the words “I respect you!” and I woke up.
The day that followed was not nearly as eventful as my dreams, with the exception of the arrival of an unexpected guest. No, not another jaguar. An older man who turned out to be our neighbor (from miles away). He was visiting to notify us that he’d seen the cat. He lived alone and so when he came across the feline, he was frightened and shot at her with his bow and arrow. He said that she ran off when he hit her, and warned us not to go out alone in the forest or even around the garden at night. Tilman was exasperated and upset that this man would shoot at an endangered animal, but we soon found fresh prints that indicated the jaguar was still alive and a mother no less, as indicated by the much smaller prints we found next to hers.
Still, we took the man’s words to heart and from then on didn’t go to the bathroom alone at night. I also stopped this silly habit I had picked up of doing my laundry after the sun had gone down. And though we joked about the jaguar in the light of day and poked fun when people started at a rustling in the forest, I sometimes thought I could feel her just a stone’s throw away in the dead of night, watching us with quiet eyes from the canopy.
I began to understand why the Incas saw jaguars as gods. Powerful and unpredictable, they conjure up respect from those who cross their paths. Camouflage lends itself to omnipresence and the ability to see in both night and day to omniscience. And so it is said that a jaguar can see into the secret parts of the human heart and judge its worth. Stare into the eyes of a jaguar, and you are looking into the depths of your fears and desires. There you will see a reflection of a premonition, and the truth about yourself.