Traversing the Shallows

in the
of the rainforest I sat among a circle of fearless tribesman. Their lean, near naked bodies glistened under streams of brilliant sunlight that pierced the canopy of lush vegetation high above our heads. The humid air was dense and filled with a reverberating chorus of exotic birds and animals. The tribesman studied me closely with curious, yet compassionate eyes. Collectively they exuded an awareness beyond anything I had ever experienced or imagined humanly possible. No words or gestures were exchanged, but it was clear to me that they somehow knew and understood everything about me.

My cell phone rang and I fumbled to answer it. “Dude,” said a familiar voice from my past. “The Dow just hit twenty-nine thousand.”

The tribesmen’s gaze was unwavering and my stomach rippled with waves of insecurity. In a futile attempt to evade their scrutiny, I foolishly extended my phone to them in offering. “The Dow just hit twenty-nine thousand,” I said with a nervous smile.

Just then a huge bird erupted from a nearby tree flapping its wings. It flew off belting out a loud, resounding squawk that echoed throughout the surrendering area.

I closed my eyes and reappeared in another part of the forest where my lower body was entangled in a thick mesh of wild brush and tree vines. I struggled intensely to free myself and my breathing grew heavier. I paused to regain my strength and noticed a bright green praying mantis poised on top of a heart-shaped leaf, its mysterious protruding eyes looking directly at me. I leaned closer and the mantis tilted its small, angular head as if to acknowledge my presence.

Suddenly the world around me blurred and I found myself in a singular unified reality with a majestic insect, completely focused and captivated by the magnificence and perfection of its ancient stature. My muscles began to relax and I could feel the vines miraculously loosen around my legs and slowly recede away from my body. A rise of gratitude permeated my entire being. I felt both humbled and privileged to witness the wonder and wisdom of the universe contained in a single living creature—a miracle of evolution radiating hope and infinite possibilities. Overcome by the sheer notion of its existence, my chest sank and I was quickly brought to tears.

Moments later I woke up to sounds of canned cheers, whoops and hollers. My pillow and bed sheets were drenched. Across the room figures moved about on the flatscreen TV—a baseball game recorded earlier. All the players on the field wore face masks, each detached from the row after row of cardboard cutouts displaying torso-sized photos of people seated next to each other in the stands, their smiling faces frozen in another place and time.

I sat up and rubbed my eyes with the balls of my palms. “It’s Ramos!” the announcer howled. “A hard shot taking it high to deep left field. That bad boy is outta here!”

John Califano