Seeing the Unseen

Playa Langosta, Costa Rica

A short break in the rain and I head out for a beach walk. One of the things I’ve learned here is to look closely; you will always see something you didn’t notice before. Corkscrew shells scattered in the sand. Tiny fish darting in tide pools. Lilliputian hermit crabs in multicolored shells on the volcanic rock along the shoreline. They move so slowly as to be almost imperceptible. Yet if you squat down and look, really look, you’ll see their tiny legs sprouting from under the shell, antenna moving this way and that.

When I was at Ecocentro Danaus, I would have missed everything without Olman’s trained eye. Monos in the treetops high above. A slow-moving gorrobos climbing a tree. Sloths sleeping in the tallest branches, even with binoculars appearing as nothing more than brown blobs, perhaps birds’ nests or clusters of decaying foliage. Even when he took my shoulders and pointed me directly at whatever creature he wanted me to see, I still struggled to detect it. The green lizard in the ferns. The tiny bat hanging upside down inside a decaying banana leaf. The sleeping Fleischmann’s glass frog (once I looked, I could see its pale eyelids closed, its wee sides expanding and contracting with each rapid breath). Even the bright orange-and-blue dart frog. At first my eyes just couldn’t find it in the leaves Olman parted with his hands. Then, suddenly, it came into view, and I had to catch my breath with its beauty.

How often do we not see the things so plain to others? I realize I’ve spent most of my life not seeing. Not understanding. Unable to connect the dots. It’s almost as if I’ve spent the past seven years slowly opening my eyes. Watching my life unfold, come into stark relief, colors growing vibrant with each revelation.

It’s been painful. And the journey continues. But, finally, I am moving forward with both eyes - and my heart - wide open.