So dear readers, when we last left each other I had finished a long council session in the tepee and later that evening found that a brother was quite ill, delivering him some tea I slowly made my way back to camp. I felt exhausted emotionally and mentally yet responsibilities kept presenting themselves to me, the first was empty containers needing water from the river for transport to the kitchen, I filled one container and satisfied with my contribution made way to my hammock – not far from which was Wantanga’s camp, I strode by and stopped suddenly after hearing a weak call for help.
This brother was in his swag, unable to find a comfortable position, muscular pain compounding upon nausea upon splitting headache upon wildly fluctuating fever, his voice was low and muffled and an illness exuded his being. I went to fetch another tea.
After delivering the tea, he asked for more blankets, contributing to the already large pile of rugs building up over the swag, this I provided as well as warm socks for cold feet I was drawn to sit with him for a while, it was late at night and I had no idea how long I was there for. I lit a stick of Palo Santo incense and began chanting purification mantras over his body, I could hear the frustration in his voice, this muffled anger, this agony of discomfort – I could see a purge coming up and found whatever container was nearby, a single soup bowl. The muffled voice grew louder and so did the chanting, I could almost see the sickness manifesting, writhing and twisting around him. The moment came and the man crawled out of his swag to let it all go, and sparing detail, it all was let go. Things changed quite rapidly, the fever, the headache, the pain – gone – his voice returned to normal, clear and articulate. I cleared away the purge and returned book in hand to sit with him for a while, eventually he slept peacefully and I made it back to my hammock to do the same.
The next morning I awoke, feeling off, more emotionally than anything, there was a fear within me and I was very apprehensive about social contact. I was not aware enough to notice it at the time, as if a fog of confusion was seeping through my mental landscape. A partial realisation occurred when on the beach I verbalised my concern to Jean-Eric, in the same sentence I also verbalised that it was OK to feel like this, I don’t have to feel good all the time – I was giving myself permission to just let the confusion and anxiety be instead of fretting about it, compounding the feeling. I went up to the kitchen and got some tea for Wantanga, at this moment I saw a sister and said a few words, words which must have offended as she snapped at me, I felt like I had received a slap in the face, my words seemed innocent but received a wide eyed burst of fury in quick retort. I got up and walked back down the hill, I was drunk, confused, in terror, all I could do was try to navigate to my hammock, detouring to drop off the tea.
I collapsed into my hammock and lay there, a stunned fish, out of water and connection to the world. Tears began to flow, quiet sobs, there was no association, no mental connection, just the flow of outward emotion. I went on like this for what I’m sure were hours, the sobs rising and falling but never ending. During a brief respite Miguel graced my hammock obviously feeling much better, his face changed upon recognition of my red and tear soaked eyes, he sat with me while I resumed my incessant bawling, giving words of comfort that I will always remember. Later that day, with Migel long gone I was in recovery mode, no release but just exhaustion, a sister came by to talk and from hearing my day joined me in the hammock for nurturing hugs.
I awoke late at night, there was a sharp pain in my abdomen, it kept me awake, I deduced that this pain was the onset of the illness that was spreading through the camp – there was no sleep. The day bought the same, constant dry nausea and stabbing abdominal pains, I could not move from my hammock except to sip water and I got to know the ceiling of my tarp very well. The afternoon I felt on the mend and desperately wanted to get out of the hammock. Gemma came by, she suffered the same bug but also the victim of a paralysis tick, we shared sympathy for one another and concluded on a swim to freshen up, our legs dragging and lifting with hopeless effort as we made way to the river bank.
After the purifying dip and healing chat we walked up the hill to the sacred fire, Jake and a few other guys were sitting under a tree, clearly unwell but smiling all the while, I joined in their calm suffering and shared a few words – doing so helped my situation and I felt considerably better from moving about and socialising. I returned to my hammock a little while later, not long in and I was visited by Anandan who had also been battling the same dreaded bug, we finally got the opportunity to have a long refreshing conversation, the similarities were uncanny but each of us had differing paths, his toward activism and mine beginning in military service, yet we had the same drive toward passion and funnily enough were at present reading the same novel – it’s a strange old world – I wonder what he is reading now.
It was getting nearer and nearer to the day I had to make a phone call to my employer which would ultimately decide my leave date from this beautiful paradise. I kept this lightly in mind for the next few days, to not take existence for granted, to live for the present, to spend time with friends whom I may or may not see again – to realise that for life to be enjoyed I must do this often and with everyone, wherever I am.