The Bridges We Build

La Selva, Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, Costa Rica
Today we saw
Peccaries        Bullet ants
Iguanas            Stingless bees
Motmots           Poison dart frogs
Howler monkeys
Strangler figs
Cycads and palms
Pipers and Melastomes
The Kapok (also called Ceiba) tree with its pale towering trunk
Inch worms
Crazy fruits
Roots that smell like pepper
Leaves that climb trees
Cement paths over nascent swamps
Fish the color of mud
Butterflies with a flash of sky on their wings
Tonight it rains water upon water upon water
Frogs chirp and crickets croak.

The Stone Bridge brings the visitor across the
Sarapiqui River and into La Selva’s forest.
Today I gave an introductory lecture to the NAPIRE group about the forging of Central America.
This is a story I like to tell, one that I’ve shared with many different audiences in just as many different ways: How this mass of stone and fire tumbled upward from the ocean floor, laying a bridge between two worlds that had been separated nearly 140 million years.
The landscape of Central America, a crucible of perpetual struggle for control over the Panama strait and the San Juan River, was fixed at least a million years before the first individuals of the genus Homo walked the plains of Africa.
Fate determined by geography, or perhaps better stated, fate determined by the interaction between geography and human ambition.
Was there something in the creative impulse behind Central America that “reached” toward this role in the history of the planet?  Islands rose, sank, and rose again. Land masses moved north and east to make room for other contenders, fingers lengthened their reach toward the two continental land masses, until at last the gap was closed and the Great American Faunal Exchange ignited.

What was the Great American Faunal Exchange? An explosion of movement by animals, 3-5 million years ago, that marked the reunion of North and South America, and laid the foundation for a rich mosaic of ecosystems that characterizes Costa Rica today.
We’ve had countless bridges built across our history: physical, emotional, economic, psychological. Often these bridges have brought opportunity, exchange, new horizons and a brighter world.
Some of the animals that participated in the
Great American Faunal Exchange.

Yet on too many occasions, we have built bridges of destruction, unleashing forces that erode biological diversity, cultural diversity, linguistic diversity, and the rich heritage built by the deep and dramatic history of our planet.

Today I ask myself, “What kind of bridge do I want to be?”
I don’t want to be a Christopher Columbus bridge or a Captain Cook bridge. I don’t want to build bridges that conquer, homogenize, trample, or reduce.
I want to be a Costa Rica bridge; to tumble upward and stretch my spirit between worlds, to build new landscape for an extraordinary future; to lay down fertile soils that support verdant forests, to establish a place where diverse peoples find a common home.
This is my wish for the future. It’s a wish that seems within reach as NAPIRE 2014 gets underway, because in La Selva I’m not the only one who seeks to build this kind of bridge.

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