Stepping into the Unknown: A Trip to Peru Part 2
by Michelle Katz
The Amazon felt like the most magical of places after leaving the bustling city of Lima. This landscape was bustling in all the right ways for me. This is where the light on the reflecting and open river meets the darkness of the damp forest, knowing they cannot live without eachother. The trees were so alive in their movements, some even had legs and actually moved about 4 feet a year across the damp rich soil of this earth! Walking trees! The birds, all kinds, spoke full conversations without a care for who was listening in. The TIti Monkeys played endless games with exclamation of excitement in their jumps and leaps. The Caiman and Heron quietly played hide and seek with each other in little corners of this world. The heat seeped into everything, the mosquitos buzzed, the termites crawled and took down trees, the rubber dripped from bark, the Capabara scurried and crunched on the good leaves of low plants, and if you listened well enough you could hear things growing, and the rain, oh, the rain ROARED! Everything was alive and there was nothing to do but feel it's aliveness!
On my first morning, the wake up time was 5am for a 6am departure across the Madre De Dios River, Mother of God (appropriately named), that weaves its way like a snake through the jungle. The river was the main mode of transportation, to navigate in this way helped me connect to the bloodstream of the landscape. I felt myself pulsing with the movement of weaving through its thick warm waters. The wild thunderstorm boomed at 3am waking me up to my own heartbeat. The resonance of the beat left me feeling alive. It had not stopped raining since, which they tell me is unusual for this season. I am delighted in this dampness, in this downpour, in the sounds that accompany a climate like this. My desert skin has missed this. We arrived at a trail through the Terra Firma Forest of the Tambopata National Reserve of the Amazon, toward Lake Sandoval.
There are large ponds of accumulated water on the trail. I try to walk around them when possible, but this is not always an option. I find myself in deep thought, knowing that I need a guide on this land but wanting the solo time, I hold back from the group. I began to think about the water on this land, how some gets absorbed by the earth to become the mud and clay I place my feet on… at least somewhat surely. Then there are parts of the land that soak in the rain water and other parts of land that can absorb no more, holding water on the surface. I wonder how long the land will take to absorb this experience, after the rain stops? I think about how the land absorbs some water immediately and how it takes time to absorb the rest. I reflected on this lesson in my own life as I walked this landscape. What have I absorbed and what still sits on my surface long after the rain has come and gone?
My time in Peru marks a journey for me that started a decade ago, when I first told myself I would visit Peru, one day. I had heard of its ceremonial culture, this majestic landscapes, its earth connected people. The last 10 years have been challenging, as I am still, bit by bit absorbing its accumulated rainfall.
As I walked the path in this lush jungle, I couldn’t help but feel I was missing something essential in this experience by walking around the ponds and as I saw my Amazonian guide walk through them. This is the same guide that told me about the rite of passage in his village which involves young men cutting down a large hardwood tree, on their own in less than 24 hours followed by immersing his hands in bullet-ant gloves to experience the most painful bites. The completion of these tasks signify his stepping into manhood. I felt grateful for the practice of a four day fast in nature as a rite of passage instead.
I took this opportunity, in the rainstorm of the Amazon, to step in. Born in the midwestern United States, I am no stranger to splashing in puddles, but here in this foreign jungle, everything felt more uncertain with creatures wild and unknown. I watched my resistance as I approached each pond , sticking one foot in and leaning back, just in case I needed to change course immediately to save myself from the depths. It felt silly to me each time, but again and again, uncertainty hit as I approached each clouded brown puddle. In time, I told myself, “Wait a second! I have rain boots on!---they reach my upper calf! I got this!” I then began to unrestrictedly step into each puddle upon the path. The depths still unknown and varying in texture. Also inviting in play, splashing in puddles and remembering my childlike nature.
Naturally, though this process I began to recall the moments in my life when I was stepping into the depths, into uncertainty-- times when I unmistakably felt my resistance and that I had no way out of the sinking into the mud. Times when I could not, did not know what would be underneath the cloudy water I was stepping into. I know in many of these difficult journeys there was no other choice I could have made—I had to go through, not around, it was the only way. The Amazon reminded me of this.
More importantly, it was the knowing that I had-- i always have-- everything I need with me that helped me get through. This is the greatest lesson to continually remember. While we may not always come equipped with knee-high rain boots, we carry with us the strength and intuition we need to make it through the situations we are faced with. It is often easy to experience our fear and limiting beliefs when facing challenges, and the invitation is to remember you already have everything inside you that you will ever need. It is just a matter of reconnecting with that part of you again and again and allowing it to guide your steps forward.
The option to stay inside was always present in the Amazon with the unexpected rain and cold. But the jungle continued to call me out. When it rains, when it pours, when the cold can be felt all the way to the core, when the unexpected occurs, when the discomfort is unbearable, what do we do? How do we face it? How do we find that part of us that keeps us going outside to face the storm? To embrace the cold? To feel the rain on our face and know we can meet it?