Back at the MLC, we had our second day off. A few tourists had arrived of the avid bird watcher breed, so we had to be on our best behavior. We couldn’t help overhearing their discussion during breakfast: “I was hoping to see at least 250 by the end of today… Oh yes, a very rare species… must head down to the lookout,” etc., etc. I wish I could get that into birds.
One of the tourists was a retiree who apparently used to be some kind of politician but now works for a conservation organization of sorts. Awkwardness ensued when I ran into him in the restroom when I was sniffing my laundry to see if it was clean, but that did not stop him from chatting me up about my alma mater which he had visited before. Ah the joys of the communal bathroom. But really, he seemed pleasant. Though he did make a crack about North Carolinians eating squirrels. “Only when we hit them with our cars first,” I chided. To be fair, I did mention something about him coming over from the dark side, so I guess we’re even.
The tourists had a lot of birds to watch and not a lot of time, so they went on their way while the rest of us went to the river for a swim. We covered ourselves in clay- good for the skin, you know- and took in the scenery. Floating on a cool river, looking at the clear blue sky, I fell deep into thought. I felt different somehow since I had arrived, more at home than I’d ever been anywhere else. Every night I went to sleep content and complete, and never with a heavy heart. It’s no secret that many scientists believe the cures to most of the world’s diseases lie waiting in the rainforest, but what was it about the place itself that was so healing?
Back home I always felt the urge to take up my time, to keep doing and doing. But still, there was an emptiness. Rather than filling me up, all that activity was making things more and more complex. I was beginning to feel separate from everything and everyone. I was in my head and away from nature. The funny thing is that all I really wanted in the first place was to feel connected. There, in the middle of nowhere, I remembered what it was like to be part of a community, to feel small but part of a bigger picture, to waste nothing and want for nothing. Surrounded by nature and the most generous, kind-hearted people, I realized that I belonged.
(Photo cred: Nelly via Erica’s camera)
Later that night, Lilia, the manager, told me she felt the same way about the MLC. “We always work together here,” she told me. “There’s no other way.” With that, she cooed over a trio of tiny baby mice she had saved earlier that day, tucked them in, and everyone went to bed.