Excerpt from: Faraway Fables
It was a wonderful rainforest morning, so unlike those I had experienced in the United States. After all, the rainforests of the tropics are entirely different from those of the north. The virgin forest of the Rocky Mountains is earnest, sublime and quiet. It resembles a dome. Someone who enters it feels moved, so that he hardly dares to break the deep silence, and to desecrate it with a loudly spoken word. However, in the rainforest of the south, everything presents as an uninterrupted splendour of colours and forms. There is life and movement even in the darkest of nights, and true calm actually only occurs during the midday hours, when the sun, standing in its zenith, shines down so hotly that all animal life tires and withdraws into the deepest shadows of the forest.
The banks of the river on either side displayed lush, impenetrable palm flora above which towered the tall turu and cucurit canopies. In places, the palms retreated, and dense foliage, loaded with thousands of colourful flowers gained the upper hand. The vegetation shimmered, glistened and flickered in all possible colours and combinations, and impregnated the morning air with a heavy and at the same time sweet perfume that only the tropics are capable of producing. In other places, the banks were covered with bombace that had lost their foliage. In its stead, millions of magnificent blooms had emerged from the naked branches, which developed into glossy red seed capsules. Between these hung hundreds of japera pouch nests. Loudly screeching golden birds flitted through the air. Hummingbirds jerked back and forth like sparkling precious stones. Now and again, the terrible call of a howler monkey became audible, and before long, the entire Satan’s brood chimed in. On the top most branches swayed marmosets, cute little monkeys of squirrel size. A large number of wading and swimming birds covered the river, and along the sand banks the crocodiles basked in the sun. From time to time we encountered a turtle, which stared at us quite perplexed. And the deep water was teeming from fish that came to the surface to gulp air.
The waterbirds greeted our boat with hellish screeching; but even louder was the noise that came from the forest at times. Yet, the sounds constantly changed. The closer to noon the day progressed, the quieter the landscape became, and when the sun had almost reached its high point, deepest silence fell all around us.
We, too, were no longer able to suffer the heat and headed for the bank where we noticed a spot in which the vegetation was not too dense, and we could therefore land. We secured the boat, and then waded through the deep mud until we were on dry ground. But the plant growth then became so impenetrable that we needed to make room with our knives.
We encountered a unique, magnificent display of plants as we stood under timicho palms that paraded their fronds in pale rose hues. High above them the giant of the rain forest, a colossal ceiba, spread its umbrella-like canopy above it. Tree ferns, beautifully festooned, strove up to it in vain. And high in the treetop climbed vines, dangling like cords, or being suspended between branches. Monkeys, the acrobats of the forest, practiced their art, not letting our presence disturb them.
Occasionally, the vines rose perpendicular like poles, or like ropes intertwined in the most peculiar twists and plaits, and on those, a thicket of passiflora curled up to the canopy of the ceiba with millions upon millions of red, blue, and purple passion- flowers.
I was utterly astonished at the indescribable glory. Such an endless abundance of flowers seemed almost incomprehensible to me. It was a virtual flower fire, a flower flame that seemed to reach to Heaven! I, the miniscule earthworm, stood before and under it like Moses, when the voice of the Creator came from the burning bush:
“Moses, take off your shoes, because you stand on holy ground.”
It was not only the enormous size of the passionflower thicket, or the wonderful splendour of colour alone that had such an effect on me, but also the fact that we were approaching Easter. The passionflower encompasses the symbolism of the suffering of Christ.
Sleep was an almost irrefutable necessity for us because of the great heat, but at the sight of the flowering work of wonder, the omnipotence of God, I found it impossible to close my eyes. My comrades stretched out, each wrapped up his face and hands to protect them against mosquitoes, and soon they were in deep sleep. I sat there quietly, ignoring the stinging insects, and reflected on the far-away fortress of healing, Zion, the garden of Gethsemane, the place of crucifixion, Golgotha, the rocky grave, and on the Easter jubilation: “He has truly risen, and is no longer here!”
My musing was interrupted when a crocodile came ashore and pushed towards us through the gap we had hacked into the bushes. When it spotted us it stopped. It seemed to consider whether to flee or attack. It probably decided for the latter, because it continued on its way after a short pause.