Have you ever taken yourself far outside the digital world to listen and observe? I know I wax poetic about the times I was living near the Caribbean and sitting by the ocean simply to listen. Up here in the mountains, I can no longer hear the ocean in Boquete. But I can hear the wind maneuvering through the tree branches winding around the trunks. I can hear the cacophony of rushing water when I stand by the river’s edge and watch liquid glide over rocks. I can watch tropical colored birds gather in a tree, tweeting and chirping busybodies gathering whatever it is they are gathering in the branches and then a sudden dramatic exodus as the sky explodes with their delicate, iridescent bodies.
A lot of my time spent abroad I have dedicated to teaching myself how to slow down and notice the outdoor world at my fingertips. To know that a day spent outside perhaps doing nothing but observing and listening is a day, in my opinion, very well spent indeed. I remember when I lived in Alaska for a summer seven years ago and the majority of the time I lived out of a tent. I still remember that as being one of the most amazing times in my life because nothing separated me from the outdoors but a sheet of nylon. One of my friends from Argentina, Nico, said recently (translated from Spanish to English here), “It is difficult to find true silence, but I found it here in the mountains of Boquete.” I remembered Alaska and how that was the first time in my life that I experienced true silence. Nothing man-made around to disturb the stillness and vastness of nature. Something so uniquely incredible that it is a sound in and of itself. I have been dancing with that silence again here in Panama. I am house sitting way up in the hills outside of Boquete right now and the other day I decided to listen and observe instead of searching for freelance writing jobs, instead of constantly checking my email and facebook, instead of watching some inane yet funny video on youtube, instead of wasting time, I took advantage of my time by being quiet and listening and observing.
It had started to rain, the thunder and lightning shows here are extravagant and incredible. I sat outside in a hammock on the screened-in porch and listened to the rain. I thought of when I was really young, maybe four or five, and when it rained my dad used to sit in a folding chair in the garage and smoke a pipe while watching the rain. The sweet scent of tobacco undulating around the garage like the Northern Lights billowing across the Alaskan sky. This was the mid 80’s, before the onslaught of digital media. When you could sit and relax, put your feet up and take a load off without constantly thinking about who may have emailed you, who may have “liked” your status on facebook, how you might frame a photo of the rain and then put it on instagram.
I allowed myself to sit in the hammock for several hours, sipping coffee and watching the torrents of
rain seemingly on par with the power of Niagara Falls. The thunder was raucous enough to startle me every so often. Everytime I thought to myself, “I should probably go back inside and do blah blah blah on the computer,” I nudged the thought away. I wanted to sit and be present in that moment, to de-compress, to remember that there is such abundant beauty in nature; the sounds and the sights, and life will never be long enough to fully enjoy it. I tried to listen only to the rain, I tried to quiet all the thoughts in my head and concentrate on only the organic sounds surrounding me and the hammock. It was difficult. I try to do the same when I’m practicing yoga but I have difficulties turning the machine off in my head. I’m sure you do too. I have difficulties concentrating on one task at hand, especially if that task includes sitting still and simply quieting my mind. Often close friends tell me, “stop thinking so much, stop analyzing so much.” It’s advice I work on every day.
After the rain stopped, the sky actually cleared up a bit, which is rare in this rainy season in Boquete. I walked around the perimeter of the yard and stood on a big rock at the edge of a hill. Two tall, skinny trees rise up to a ‘V’ in the front of the rock. Standing on it, you can see Alto Boquete and Volcan Barú. It was the first time since I’ve been here (almost two months) that there was actually a bit of a sunset. The west side of the sky was that type of bright orange light that occurs in the evening after a massive rainstorm; like the pulp of an overripe mango. The northwest side of the sky was dappled with striations of long, narrow white clouds hanging so low in the sky there was surely fog in Alto Boquete. I watched the sky gently change from orange to dark blue to black. I watched the clouds continually disperse and then redistribute themselves over and over again moving at a steady pace like a sleeping child breathing. I stood on the rock for an hour choosing to capture the images with my internal viewfinder rather than that of a camera.
When true night hunkered down from horizon to horizon I hopped off the rock and walked around to the front gate at the edge of the driveway. I had noticed several nights earlier spiderwebs between each bar of the gate. The moon was shining just so that the spiderwebs were all lit up from behind. This night, it was even better as individual rain drops had caught on each spiderweb thus looking like perfect, mini, opalescent pearl necklaces weaved into webs. In the middle of many of the webs sat tiny spiders, smaller than a thumb tack. I stared in awe, the perfection of the outdoor world something we can never ever match in our own lives. I was reminded of a verse from one of my favorite Pablo Neruda poems, Through A Closed Mouth A Fly Enters:
What we know is so little/Es tan poco lo que sabemos
and what we presume is so much/y tanto lo que presumimos
and we learn so slowly/y tan lentamente aprendemos
that we ask and then we die./que preguntamos y morimos.
Better to keep our pride/Mejor guardemos orgullo
for the city of the dead/para la cuidad de los muertos
on the day of the departed/en el día de los difuntos
and there when the wind goes through/y allí cuando el viento recorra
the hollows of your skull/los huecos de tu calavera
it will decipher these enigmas for you,/tu revelará tanto enigma,
whispering the truth in the space/susurrándote la verdad
where your ears used to be./donde estuvieron tus orejas.