He was burnished auburn and had a philosopher’s face and began a slow and methodical descent, each hand and foot hold effortless but the obvious result of long practice. Finally, the branch bent just enough for him to catch the edge a stronger limb to continue his traverse. I watched a little girl as her face, led by her heart, opened and then radiated a pure wonder almost crackling with delight. Her mother and I didn’t share one word of a common language but we connected fully. “Can you believe how amazing this is?” we said to each other with our faces and eyes in the common tongue of parents affirming a moment of our deepest desire-a happy child .
I spent the last four days working in a place that is becoming one of the most unique and compelling experiences in the Caribbean. Start with Colombia’s culture of art, music, literature and (OMG) the food. Add the history and charm of Cartagena’s walled old city and top off with the chance to be with, in a very intimate way, a community of parrots, peacocks, flamingoes, birds of prey and TOUCANS (each of whom has an incredible, hand painted looking beak), three species of monkeys, (the little girl’s buddy happened to be a Howler), marine iguanas, sloths, and ant-bears (look that one up!). It is the “being with” that is different at the Port Oasis. These animals are not caged. They are all free to stay or go and live as their “wild” counterparts do but they have accepted the offer of a magnificent tree canopy home, plenty of food, medical benefits and the chance to learn about and play with Homo Sapiens Sapiens.
I’m not judging, but I will tell you that, at least in my life experience, I have yet to see anything open a heart and light up a face like being re-minded that we inter-are on this planet with an amazing extended family. We could not be more different than each other with our beaks and wings and prehensile tails but that little girl and that Howler will tell you that we could also not be more alike too. As my native American ancestors say “All, my relations.”