There is no light when you wake. Just the ship’s musty heartbeat, and the sharp ring of a bell calling everyone together. Through the darkness, sixteen pairs of eyes flit to the shoreline, eagerly watching its approach. What strange and lovely creatures await us today? What experience, what adventure.
But there are rules, even out here on these untamed rocks. Don’t get too close. Don’t fall too far behind. Sweat too much, drink even more. Stretch. Ache. Tire. Rest. See. Do. Live.
The truth is, you couldn’t possess this land even if you tried.
The paths are marked in black and white — gentle but obvious reminders when set against such a vibrant world. This is the only way you may go. The rest of the animals pay no attention. Their definition of home will never include lines or locks or laws.
An iguana blinks up at me. His skin is ridged and cracked. He steps forward. He angles his head. His jaws open. He plucks a tiny yellow star from its leafy nest. He chews.
I laugh as he deflowers the entire patch of grass and then moves on to the next.
What a strange and lovely creature.
Once upon a time, these islands were nothing but fire and ash. Coils of black rippling against each other. Burning waves conquered by the steady blue water.
Then there was a seed, a sprout, an egg, a chick.
Lifetimes layer like sweet, rich cake. Once upon a time, once upon a hundred years ago, once upon a yesterday, once upon a now. Tomorrow is invisible but there, waiting. It’s the salt you taste on every breeze.
My only regret is that I am never alone here. Just for a moment, I would like all the other bodies and voices to disappear, to leave me with my thoughts, allow me to converse with this place that is science and history and art. We have been introduced, the Galapagos and I. But we are not intimate. I would like to really know her.
I spot a sea lion pup sucking on its mother’s teat, and suddenly I have been let in on a secret. Our vulnerability is shared. The islands whisper, You may not know me, but I know you. And it’s true. I cannot hide here, I do not perform. Like the land, my mind and spirit roam wild. This place is not the experience or the adventure. I am.