Tropical Biology in Costa Rica – Summer 2019
Palo Verde, light of my life, fire of my mind. My agony, my ecstasy (not the drug). Pa-loh-vur-dey: the tip of the tongue taking the trip of four steps down the palate to tap, at four on the teeth. Pa. Loh. Vur. Dey. It was palo, refreshing palo, in the morning, caressing the mountain peak with a gentle breeze. It was hades, swarming with millions of fierce mosquitoes. It was nirvana, glistening in the gorgeous setting sun. It was the world of mortals, thriving in daylight and darkness. But deep down in my heart it was always the pure and simple Palo Verde.
My first hike was a tribute to nature in the dry forest of Palo Verde. Covered by a thick layer of clothes and surrounded by a halo of mosquitoes, the hike was excruciating at first—crawling up the mountain using all four limbs and “holding back tears” the whole time. However, little did I know that something extraordinary was brewing gradually. When I finally reached the very top of the mountain, all the afflictions I suffered were offset the second when the breathtaking landscape appeared in front of my eyes. Outlining the horizon, the mountain ranges cleaved the world in half—the clear sky above teeming with clouds; the ground beneath was a palette painted green and brown with a little piece of blue sky, studded with clouds fallen in the lake. My soul was wild and free like a soaring bird in the breeze. My earthborn shell, where my soul dwells in, could not shackle it to the ground for eternity, to the troubles of life; at least not for that unique but ephemeral moment. “Afflictions are sometimes blessings in disguise”—the old saying was resounding in my head. I heard my heart whispering how it was conquered by the view, which was worth all the efforts.
I remember leaning on the railing of the dock, watching the sun dwindle and die. The sky was in a glamorous mixture of colors. Staring up, a double rainbow kissed my eyelashes with its sweet radiance. On the other side of the dock, dark blue was devouring a golden sunset. Enshrined in my heart were the miracles after dusk, when night slowly and gently unfurled its splendor. It was a symphony that I heard—rustling leaves, buzzing mosquitoes, and rolling thunder. Nature was the maestro, waving the baton and weaving every sound into the music of the night. It was a show of magic that I witnessed—squeaking bats, fluttering nightjars and reckless beetles trapped in the mist nest. Nature was the magician, conjuring the night angles that appeared out of thin air with her nocturnal “abracadabra”. In the pitch-darkness I quietly stood. The sound of raindrops flowed into my ears. At that very moment, something beyond what words could express happened—all of a sudden, a bolt of lightning struck across the sky, illuminating the night along with sparkling fireflies. Also, at that very moment, Cupid’s arrow went straight through my heart. “Away before me to the darkness of nature, love thoughts lie rich when canopied with glimmer”—I was unconditionally, inadvertently in love with nature, just as at the beginning of Twelfth Night when Duke Orsino fell for Olivia.
Thousands and thousands of words coalesce into one sentence: “There’s no place like Palo Verde.”