I’m still too close to this experience to speak clearly. All I can offer are incomplete thoughts. Still, in the spirit of ‘lifting the veil’ and breaking the stigma that only the unshakable strive for great things, here is an abridged journal entry.
Things are not going as expected.
I did not anticipate the sea to open wounds on my skin, to bore into the soft flesh of my hips and my lips, that I wake up each morning to salt and blood sealing my mouth shut. Opening it is to open the wound all over again. I did not anticipate that the wind and humidity and saltwater would both weather and tenderize my skin, making me break out like a greasy 13 year old covered in zits and rashes. That when I bend over in the evening, salt water pours from my nostrils and ears.
I did not anticipate this. The dolphins, manta rays, turtles, birds, schools of tiny, translucent fish following as the kayak glides through the water.
“Come along children, keep up,” I call to the school of sardines.
“move along girl, you’re fine,” the dolphins hum when fear throttles me over the choppy deep.
The constant race of life and death as one small fish jets out of the water and a larger needle nose fish pierces the surface and flies along behind, a life or death game of tag in the air. They skim inches before the nose of my boat.
Fish who fly, birds who swim, crabs who climb, grass that floats. The mangroves, eerie and ubiquitous above water, the life below the surface blooms in all colors and forms. Life growing on life, feeding on death, which gives life. Harboring shells, crabs, corals, mosses, insects. Schools of fish on a field trip in their underwater jungle.
I trip over the language, reverting to what I know. Channels are passes. Our route is still trail. Manta rays are sea pancakes. Swells are water mountains. Charts are maps. Why is that water pokey and churning like a washing machine?
I did not anticipate the fear. It rises in me falls away into darkness beneath. Swells up in me and the water pitches it about. I can feel my boat pulled in two or even three different directions at once. To remain balanced, I must stop trying to stay balanced.
Why didn’t I just stick to what I was good at? Walking. Tierra firma. that was challenge enough, why’d I have to go pick something that I don’t have much experience with and which terrifies me?
I wish for my all to be here, on this project and on the goal of movement. Present and focused and simple, that which I come out here seeking. But I seem to find that only in instants. In the lack of steady movement, my mind fixates on the struggles in relationship with Neon. This has been the longest relationship I have been in and sustaining it has become an unexpectedly important work of the journey.
Communication is breaking down as uncertainty wells in the face of the new daily challenges we face. And on the brink of knowing our paths forward diverge. I have so little I can count on, this relationship has become one of those few things and now I don’t know where it is going nor what it is to become. She speaks of heading home and working and baking and then bike packing around the US while I hike the CDT. My calling remains out here, with this. To connect the dots and the lives and the stories. To witness them even and especially where they are hard to get to.
Can I really just skip Panama, call it lateral movement and leave it behind? Will I be content with paddling a few hundred kilometers around a vacation destination and leave it at that? How can I reshape this section? Can I not fulfill the iteration which I myself designed over the course of three years and 8000 miles? Over the course of a lifetime.
Do I trust this enough to let go?
Do I trust my own worth enough to modify my system?
Where does one go when she feels to be at the end of her rope?
Spending so much time in the Bocas del Toro region, we got to learn about some of the super cool organizations at work in the community. For this month’s “pay it forward” from the support we receive, we are proud to contribute toward Give and Surf, an organization that focus on education and opportunity for local kids! We like how they supported the all female competitive rowing crew Cayuco Paunch in teaching local girls how to row.