Tags: Central America
I was in Costa Rica; so far away from where I lived, yet so at home with the friendly locals and inviting atmosphere. I stood with a canary yellow helmet on my head and a dark blue safety harness wrapped tightly around my chest, feeling as much of a fool as I must have looked. I stared down at the bottomless pit; the descent mocked me- daring me to soar over its massiveness. The bright flowers and thick foliage perfectly contrasted its otherwise terrifying appeal.
I locked the hook onto my harness as I had been told and held my breath. A wave of nausea came over me as I peered down into impending death. "It will be okay,'" I assured myself, displaying a smile, masking the fear. I grasped the rope with my shaking hands and kicked off of the ground. A gust of wind eased me forward, and with awe, I took in the sights around me. Through a thick mist I could see an expanse of enormous trees so tall that they forced their way through the clouds.
The nausea that had been plaguing me since I had looked over the edge of the rain forest was soon replaced with pure unadulterated excitement. I looked above me into the cloudless sky and sucked in deep breaths of unpolluted air. I felt my fingers slowly loosen their death grip on the safety rope and my hands returned to their normal coloration.
Through all the surrounding distractions, I hadn't realized that I had come to a complete stop. I looked ahead and saw one of the workers climb across the zip-line to me. He wrapped his legs tightly around my waist and pulled me to the next base. "You must push off harder with legs," he said in broken English. I smiled, embarrassed. I looked up and examined his face. His skin was a deep earthy brown and his eyes were surprisingly blue. His lips parted to reveal an encouraging smile. The Costa Rican hurried me to the next platform and I repeated the routine of pushing off as hard as I could with my legs, and holding on for dear life. This time I felt experienced, and I confidently shifted my body into a sitting position, letting the wind maneuver my weight along the zip line.
I quickly saw that I had traveled deeper into the rain forest, and the towering trees blocked out much of the sun's light. I gasped as I spotted a parrot perched on the branch of a canopy tree. I admired the brightly colored feathers that were fanned out across his body. He seemed to feel my eyes glued to him and spread his wings revealing, for just a moment, a rainbow wing span before flying higher out of my range of sight. I sighed, disappointed, wishing that I had a camera to keep the bird captured on paper so that I could see him whenever I pleased.
Before I knew it, I was careening to the next base and I knew that this time I would make it without help. I extended my legs and crashed clumsily onto the wooden plank as the worker stationed there jumped back to avoid slamming headlong into me. I threw the man with the braided hair an apologetic smile which he readily returned. I was led to the next take off point. I had the steps to flight engrained in my mind and I proudly began my third trip without assistance.
It seemed as I though I kept plunging further and further into the bowels of the forest. The leaves around me were so close that I could feel evanescent drips of dew fall softly onto my skin. I was encased in a catacomb of green yet I felt free in the purity of the uninhabited world in which I was so briefly living. "Pura Vida," pure life, the saying that rules the life of Costa Ricans, was so completely epitomized in that very moment. I felt as though the entirety of earth, for one second, was without fault. As my trip through the rain forest neared its end, I realized that I had learned the secrets to a beautiful life -- to live purely, to love completely, to be in awe of the simple things, and to allow yourself to live without fear of things unknown.