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Universal Connections - Part Two
A current of people moving in rhythm...
A current of people moving in rhythm to beating of feet and merchant’s shouts. I moved as fast as I could, clutching the camera dwindling by a frayed strap around my taut neck. People made me tense. All the touching and the talking. Growing up in the wilderness with no company but animals and a quiet father can’t really prepare a kid for the reality of public life.
Reaching the edge of the market I caught sight of a dark man leaning against the side of a muddy jeep. His head was turned toward a group of women dressed in bright clothing, huddled around a stand of fresh cut flowers. I could see the hard lines of his face soften as one of the women bent down to smell a large red flower. Clearing my throat as I approached, he snapped back to attention and smiled broadly at the sight of me. We embraced and he asked me in a rough voice, “So, are you ready to find some cats?”
“If by cats you mean panthers, then yes!” I said as I moved to the other side of the jeep.
As we pulled away, I saw him steel one last glance at the girls holding flowers in their hands. His mouth twitched and I snapped a quick picture of him before he could regain his composure. Lifting a heavy arm, he thumped me on the shoulder and sped off down a side road.
We marched through the green life engulfing us in every step. I felt very much like my father as we forced our way through the forest as quietly as possible.
Around midday we stopped for lunch, leaned against trees and ate our lunch as native voices serenaded us in the canopy. I rested my head on the cool bark and closed my eyes thinking of panthers… and beautiful women…
Fur like armor
The rugged branch held firm as he crouched in the canopy he dominated. His confidence radiated in the leafy wilderness like a rippling puddle. On the outside, he appeared fierce and abundantly capable. However, we all have an inner perception of reality that can’t help but leak into our perfectly molded lives. No creature would dare cross his path knowingly. He ruled the forest with stealth and knowledge and he believed no creature could challenge him.
On the ground, small animals scurried about searching for food. With almost no sound, he leapt from his perch and caught a squirming body in his razor like claws. His prey hadn’t had time to realize it was caught before it was dead. He rotated his strong head, trying to sense the presence of other animals before indulging in his catch. Gathering the lifeless body in his jaws, he leapt onto a lower branch and made his way up in a tall ebony tree. After he had had his fill, he sprawled out along a branch. He took comfort in his stealth. He knew he wasn’t the strongest or the fiercest predator in the forest, but he dared any of them to find him when he didn’t want to be found. A lingering effect of emptiness sometimes stole over him as he lay there alone. Is this it? What is left to connect with here? His instinctual actions propelled him into each day and he wondered whether life had anything else to offer.
In the morning he awoke and stretched with a wave that ran through him and made his fur stand on end. He dug his claws into the strong trunk of the tree, sharpening them needlessly as he prepared to journey below his canopy kingdom. Lithely leaping from branch to branch, he landed with a soft thud on the sturdy forest floor. Cautiously moving forward, he made his way toward the sound of rustling water. A clear stream broke through the thick forest, cutting a line of pure sustenance for all of the forest’s inhabitants. He approached the glassy edge and began lapping the cool water up. Suddenly, a cracking noise echoed around him and in his surprise he crouched into a defensive position.
Emerging from a thick bush, a woman appeared and moved toward the flowing stream. She carried a leather pouch which she pushed into the water and watched as it began to fill. Silently, he crept back into the lush plant life and leapt up into a branch that overlooked the stream. He watched her and a sense of interest and curiosity overtook him. She was dressed in shimmering, colorful layers of cloth that moved with her like liquid folds. Her long black hair hung to one side of her almond tinted face like a curtain. He had never seen this kind of creature. Instinct begged him to attack and sink his teeth into her throbbing neck, but something else inside him stirred. He didn’t want to kill her. He wanted to know more about her. He wanted her to see him.
He listened as she began humming a strange song in a language he didn’t recognize. Her soft notes touched his ears and encircled his heart. He felt peaceful and longed to be near her. He carefully moved out to the edge of his branch trying to catch her scent on the breeze. He sat there gazing at her, waiting for something to happen. She continued her work and once the pouch was full, she capped it and prepared to stand. Lifting her head to the sky, where just a few beams of light shown through the canopy ceiling, she saw the flickering of a smooth black tail. Following the tail upward with her eyes, she saw the panther perched in the branch directly overhead. She screamed and dropped her pouch as she flung herself into the forest away from the predator she was taught to fear. Startled, he watched as she disappeared into the shrouded jungle. His face tightened as her dancing colors disappeared from view. Why was she scared? Surely she could see how powerful and handsome he was, so why had she run? Looking down into the clear water, he saw his reflection in the shiny depths. He saw a lanky, muscular, fierce predator capable of causing harm. He wished he was one of her kind. He wanted to be understood.