Stepping into Mystery

The rising sun threw long, leafy shadows across the trail, as I took one slow step after the other away from the dream-sharing ceremony, my rubber boots squishing into the soggy, slippery path. My stomach, empty after the purging of guayusa, rumbled in anticipation of the breakfast of fried plantain that was waiting in the village.

My mind was unsettled as well. What was I to do with the instructions the elder had given me? What, indeed, did it mean that I was to “tell the world that the Minotaur is real?”

I have given that question a lot of thought – almost a year’s worth. My silence to you has been deafening as I have pondered. Thank you for hanging in there. You are still hanging in there with me, aren’t you?

It’s not that my adventures have stopped. It’s that my adventures have gotten…well…strange. I have found myself deep in the flow of Mystery.

I’ve spoken to people who have had similar experiences. Many have counseled that to share the dream would steal it of its power. But speaking my truth is exactly what the dream is asking me to do. So starting with this post, I’ll try to describe some of the mysterious things that have been happening since I last wrote you.

As I walked out of the jungle and across the sun-baked runway toward the breakfast hut, Mercedes, who had been at the night’s ceremony, approached me with a gleam in her eyes that even the equatorial sun couldn’t diminish. She reached out to me and held me tight against her chest, her arms wrapping around me like vines around a kapok tree. In my ear, she whispered “Eres una mujer Achuar.” You are an Achuar woman.

Then she held me at arm’s length, smiling at me for the longest time, allowing the meaning of those words to sink in to my hungry belly. That was when the larger import of my dream struck me. It hadn’t just held a message for me. My dream had also communicated to the Achuar that I had been accepted by the rainforest, that I was, spiritually at least, a member of their people.

That night, our last in the village, there was a celebration with singing and dancing, and a raffle. The leader of the village held tiny crumpled balls of paper in his hand, all but one had “No” written on it. Whoever pulled the “Sí” would win a handwoven basket.

The leader presented the pieces to each of us in turn. As “No” after “No” appeared when the crumpled balls were unraveled, you could feel the excitement among the Achuar rise. As usual, I had been hanging back, observing. Seeing how astonished the Achuar were as each person’s luck failed was delightful.

When the leader reached out to me, his hand held the last two pieces – one for me and one for the member of our group who had been too sick to come. As he encouraged me to choose, the gleam in his eye was as bright as Mercedes’ had been. I could feel the whole room willing me to choose “Sí.” In that moment I knew. I knew with absolute certainty that every Achuar could sense exactly which piece of paper was which. There was a physical sensation of pressure on my body as they communicated to me which one it was. I looked down into the outstretched palm. As my eyes shifted from one little ball of paper to the next, one stayed inert and one vibrated. I, too, knew exactly which one was which.

I started to reach for the vibrating ball, then hesitated. Which did I want to do, disappoint my Achuar family, or allow my sick friend to win the basket? The instant my fingers lifted the quiet ball, a groan of disappointment resounded around the room.

“Pero, tu sabías!” But, you knew! the leader exclaimed.

”Sí, pero mi amiga inferma le gustará la canasta,” Yes, but my sick friend will like the basket, I replied.

It had been a test, one that I both failed and passed. It was a moment of cultural exchange for all of us.

Before dawn the next morning, while my companions still slept, I swung in a hammock, its rocking comforting my sadness at having to leave. As if the eyes of the jungle had seen that I was awake, Mercedes appeared carrying her baby girl. Mercedes had been our primary caretaker during our stay, but I had never seen her child.

She smiled in greeting as I sat up, and she sat down on a log seat in front of me. In my inadequate Spanish, I admired the new little life she cradled. Then she asked in exaggeratedly slow Spanish, to be sure I could understand, “The song that you sing every morning blessing the earth.” I nodded. “Would you sing it to my little girl?”

The forest must have ears as well as eyes. I felt sure that no human had heard me sing my song of praise to the day.

I thought for a minute, gathering myself together. In halting Spanish and in the hushed voice of a lullaby, I sang:

Oh Mama, what a pretty day you have made. Oh Mama, what a pretty day!

I looked down at the little girl.

Oh Mama, what a pretty baby you have made. Oh Mama, what a pretty baby!

Then a prayer rose from my heart.

Oh Mama, please bless this baby you have made. Oh Mama, please bless this baby!

It may have been my prayer that sang from my lips, but in truth, it was me who had been blessed.

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