January, 2016 Archives

Panama: A Vivid Vida

January 14th, 2016

Life in Panama is slow, humid, intense and vivid.

I’m going to miss the view, sitting on the 10th-floor balcony, looking out over the Pacific and the dozen-and-more ships lined up to enter the Panama Canal.

Enveloped in a humid wash of sound, temperature and flavor, there is no better word to describe the experience than vivid. Senses are assailed here with unknown variables, experiences that defy description, though surely they’re primal, continuous since the birth of time.

A particular mangrove copse down and to the left of the beach has called to me again and again. For some reason, maybe based in my reptilian first brain, I am drawn to it at high tide and low. During low ebbs, I’ve wandered among the rocks, plants, mud, lizards, birds and sounds. During the tide’s high flow, I’ve kayaked through looking for something perhaps unseeable, unknowable.

Beautiful, long and languid alabaster birds casually step further as I pass. Pelicans and other birds of sea inquire about the visitor, then they too wander away. There are sounds that scare me, probably deep bassoon frogs, hopefully so. There are steps not taken for fear of snakes or crocodiles. Sometimes I’m a real wussy.

Across the isthmus there are similar spaces, the whole country is teeming with a vivid vida I’ve never felt before. It’s January everywhere else; here it’s mid-August, Alabama.

We traveled along a jungle path the other day and saw a sloth hanging upside down, slowly collecting and munching on leaves. That sloth had it right; you live here, you sleep and hang out as much as possible.

We saw monkeys that shimmied down branches to our idling boat, putt-puttering off THE canal. My daughter spotted a baby croc, harmless in its infancy, while I looked for its mother. Birds of every color hover high or flap low, one of the greatest concentration of exotic birds anywhere.

My pictures feel vivid too.

Flying out, it takes three or four attempts over 48 hours for us to all make it home. I realize how privileged we are in our First World. Though I’ve dreamt of Panama since coming home. Maybe it’s Michigan in January; though maybe it’s something deeper.