In late March I left Calgary to volunteer at an Ayahuasca healing centre in Pucallpa, Peru for two months while Dave has been taking care of our dog, business and lives at home in Calgary. It’s been two years since I was in Peru last and ever since leaving I’ve been trying to get back. Finally things lined up for me to spend two beautiful months here. You can’t see it but there’s an ironic smile on my face as I say that, knowing how incredibly hard it’s been. In coming here I’ve realized how much I’ve been a slave to my comforts. Working at home on my nice squishy couch, sitting in my safe living room, and drinking my convenient coffee. It made me soft.
I joke that the jungle is all about tough love. She wants you to be strong, so she keeps eating you until you are. For the first several nights I stayed up staring at roaches while pitying my puffy, red and itchy bug devoured body. I was afraid of the jungle, especially at night, and especially while being alone. I was also afraid of the bugs, especially the big ones. I left Canada in a parka and arrived in a tropical soup of sweaty, sleep inducing heat and moisture. You could just say that I was generally afraid and uncomfortable most of the time.
They have a name for the condition here, they call it the “jungle initiation”, and what a perfect description that is. But like everything, it passes. Over time my body started adapting to the heat and bug bites, and I’ve learned that I don’t really need a fluffy couch in a safe living room with a convenient coffee to be happy. In fact, life can be more interesting when I stop indulging in those comforts and start embracing the ever shifting changes around me.
For better or for worse, there is an intense abundance of life in the jungle. Everything degrades faster, grows faster, shifts faster. You keep doors closed, food carefully contained and scratches clean. At the same time your lungs breath easy in the clean air, you feel the protection from the hot sun under the canopy, and you watch your skin heal as it’s kissed by the humidity. It’s a place full of extremes and polarities.
The jungle is always alive, but it truly wakes at night. When the sun goes down the sounds of birds shift into a rhythmic buzzing, rich in depth from the vast array of species singing near and far. Pulsing like an electric, interconnected heartbeat.
On a recent night a firefly came into my room and stayed next to my bed, blinking his beautiful green light. I decided then that I was going to try to get photos of the fireflies under the stars. I would face my fear of the jungle, at night, while alone, except for the big bugs.
I waited until about 2:00 am when a lot of the mosquitoes have gone to sleep, put on my bug shield of long pants and a raincoat and ventured off to get this photo. The fireflies weren’t out in full force so I captured the stars over the canopy instead. It’s just another star shot, but to me it represents the time that I faced my fears; the time that I finally made peace with the jungle.
The more I let go of fear, the more there was space to appreciate the beauty and wisdom of the people and the plants, which I came to realize were profoundly amazing.
The beauty was there all along, but I was only able to see things through the filter of my fear and pain. When the world feels frightening and overwhelming, I look inward to see what it is in me that I’m holding onto. I look inward to release the confines of fear and embrace the connection to life around me. And in that connection I see the profound beauty and love that has always been there.