That was all it took for me to abandon the little elephant on the table, no matter how intriguing its very life-like tusks might have been.
I let go of the table leg and floated up to and through the clouds, getting wet with future rain that might soon pepper the room and whomever would enter. The clouds lasted for a few minutes and my clothes were almost drenched by the time I reached dryer, warmer air.
My head bumped into a soft mass that I somehow knew I'd need to dig through if I wanted to keep going. I scraped and clawed my way into and beyond thick threads all knotted together. It smelled like dirt to me and I was right. If there had been any light, I would have seen that I was digging through the complex and cohesive root system of a rain forest.
When I found daylight again, I was climbing up out of a hole in the ground. It was as if I had never left the kayaking group. I was standing next to an orange, metal shed where people were talking. The sun stung my eyes as they compared it to the underground cavern. I walked along the corrugated steel wall and peered around the corner of the building. Seven people from the boat were putting on layers of clothing I hadn't brought along. There was an eighth pile sitting next to them.
“Hey Lana, all set? This one is for you,” Katja, our guide, pointed to that remainder. “Put on the wet suit first, then the blue thermal and then slip the spray skirt over your head.” She pointed to her own layers as she explained.
“O.k., got it.” I smiled and tried to seem oriented. Seven complete strangers were about to see the red and white striped one-piece I had found at the end-of-summer sale last August and I didn't know the first thing about how to put on a wet suit.
In other circumstances, I might have wondered how many people had worn that wet suit before me. My imagination might have also wandered to the question of how in the world anyone would go about washing and disinfecting something that spent most of its time wet, but not that day. Instead, I followed Katja’s instructions without question, desperate for some stable reality.
As my hands pulled the wet suit onto my legs, I saw that there was no dirt under my fingernails. My hair was also clean and secure in the braid I had shaped it into that morning. The other kayakers were already starting to walk down to the boat rack to help carry the kayaks to the beach. Katja had told us about that step and the importance of having everyone’s help, but I knew I wouldn't miss the chance to go back into the forest one more time.
I finished dressing in my new wardrobe and started to put my most important things, the only things I’d be taking with me, into the dry bag where they’d be all but guaranteed to stay dry even in the rare event of a capsizing. As I rolled my pajamas and back-up swimming suit into neat bundles, the last person finished their bag, smiled and said something like “See you down there” as she left. Katja came up to check on us, met that second to last person a few yards from the shed and continued on to me.
“How’s it going in here? Need any help?” She smiled her very experienced, totally comfortable with the prospect of living out of a tent and kayak for the next two days smile and leaned against the doorframe.
“Yeah, I’m just about done with this. I’ll be down in a couple minutes. I’m going to use the bathroom one last time.”
“O.k., sounds good. I’ll see you down there.” Katja pushed off of the doorframe and turned back toward the beach.
I hurried through the last few items and then went out to where I had come up through the ground, except that I couldn’t find it. Even though I went farther into the forest than I thought necessary, I couldn’t find any kind of hole anywhere. There was no disturbance to the lush ground cover and the forest was so thick that I started to wonder how I could have dug through any of it at all.