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Bees

Morning. Woke up to the sound of rain while it was still dark. Remembered the time a wasp stung me in bed.

Somehow also remembered the date… June fifth. I had recently graduated from Rutgers University and returned to the waitressing job for the summer. Another waiter, also a poet, gave me a book to borrow. One night before falling asleep I reached over to my nightstand to pick up his book.

Felt a sharp biting sensation on the skin of my upper inner arm, then a bee landed on my comforter beside me. I screamed to my brother in the next room to take the dead bee outside. Despite all the summers I spent on the beaches of New Jersey, I had never been stung before, by a bee or jellyfish or anything at all. The unexpected pain stunned me. I have never been a tough recipient of pain. Also did not yet realize that the bee was dead, and thought he might try to get me again. My brother used my Spanish porrón to cup the wasp and took him outside. He placed the porrón in the garden in the dark.

A big red spot formed on the inside of my upper arm. I showed it to friends at bars. “I was stung by a wasp in my very own bed a few nights ago!”

The porrón with the dead wasp remained in the garden all summer long, collecting rainwater that later turned brown. Often I wondered why no one in my family emptied it and brought it back inside. I never did and it became somewhat of a familiar fixture, a neglected garden ornament with a story. I had always been afraid of being stung by a bee, and then I was while laying in my bed one night.

And so I do not mind stretching next to the bee’s nest this morning. This part of the yard gets the most sun early in the morning and the warmth is soft on my skin. I do not wish to get stung by one of these jungle bees but maybe I will, no matter where I stand.

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Greetings from the Rainforest

There is a song I used to love by an artist whose name I can’t remember. She sang,

“Home is a house you build with your bones.”

In my mind I hear the melody while walking barefoot across the concrete from my bedroom to the porch, to sit beneath string lights and gaze over the hillside. In awe I watch the clouds, breathe deeply and feel very much like myself. IMG_0991

For a woman who tends to define herself by her home and relationships, leaving and feeling secure is always a challenge, but a worthy one. I am realizing, or maybe remembering, truths that have been clouded for a while. Home is a house you build with your bones.

The air is warm and the rain has just stopped. Large green leaves are glistening as I walk past them. The chirps of the jungle are loud, as they always are when the sky grows dark.

I wonder if jungle creatures make noise all night just to make sure they still exist when it is too dark see themselves. Surely we do the same. Surely I have done the same.

It has been almost two weeks since arriving here in Puerto Rico, and I feel settled, at home in my bones, and happy.

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The night I arrived, I let my exhaustion and nerves drive me into hysteria.

My new roommate and now dear friend Wynn peered up from the book she was reading in bed and asked calmly, “You never went to summer camp as a kid, did you?” She could feel my energy as I eyed the small, basic room that we were now to share, indignant over the lack of shelves and wondering where the hell I was going to put all my stuff, and why I brought so damn much.

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That night I messaged a friend in Rincon and plotted my escape. I was petrified by the uncertainty of my new situation.

Over the next few days, with my hands in the soil and the sun on my neck, I shed my panic like old skin. On Tuesday I pulled stray ferns out of a vermillion plant. On Wednesday night Wynn and I wandered through old San Juan, stepping into cafes, chatting over Medalla Lights and getting to know each other. On Thursday I tended to a breezeway filled with orchids and tree ferns. On Thursday night our host bought more shelves for our bedroom, and I finally unpacked. On Friday we took the ferry to Culebra to swim in the turquoise sea of Flamenco Beach and mingle with island regulars. All the pieces nestled into perspective so incredibly, and I became more and more certain…traveling here on a work exchange is exactly where I need to be right now.IMG_0922

The climate is medicinal and the company is truly great. There is plenty of time to read and write. I wake up early in the morning and go to sleep pretty early in the evening, a routine that feels unsurprisingly…amazing. I am grateful to have been able to choose this on a whim.

A few words on a work exchange. It is an inexpensive way to travel and learn. If those are your priorities, you really do not need much else. In exchange for five hours of work five days a week, I receive meals and my room. The meals are healthy and delicious and my room, I have come to see, is perfect.

Earning my keep is not easy, but it is totally reasonable and rewarding. Today Wynn and I dug up a ginger tree to replant in a different spot. Picture two relatively small women hacking away with all their might, shovels and pick axes swinging. When the rain began we took a break for lattes and reading. In the evening we made dinner in the beautiful open air kitchen, to the sound of good music and falling drops.

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Earlier this week I read a particularly striking line from a book I borrowed from the inn.

“Uncertainty, on the other hand, is the fertile ground of pure creativity and freedom…In your willingness to step into the unknown, you will have the wisdom of uncertainty factored in.” -Deepak Chopra

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Traveling to Puerto Rico alone to work in the rainforest was definitely a step into the unknown, and uncertainty and I have become quite close. Having landed on the fertile ground of freedom and creativity, far from the familiarities of home, I am feeling closer to myself. For the next few weeks you may find me here, working on the home of my bones, focusing on patience and grace.

Unapologetic and open.

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Wynn before we begin a day’s work

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A few pieces of the salvaged ginger plant

IMG_1236The sea from Culebrita Island

IMG_1181Greetings from here

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