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School had just begun across Panama when I left, the first week completed and the second week just starting, bringing the end of the unstructured play days and carefree evenings of football in the cancha. But the summer remained – the hot, dusty, but beautifully gorgeous days greeting us each morning with a shockingly cool chill, then scorching us by mid-morning with an overly exuberant sun. Most days the summer breezes still graced us with their playful presence, passing through our windows and doors with a soft embrace or a burst of fierce energy, upending anything gravity did not wish to fight for.
The trees were still unquestionably giving up their dry leaves, shedding the dead burdens from their boughs that once brought them life and leaving them semi-naked, standing tall and resilient in a soil that had not seen rain in months. But despite the dryness, the small forest surrounding three sides of my house was thriving with life, with insects whirling, the birds twittering, and the nomad chickens loudly kicking and sifting through the dirt and leaves to find their meals. The family of vultures that lived amongst the trees cheered me with their soaring, taking to the skies to let the thermals hold them aloft on the breeze, defying gravity until they arrived back into the land of mortals with a whoosh of their powerful wings.
Cancha: A court or field for sports. In this case, a small soccer field field with a fence and turf.
Life existed in my house too, the dozens of geckos chirping like birds from the tiled sloped ceiling and scampering over the light green mint concrete walls. Spiders scuttled from under one chair to another, my constant companions in a space I only ever borrowed from nature. Giant hairy spiders that once would have terrified me became my shower buddies, clinging to the walls as I bared all in the dimly lit pink and blue painted bathroom. Insects of all kinds – ones that pretended to be leaves or sticks, ants, and flying ones with stingers roamed the rooms, buzzing or crawling or cleaning up the crumbs from the dinner I hadn’t even finished eating yet.
Campo: The countryside or country, rural area.
At night, enclosed in my house I would sit at my table, working on a craft project, planning, or relaxing with a show and listen to the world around me. It was never silent, but it was always calm. The geckos would chirp, the insects would buzz, and outside my house something was always awake. The roosters crowed through the night, coyotes howled their wishes to the sky, and dogs responded with their angry warnings. Once in a while a lone car would pass, and I would wonder where they were going and why they were out so late, in an isolated campo community that still mostly works and lives by the setting and rising of the sun.
In the slow mornings or afternoons, when I felt the urge to be a hermit and pass the day in stillness – at least until the kids arrived at my house – I would lay in the hammock on my front porch and look out at my view of the world. I would watch the dragonflies flitting around the telephone wires and dancing in the air. I would swing contentedly with the breeze and be grateful when I caught a glimpse of a hummingbird racing between the red flowers and gaze at the vultures overhead, envying their lightness. Sometimes, when I was really lucky, a blue morpho butterfly would flutter past me, brightening my entire day, and reminding me that sometimes good things are only an instant and flash of blue.
On the busy days, when I had had enough of conversation and social interaction, I loved the evenings as dusk approached – when the cancha began to empty, each person slowly making their way down the road to their home, the sky light pink, orange, and darkening shades of blue against the church. The few light poles would flicker on, and the voices would fade, leaving me alone in the growing darkness to relax and reflect. Sometimes I would sit in the darkness on the porch, light sneaking out from beneath the doorway and the windows, and watch the sky go to black and the stars make their entrance. Every once in the awhile the few streetlights would go out, and I would stare up into a dark canvas full of more stars than I could imagine.
And each day, in my home of concrete and tile, I felt more present to what the universe gifted to me and more connected with the earth from which we all come. When I arrived, I lamented the lack of cell signal, but when I left, I couldn’t bear to be constantly interrupted by a world that doesn’t know how to be silent. As I became adjusted to the bugs and the spiders, I saw their beauty and their purpose to the earth. I began to realize that I was living in their home as much as they were living in mine and started to appreciate the worth of every living thing. As each week passed, I learned how to watch in silence and reverence the little things we usually are too busy to see, things right in front of our eyes if we just take a moment to do nothing but be. I learned how to sit in the dirt and not feel dirty, instead feeling my place among the beating hearts of every creature and the mother that holds us. And in the last few days before I had to leave, admiring the hummingbirds and gasping at the beauty of a blue morpho just inches from my face, I knew that no matter where I went, this place would always be, for me, home.