Photography by Kathy Clarke
An Adventure of Heart and Spirit
Costa Rica's unexplained granite monoliths-the Stone Spheres-have been skillfully woven into elements of Sci-Fi, mystery, romance, and spirituality.
Tom Youngholm's second book can be read on its own or as a sequel to his international bestseller The Celestial Bar. Digger, a musician/composer, has embarked on a perilous rafting trip down a Central American river. He hopes the change of scene will wash away the last several weeks of his life; instead, the journey is nothing at all like he'd planned.
A beautiful, mysterious woman leads him deeper into the rainforest, where he meets a wise man, a black jaguar, shocking tragedy, and a host of individuals who change his trajectory forever. In a parallel story, Digger's girlfriend is thrown into her own unplanned journey into the unknown as she searches for him. After many startling twists and turns, neither of them emerges from the Costa Rican jungle as expected.
“Youngholm is a gifted storyteller and brings a rare balance to his characters—the women are intelligent and the men are sensitive. This splendid novel is a joy to the mind, heart and spirit, with vivid descriptions and genuine attention-grabbers that propel the reader to set everything aside and keep reading! A total pleasure.”
“…original, compelling, intriguing, and fun!”
—Arielle Ford Author of Wabi Sabi Love
“5 star review …skillfully written, highly recommended… a riveting tale of personal transformation.”
—Midwest Book Review
"…an incredible book—wonderful, powerful, and brilliant!”
—John Perkins Author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman
“What more can one ask for in a novel... that it entertain, that it stimulate the imagination, that it expand your awareness of reality, that it keeps you glued to the pages wanting to know more... This book did all of that.”
“…a finely crafted work…with an original and intriguing plot…laced with provocative insights, fascinating ideas, exciting action, and believable in-depth characterizations. So, if you have time for fiction and want spiritual content as well as enjoyable divertissement, put this book on your list.”
—Tool and Rites for Transformation
Wherever rivers run, they bring opportunities for change, growth, and life. Earth is on the shore of one such river.At special times in our history, the heavens are in a unique alignment and the tides reach their highest point. A rare, wonderful, and unsettling melding occurs between land, water, and sky. At this crucial point, cultures, civilizations, ideas, and beliefs stretch their boundaries and share a common place. We have the opportunity to see more clearly than ever, because the light shines brightest at these times.
But if we turn away, all we see is our shadow. In that moment we truly witness our death.
That death is our consciousness looking back at the old: old beliefs, old ways of doing things, old relationships, old perspectives of yourself and the world. We must face, welcome, and hasten this death in order to survive, indeed to live.
Living in the shade and the light, our vision is then filled with paradoxes of challenge and enlightenment, violence and beauty, despair and hope. It is only our commitment to the Light—our spirit—that will enable us to move out of the shadow. This isn’t attained by the shouts of a revolution or the explosion of a gunshot. It is simply accomplished by the silence … the silence of turning forward, changing a belief, expanding an idea, glancing within and knowing that you are of spirit and truly connected to one another, this planet, the stars, and the Divine.
We are standing on that river shore and in that light. The tides are at their highest and the light is at its strongest. We have looked at our shadow too many times and much longer than needed. Turn back to the light. The time is NOW.
The notes of death had followed Digger more than three thousand miles into the Costa Rican rainforest. Now they reverberated around him as he stood within the lush jungle enveloping him in an array of colors, textures, smells—and sounds. As the realization seeped into his consciousness, he chuckled to himself: there was no escape. Closing his eyes, he listened with the ears of a trained musician. He heard again the persistent sound of falling leaves tearing from their branches and brushing against limbs on their journey to the rainforest floor. There, amongst all the other leaves, they landed gently, with a soft, brittle rustle. The sound of death. Digger mused about the variations of that sound, and how it occurred in cities and countrysides all over the world.
Then for a brief moment the jungle held its breath and became still. Waiting. Waiting for the inevitable. It was all part of the cycle of light and shadow, inhalation and exhalation, life and death. The jungle expected it; in fact, it needed it to survive.
A gust of wind rustled the forest canopy. Digger opened his eyes as more leaves tore from their birthplaces, then twirled overhead and landed at his feet.
A flash of lightning filled the sky and outlined the rich foliage that thrived along the riverbank. Instinctively, like when he was a little boy, Digger counted the seconds before he heard the thunder to determine how close the storm really was. “One-thousand one, one-thousand two, one-thousand thr…”
The thunder crashed and rolled over the canopy of the tropical rainforest.
“Venga! Venga! Hurry, come into the tent,” yelled Francisco, one of the two river guides leading Digger and five others on a rafting trip down the Río Pacuare in central Costa Rica.
Digger saw the others quickly drop the work they’d been doing to set up camp and hurry over to the main tent. He followed them, huddling inside to listen to the guides.
“El río might be too dangerous with all this lluvia—I am sorry, rain,” Francisco was explaining. The slim, dark-haired young man was the senior guide for Wild River Excursions, with long experience on the Río Pacuare. He probably knows what he’s talking about, Digger thought. “We have been getting more rain than usual the last few days,” Francisco continued. “With all the water runoff, the river will be running high and fast. If this storm hits us with a lot of rain, we might be able to run the river but it would be a wild ride. As you know, the last part of the trip is the most difficult, with major rapids—including Caliente Falls and Dos Montañas. We want to know what you all think about continuing.” Francisco and his helper, Danny, a blond-haired guy from Denver, scanned the mixed group of amateur rafters carefully to gauge their responses.
A tanned woman in her mid-twenties spoke first. “Well, as you know my boyfriend is not feeling so well.” The young man sitting on a cot next to her had his head down and hands on his stomach. Montezuma’s revenge had taken another victim. “So we wouldn’t mind cutting the trip short.” The couple reminded Digger a little of himself and his girlfriend, Mary Bendetta Porcelli, whom he’d nicknamed Bendi. Though he hadn’t been sick—physically—Bendi was always trying to take care of him.
“I’ve already fallen out of the raft once…” It was the rugged-looking guy from upstate New York whom Digger had helped fish out of the river earlier that morning. The river had treated the strong and healthy man as if he were some helpless, floating debris. “I don’t want to take any more chances,” he admitted.
Outside Digger could hear a big gust of wind sweep into the campsite, bringing with it a wall of rain. As the rafters continued their debate, the popping-thud noise hitting the top of the tent drowned out the usual dull background roar of the river.
It certainly doesn’t rain like this in San Diego, Digger thought, his mind wandering away from the group as it had been doing throughout the trip. In San Diego, a light mist was called “rain” and would be noteworthy enough to mention on the eleven o’clock news. San Diego weather was mild—no thunderheads, rarely lightning, no gale force winds—just beautiful, boring weather. Not like when he’d lived in Chicago or the Florida Keys. Those storms were exciting and would get the ol’ heart pumping. Digger loved the sunshine, so it was a small price to pay, but every once in a while he would wish for a good old-fashioned storm with blinding lightning and knee-knocking thunder. Sometimes it was needed. It could even be exciting. Most certainly it was a change.
Be careful what you ask for, he admonished himself, you might just get it.
Focusing on the elderly couple who were shrugging their shoulders indecisively, Digger tried to remember where they were from. The woman finally said, “Well, if it keeps raining like this, maybe we shouldn’t go.” She turned to Digger and waited for his response.
At that moment the ground moved. As the earth began to undulate, Digger looked across at the terrified faces of the other rafters. The tent rolled violently from side to side.
He’d never expected to be in the middle of a remote rainforest, listening to the constant tumbling of the river, hearing the rain slapping at the tent, and now to have the jungle move beneath his feet. What next? Locusts? …