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True Stories: The Scarlet Sages


Since I was young, probably at least 7 years old, I've had a bit of wanderlust. I can remember vividly having emotional fits and complaining to my mom that there was no adventure in my life. True story. I'm sure the poor woman didn't know what to make of me. This bug, as it were, is what caused me to take advantage of opportunities for adventure in my life as they were presented, and in this case my first trip to Costa Rica. In January of 2011, I went with a group of people to Costa Rica on a yoga retreat, led by my best friend and mentor, Karina Ayn Mirsky, and our two good friends, Luna and Joshua Canter. All beautiful people. It will make sense for later to tell you now that Luna and Joshua are brilliant musicians. At this point, I had been practicing yoga for 5 years and was really absorbing a lot of the more spiritual and esoteric philosophies that yoga is built upon. For the first time in my life, I believed in "energies" and "sages" and "divine wisdom." In everyday conversation, I would throw around words like "karma" and "dharma" and "just breathe." I remember early on hearing Karina tell simple stories that helped to explain how things worked in the universe. One time she mentioned that she passed a flower in her garden and inside was a dead bee. She said she felt bad for it, and devised a story that the bee had been a sage and its presence was gift or lesson for her to learn. Though I understand the purpose of such a coping mechanism, the idea of using these ideas to help explain the world intrigued me. Which brings me to setting the scene for my actual story. When you experience Costa Rica for the first time, EVERYTHING is magical. No, for real. Literally everything, from the moment you step off the plane, is seeping with whimsical melodies and bleeding promises of world beyond reality. Even what turned out to be trivial inconveniences were wondrous and new. For example, this was the first time I'd seen or used an Electric Water-heating Shower Head. Basically, it’s a large shower head with heating coils inside that heat water as you take a shower. Hindsight 20/20 - the thing was a piece of shit (all of them). But the first time, I was amazed that such a piece of technology existed. There was no water heater and you still got to take a hot-ish shower, when we were able to make it work. My friend Mel discovered that it would heat the water better when the bathroom sink was running. We still have no idea why, but the point is that we were in awe of all we saw. The original shower head scene took place mere hours after we arrived in San Jose, the capitol city of Costa Rica. A couple days later, our magical journey continued as we headed to the small village of La Florida, which was four hours from any kind of real civilization. I tried searching for this place on Google Earth before I left and couldn't find it. This led me to believe that this village is actually located in Narnia. At some point on the four-hour bumpy bus ride we must have gone through a portal. Not that I minded. Narnia was one of the coolest places I've ever been to. So we get to the village of La Florida and a couple days go by. We're doing yoga, hiking through the mountains, helping build a clinic for the village, and we're walking down this road one day (there's about 16 of us altogether) and we look up in one of the trees and see two enormous and beautiful Scarlet Macaws (parrots). These things were amazing and we just stared and took pictures, because there was no way in hell our friends back in the non-Narnian real world were going to believe this. It gets better. Not far from the tree, a woman comes out of her house and invites all of us to join her on her porch. We accept and she brings out several bananas. The bananas were not for us, but for the macaws. With surprisingly little urging, we convinced our feathered friends to come down from the tree and eat out of our hands. They hung from the roof's overhang as we fed them and then they eventually realized that we were tourists and of no threat to them and joined us on the porch. This went on for some time and then they flew away. After leaving the gracious woman's humble porch, we traveled further down the road where our red friends again found us and this time we fed them fresh coconut for about 30 minutes. Like I said, this was truly magical. As amazing as these experiences were, they paled in comparison to our next encounter with the birds. Fast forward a few days. Everyone is on the yoga deck, beginning a live music yoga class, with Karina teaching and Luna and Joshua providing the music. So Karina's guiding us through a meditation, Luna's softly strumming her guitar and providing melody, and we're all getting really deep into meditation. I then faintly hear something that resembles the rustling of feathers. In Costa Rica, there are birds everywhere, so I ignored it. Then I hear some loud "cawing" sounds coming from very close by. I take a deep breath and open my eyes and the same two scarlet macaws we'd met days earlier had landed on the yoga deck near Luna and Joshua, and had begun walking between the yoga mats, staring up at the starry-eyed yogis. As if by instinct, Luna and Joshua kept on playing the music, as if they were entertaining God. The macaws bounced around us for a little while longer, stopping every so often to look at us. We of course were no longer meditating. We were far too distracted and far too in awe…and it’s hard to meditate when you’re taking pictures. After some time, the shock of the birds' presence died down and we all returned to our mats, and Karina returning to the head of the class to her own mat. The birds followed her there and stood next to her as she continued her instruction. As the next song ended, as if on cue, the birds walked to the edge of the yoga deck and took off in unison, heading back from whence they came. I'm objective enough to know that in all reality these birds had become accustomed to humans and to humans feeding them. I know that they probably just landed on the yoga deck because they heard some music and primitively thought that the humans had food for them (like last time). But do I have to accept this reality in full? Did the bee in Karina's garden coincidentally die within that flower? Can I take some deeper meaning from an experience that, all logic aside, was breath-taking and wondrous? My version of the story of the Scarlet Sages is that these birds were sages who knew that all of us on that deck were doing important and difficult work in our lives (to better our lives) and their presence was their way of blessing us and our efforts. ---

Copyright Jerry Givens 2015 | All rights reserved

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