Secrets at Dawn

I am used to the piercing crow of haughty, splendidly plumed cockerels waking me from my sleep, but this morning, deep in the jungle of the Reserva Biológica Indio-Maiz, it was the the throaty bark of howler monkeys that cut through the thick silence of the early dawn. Layers of this ominous sound built as the calls from various troops reverberated through the forest. Rather than blocking it out and succumbing to drowsiness I allowed curiosity and the charm of the dawn to lure me out from the comfort and warmth of my tent.

The breezes at dawn have something to tell you, don’t go back to sleep ….. Rumi


The view was blurred by mist weaving through the trees like grey cotton candy and silently wrapping itself around the open sided platform that supported my tent high above the forest. Cocooning myself in a blanket to keep out the chill I sat in reverent silence. The monkeys had quietened, all was calm and still, but I felt an expectant energy to the quietude. It was like being in a theatre in those few moments before the curtain rises at the start of play. A sense of excitement and anticipation.


In the words of Maya Angelou,

“This a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.”

As my body gradually became more awake and alive so did the world around me. The sky to the east slowly changed from yellows and grey to a gentle hue of blues and pinks, almost as though the clouds were bruised by the emerging sun. The strengthening light and warmth began dissolving the mist, but so subtlety, so quietly that I hardly noticed it was happening. That time of dawn is like the liminal space between sleep and awakening; dreamy and nebulous …… magical.  I was enthralled as the entire vista was gradually revealed. The land before me dropped steeply away to the shallow river below, coarse grasses and small flowering bushes gave way to a jumbled riot of majestic, centuries-old trees. These sentinels of primary jungle rose tall and proud, battling in an ongoing competition for the sunlight, their glossy, thick foliage forming a dense canopy for as far as I could see.

The tweets and chirrups of birds began to fill the silence. Many of them came to sing their morning songs in the trees that surrounded the platform. They were of all sizes and colours, some quite somber in their plumage, others bolder and altogether more exotic looking sporting ruby red tail feathers, glowing yellow breasts, or splashes of cobalt blue.

And then came the small, busy hummingbirds. I often heard the thrumming of their rapidly beating wings before I saw them, darting as they did with such speed and athleticism from plant to plant. They were a blur of colour until they stopped to hover at a flower, still and precise as they licked at the nectar. A cluster of vibrant red flowers beside me were a popular feeding station and one beautifully turned out bird with iridescent emerald green feathers was, for a few seconds, more interested in me than in his breakfast. He hovered just inches away, surveying me with unblinking beady black eyes. For such a small bird he had a cocky, fearless attitude, holding his head in an upright, proud manner displaying a startling white throat and bib. I felt the vibration in the air from his beating wings and was mesmerised by the smudge of colour they created and the contrast between this zealous activity and his body that was so still and unruffled. And then with a swift twist he was gone.

What a rare start to the day.


“The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you

Don’t go back to sleep!

You must ask for what you really want.

Don’t go back to sleep!

People are going back and forth 
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch, the door is round and open

Don’t go back to sleep!”

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