creek walking

I took a small group down to the creek today. It’s a personal space for me, where I go to meditate, and where I go in my meditations. Guiding the group down in silence desceding ever lower through the forest feeling the air become cooler as we went filled me with a quiet anticipation and excitement: would they feel what I felt, see what I saw? Stepping down into the water, feeling the tug as it rushed by in its busyness, the freshness and coolness spilling over my feet instantly dulled the anticipation: I was here, this experience was mine too.

Central America, as a land mass, is young, only rising fully from the ocean floor less than 4 million years ago. It’s young. So much younger than the land I come from. This part of Costa Rica is all sedimentary rock. While not necessarily the youngest type, it lacks the stable qualities of igneous and metamorphic rock, making it seem ‘young’ too. The creek’s pebbles are mudstone and can be easily smashed when dried, the  firm base is a similar rock and has been carved by the water into many little waterfalls and pools. The base is a smooth clay gray and the pebbles a sandy brown. This little creek has carved a ravine about 20 meters deep, each side sloping steeply up and away. There’s a lot of earth. Earth and plants. We passed 3 landslides where the trees got too heavy in all this water logged soil and toppled down headlong to the water, leaving behind swathes of rust clay soil.

It’s noisy: the water spills and dashes over small waterfalls and large, pooling for a moment before hurtling off again over a cascade or a drop. It burbles under fallen trees laden with mushrooms, it echoes around bends. Poison dart frogs, red and otherwise sing above the watery din. Birds in the trees squawk and scorble  out of view. A howler monkey threatens with his call, somewhere in the high above parrots screech. It’s not a place of quiet contemplation. But it’s a place for contemplation of the deepest, livliest kind. Deep down in the earth, with the tree branches closing overhead it’s a paradise of green life, bright water and red earth. It’s a place to get lost.

We gathered turkey tail, oyster and wood ear mushrooms from wet logs, acknowledged the fish, wondered at the tiny black snails and pondered animal prints. All in the silence that comes from a sense of humble wonder. At the big waterfall as we stood in meditation the gentlest blessing of rain fell, hardly noticeable.

There’s a fantastic aliveness about this place that pulls me back every day. The contrast between the frothing hurry of the water and the stillness of the mossed roots, between the straight dart of the fish and the meandering path of the snails traced out in fat, crazy scribbles below the water. Seeds sprout amidst the pebbles and are washed away with the next heavy rain, the snarls of driftwood shift with the water flow, sometimes piled high, sometimes scattered, as though some forest giant had kicked the pile to nothing. An animal print by the water’s edge, or discarded snake skin keeps me quiet in the hope of seeing other visitors.

It’s always the same and always changing. Perhaps my greatest teacher. Certainly my most beautiful.




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