Friday, September 15, 2006

From Pilcopata: Hello Kitty

Jaguars and tigers here in the jungle are like bears in Alaska. Everybody has a story.

Walking back to town from my campsite, I met a woman who had hiked five hours from her community, Guadeloupe. She said there was a tiger, black and red and white, that was killing cows in her community.

One day she saw it, facing her about six feet away on the road.

"Hello Mr. Kitty," she said. " Pretty Mr.Kitty."

The tiger stared back.

They faced each other for about a half an hour, she said. It may have only been five minutes, but I'm sure to her it seemed like a half an hour.

Eventually Mr. Kitty turned around and sauntered down the road in front of the woman for about another half an hour, she walking a respectful distance behind him. Finally he ran off.

Bravery is like that. Ordinary. Staring into the unknown moment and speaking to it in a voice that may hold fear, but also tenderness and strength.

And maybe just a little bit of bullshit.

I understood the woman's encounter with the tiger because I had had a similar one with a rattlesnake that had risen to meet me on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, California.

I admired the woman and her bravery. I will probably never meet her on the road again, but her tiger story will always walk with me.

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