El Yunque

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Yesterday, I went to El Yunque, a wonderful mysterious forest, well known as a place where Taino indians went on pilgrimages. So I did the same. In fact every time I come to Puerto Rico, I try to go up the mountain on Route 191 and venture to find something new there. This must be at least my twentieth trip. It might be more. I've been coming here since the time I worked as a tour guide with Tony Tours, way back in the late 1960's when I was a college student. I no longer see those huge buses making those precarious turns up the mountain, with a tour guide balancing herself as I did at the head of the bus, trying to entertain and instruct simultaneously.

That's when I fell in love with El Yunque. Later when I had a fiancee, I made sure he took me to the place I loved. Then I married and I brought my children for picnics, and later in my silver hair adventures, I have brought my mother and friends. Yesterday, I went alone. I wanted to get a check mark on my to do list for this trip to this island I love so much. What pictures would I take that I had not taken before? What could I focus on that might be a little unusual and off the beaten path? How far would I have to go in order to do that?

When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised and a bit annoyed I must admit with how full it was. There was hardly a place to park, but as soon as it started raining the not so faithful fans quickly started down the hill leaving some space for those of us who know this is a rain forest after all. There was of course a good number that stayed because they had come with their bathing suits precisely looking for a waterfall, a stream, or a natural pool to take a dip in. I really had no such plans, though I did hope to put my feet in the water somewhere.

Funny how things work out. The first trail, I had planned to go down to my disappointment was blocked with a mudslide. Things happen when a tropical wave moves through like it had the day before. Then the next trail I ventured on, only led to solitary open cabins with picnic tables, but frankly I didn't feel comfortable having my ham and cheese sandwich alone at any of them. Then I decided to head back to the car and have my sandwich while a short shower poured outside. Then I thought being the visual person I am. Visual in that I like beauty, I thought why don't I find a prettier spot to finish my sandwich and I pulled my car out to seek a nicer place. The nicer place turned out to be barely across the street where I found a pretty stream.

I finished my last two bites of my sandwich and was about to go to the bridge to take some pictures when I noticed a small path leading right into the stream, and no one was there splashing themselves and making a lot of noise. It was just right: open to enough people passing by and empty just for me. Enough quite for reflection and appreciation of the beauty around me, and not frighteningly alone. In fact after I had done enough reflection a family came by and joined me and I got to converse with them. It was nice.

I was able to think there a while about how maybe a Taino indian might have smelled the beautiful white flowers like I did, maybe swatted a mosquito, knelt to drink out of a fresh stream, relaxed in the same pool and sat listening to the beautiful birds cawing in the wind. Maybe he or she watched the huge green yagrumo leaves turn their silver face in the breeze and raise his brow when a heavy palm frond fell with a thump just beyond his view. Perhaps they heard the melody of a coqui. Those were the things I thought of and wished I could have seen. We don't know that much about our gentle Tainos, but some how I hope they did these things. For now I'll just put my feet in the water, the cool chilly water that refreshed my feet, and dream.


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