We are in that weird transitional place between sought after experiences … one of those — sailing in the Galapagos — now belongs to history, the other — “home” — lies ahead of us. We sit by a pool at a Hilton Hotel which looks like any other Hilton in Guayaquil, a gray depressed looking city near Ecuador’s coast, and we drink Mojitos under a gray overcast sky. And we wait for the next part of the journey … and the sparkling, heartbreaking beauty of the Galapagos starts to fade. Oh no, oh no, the heart says … it can’t disappear so fast … please let it remain in our hearts longer! But the hard truth is that it will recede and no amount of terrific photographs, videos, or storytelling will bring it back comple.
As I left my cabin on the ship for the last time today, I thought “I’ll be back … I must come back!” I was already moving forward in time, planning and thinking. And no matter how many years I’ve sat and contemplated impermanence, I still hunger for beauty in the extreme and for the love of my family. I’m hardwired to do this.
In a funny way, I feel related to many of the animals we witnessed: the elusive little tan and black owl glowering at us, the hard working black ground finch pecking for tiny seeds in the dirt, or the ancient, slow moving tortoise whose eyes appear to see its own history going back millions and millions of year, the soft brown sea lion whose fur shimmers in the sun as he seems to invite play, and the rare and handsome albatross who courts his beloved by the crossing of beaks … all these living beings welcomed us into their world and we were changed, in much the same way I remember being transformed after a journey on safari in Kenya years ago. We humans are only visitors in this landscape of earth, no matter how proud we are of our minds and creative gifts, and we need to be reminded of that. Most of the ninety people we traveled with felt enormous gratitude at being allowed to get close to these peaceful animals, to be in the moment, peaceful and inspired. Knowing this makes me happy inside. We must learn to see ourselves as more humble and mindful travelers through this life.
I will of course continue to replay scenes inside my head, remembering the sounds and smells of birds and sea lions and iguanas, and the music of the rolling ocean… Yes, the experience is no more, but I can still touch the joy, and the love all around me in this very moment. This will have to be enough.