Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Dreaming in the Rainforest


I'm in the rainforest of Costa Rica, leading a seven-day retreat on "Writing as a State of Conscious Dreaming" at a wonderful resort called SueƱo Azul (literally "Blue Dream", the local term for "daydream"). It's supposedly the dry season here, but it's raining harder than I have ever seen or heard rain come down. Then come sudden bright intervals of sunlight when - if they coincide with the early morning or gaps in the workshop schedule - I rush to swim loops and figures of eight in the pool, which is curvy and narrow-waisted like a woman's generous body.

The sense of hearing is enlivened here. After sunset, a primal orchestra starts playing all night long. Whether some of the sounds are made by bird or frog, insect or gecko, is at first mysterious to the newcomer. There is the repeated sound of something mimicking a long wet kiss. There is a clacking as of roulette chips being set down on a casino table. There is gushing, plucking, tinkling, plopping, slapping, ticking. There is tapping that is exactly like a Morse code operator trying to get an urgent message though. There is the clicking of geckos after their prey, and a roar that could be a jaguar but proves to be the fierce warning sound of a howler monkey.

Awake in the early hours on our first night here, I decide to journey with these sounds to learn about the energies of this land. I meet a Shadow Fox and a sorrowful priest - actually a Franciscan brother, to judge by his simple brown cassock, who prays to God to release him from this "green hell" that is una pulperia de los sentidos que esta abierto toda la noche. This translates as "a grocery store of the senses that is open all night long." I observe this sorrowful man from a few feet away, in his solitary hut in the rainforest where he lives among the Indians perhaps two centuries ago. He defends los indigenes but he is also afraid of them, especially their shamans. I follow his thoughts in his own language.

Now I am looking at a little vermilion frog, jewel-bright and bright as poison. I see the same red color daubed round the eyes of a native who hunts game animals and members of rival tribes with blow-darts dipped in the venom of a poisonous frog.

Two days later, on a narrow boat traveling low in the muddy waters on the Sarapiqui river, we pause by an ancient guassimo tree. Its roots are a many chambered city that started to rise from the earth three centuries ago. Our captain, who has the laser-sharp eyes of a native tracker, slips away to find a little poison-dart frog. He brings it on board on a large green leaf, like a ruby on a jeweler's velvet pad. The little frog has blue legs so it is described to the tourists as the "blue-jeaned poison-dart frog." My curiosity is stirred by the poison dart bit rather than the blue jeans. I ask the captain in Spanish (he speaks no English) if this little frog provided the poison for Indian blow-darts, as the name suggests. He confirms this. "They still use its poison for darts and also for arrows. And some of their hunters put red paint the same color around their eyes." He calls the frog a rana. He identifies the local tribes (I write this phonetically) as Huetteros and Blumandos. I am excited by this quick confirmation that I dreamed myself into this living landscape, human and animal, on that first night.

The next day, I met the red-eyed rana shaman again, in a journey with the rain in which he brought me into a cavernous space inside a tree that his people use for ritual purposes. He offered me the ashes of one of his mentors - a great shaman - inside a cooked plantain leaf. I declined the honor. Though I understood that eating the ashes might turn me into a "made man" of this culture, there was a limit to how far I was willing to take this new dream connection!

1 comment:

diane said...

I had been wondering about your Costa Rica adventure and it was such a joy to read this account! It really brought the environment to life. I don't know how you could have been more welcomed as one of its own then through these amazing, sense-sational dreams and corresponding experiences. Sound like you and the workshop got a BIG thumbs up from the universe! And it's not over yet! Thank you, Robert, for sharing these beautiful images and confirmations.