August 3, 2001 Journal Entry:
During the day, my body is on a different clock, where minutes are stretched and I can enjoy the little things in life, like closing my eyes and feeling the breeze softly greet me, or watching two crabs dance and challenge each other as though in a boxing ring. Then I can follow butterflies and leaf-cutter ants along their paths, taking time to observe and care about them. So many creatures are here to enjoy, to follow, and to wonder at. And two weeks after this amazing stay in the tropics, measuring turtles, feeling fins flap and slap against me egg chambers were camouflaged and the turtles moved back towards the sea, accounted for and tagged in the CCC logs, I will be back in the concrete jungle of NYC, only this time in law school. Aaaaaaaargh.
After leaving Costa Rica, I returned to the concrete jungle of Manhattan to begin law school. Coming back to people-lined streets instead of butterfly -lined trails, I anticipated mild culture shock. But one month later, I was farther than I ever expected to be from the paradise of Tortuguero. On the morning of September 11, 2001watching the World Trade Center fall, I barely breathed between sobs. Then the Pentagon was in flames, and the plane in Pennsylvania downed. I constantly cried, shaking and nauseous during the agonizing hours awaiting word that my father and brother, both within hundreds of feet of the WTC, were okay. I looked at each image on television, knowing each blown building and street intimately from my previous year of living five blocks from the WTC. The world, as beautiful and promising as it seemed just hours before, had suddenly taken on a fate decreed by incomprehensible evil.
For weeks on end, trepidation and fear tainted every step and sadness tempered every waking moment; I needed an escape. My first relief was when I developed a roll of film. The first three pictures, from my early August trip to the CCC as a research participant, were of a brilliant lime green frog with an electrically royal blue underbelly, orange feet and fiery eyes. The frog pictures opened the floodgate of memories, so I closed my eyes and relived life at the CCC.
Walking the beaches of Tortuguero at 3 a.m., it is dark except when the clouds allow the moon to shine; water laps at my heels, stars twinkle overhead and turtle tracks and nests surround me. I look at the world with immense wonder while feeling as insignificant as a grain of sand. The balmy breezes relax my soul and the ocean sounds lull me to a pace that detoxifies my urban body and mind.
The beauty of the 300-pound turtles moves me to new understandings. They journey through the very same oceans that sustain humanity, and through strength born of instinct, they return to a certain spot each nesting season to give new life. As one life is inexorably intertwined with the next, beyond borders, ecosystems or species, their journey teaches of human possibility, instinct and resiliency. An affirmation of life overcomes my soul as my body and mind swell. I know what it is to be alive and a significant part of this earth, just like that unique grain of sand that makes the beach so completely exquisite.
Three short months ago I walked the beaches of Tortuguero, night after night, admiring the wild splendor of the earth. I will continue to return to my memories of this splendor as a source of peace, understanding and hope. With the ruthless darkness and uncertainty of late, it is reassuring to think back on the mysterious ocean, the guiding sky and those amazingly purposeful turtles and know that paradise is not lost.
Perhaps most comforting of all is the knowledge that the CCC is there to make sure it never will be.