updated 01.04.24 (1)

The Puma, the Skunk, and the Southern Cross

On our first evening at camp in Patagonia, our guide was briefing us on details to know for our next day’s hike; things like weather, elevation gain, miles, etc. In this, he was sharing about seeing pumas. As he continued speaking, I was no longer hearing what he was saying, as I was still stuck on the pumas piece. I stopped him and said, “Are there pumas here at camp?” He said, “Oh yes, we see them all the time.” I replied with, “Wait! What?!” and then, “Sooo, when I get up at night to go to the bathroom, I could see a puma?!?!” He responded by telling me that it is highly likely I could see one. He said they leave us alone because they are not afraid of us, and they instinctively know they own the place. He told me to not be afraid because they most likely would have already eaten and they prefer the hares that are around instead of us. I got hung up on the words “most likely” and “prefer.” Those are not definitive enough in my mind. My guide then chuckled and said, “You should worry more about coming in contact with a skunk instead of the puma, because they most certainly will spray you.” 

I instantly began to play a game of would you rather in my head. Would I rather come in contact with a puma that will “most likely” leave me alone, or a skunk that will “most certainly” spray me? The answer is skunk. All day I would pick that answer. 

Night one at 4am, I wake up and have to go the bathroom. I hear Niki and Joe leaving their dome to pee and I am psyched. I will go now and at least I will not be alone. We all survived. 

Nights two and three, I got up and peed solo and was scared to death. At this point, no pumas, and no skunks, but pure fear, nonetheless. 

Night four at 1am, I wake up and have to go the bathroom. Here we go again. I am outside and solo and fearing the pumas. As I was frightfully peeing, I suddenly thought of my own words I often say, “Life is happening just on the other side of fear.” I told myself to pull it together and let go of the fear, and somehow, I did. I stood taller and held my head up high with confidence and then lifted my head up to view the sky. Right in front of me was the Southern Cross. It was radiant. It was beautiful. I smiled big. 

As I got back settled in bed, I sang Southern Cross by Crosby, Stills & Nash, “when you see the Southern Cross for the first time….” I have a song playlist titled “Soul,” and it contains the songs that move my soul. It might be a lyric, a beat, or a memory tied to it, but for some reason, when I hear one of those songs, my soul is completely moved. CSN’s Southern Cross has been on this playlist for years. I had never seen the Southern Cross. Now I have, and I had seen it for the first time, just like in the song. That is cool. 

The next day while hiking, I pondered life like I usually do while hiking. I thought about the lessons learned through the puma, the skunk, and the Southern Cross. So often in life, we live in fear. We operate our lives on what ifs and things that “might” never even happen. When we are fearing what is to come, we miss what is. Life is happening just on the other side of fear. 

I missed three nights of star gazing and that moon. I did not even mention the moon, but it too was amazing. Thankfully, I had more than three nights of camping, so I had time to let go of fear and see the beauty in the sky. In life, we do not always get the chances we have lost. 

I never did see a puma or a skunk. I did see the Southern Cross for the first time.

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