The clouds of flying ants didn’t keep us from dancing. With every spin and dip, our feet didn’t stop even as the victims of our rhythmic and free movements lay scattered on the floor. These brave souls were queens looking for their mates. Meanwhile we had found ours, not to serve the same purpose, but at least to celebrate finishing our day’s work with a non-stop night of salsa. The mud of the rainforest was still caked onto our clothes, our boots long ago kicked off out front, the sweat still just drying on our skin. What were a few ants on our feet?
As the music worked its power over and through my body it didn’t occur to me that only two weeks prior I had been having daily panic attacks about this very trip. I left behind the gray, familiar streets of New York for the colorful and insect-filled rainforest of Costa Rica. Somehow I doubted my one trip to the Bronx Zoo would help me adapt to living in the wild.
Earlier that morning the deep chested calls of the howler monkeys woke us, the only semblance of a routine in the unpredictable jungle. The nervous questions about what the day would bring had long ago stopped running through my mind, with the exception of whether or not we would run into a snake.
Making my way down the path to the lodge for breakfast, my feet easily found their way over roots and rocks, my body relaxed yet strong. From replanting baby banana trees to hauling bags of sand through the jungle to mix concrete, the joy of getting my hands dirty with conservation work filled me with a confidence I didn’t even know I had. I had tapped into a world of potential. The day flew by in a whirlwind of hard, yet deeply satisfying labor. My muscles ached and sweat ran down my face as this newfound certainty flowed through me, freeing me to get lost in the music later that night.
The pulsating bass echoed through the trees as our bodies swayed, the queen ants relentlessly continuing their journey in spite of the danger. I suppose they don’t feel fear or courage, yet I couldn’t help but admire their resolution. Just as they had left behind their places of comfort, I had left behind mine. But rather than feel a sense of loss or trepidation, I learned that what I considered to be my comfort zone and what I was capable of was limited by me and me alone.