I wrote this poem while sitting alone in a canoe in the Amazon Rainforest..my friend, a local, had gone into the forest to look for a sloth to show to me and as that probably meant leaving me and climbing trees, he thought I’d be safer in the canoe.
The forest and river were quiet except for the hum of insects and the occasional bird cry. I felt overwhelmed by the vastness and beauty of the place and unbelievably happy.
My poem was picked up by the publisher of a children’s book..I granted her request to use it to educate children about the forest and the use of poetry to express feelings and ideas.
Have you ever known complete aloneness. I mean no people, no tv, no Wi-fi, no radio, no phone, utter silence except for wildlife for days on end.
I had this experience on one trip to the rainforest in the Amazon. My partner had to leave to go on a job. My usual companion, an elderly man who didn’t speak English, but seemed to understand my poor Portuguese, had gone to visit relatives. So I was on my own for a week.
I was not afraid, I knew the risks and prepared for them. I looked out for poisonous snakes, jumping spiders, Jaguars, caiman…they were not the problem. What I found surprisingly difficult was the silence. Not that the rainforest is silent, far from it. It was the lack of human voices and contact with the outside world I found disconcerting.
I began talking to the animals and birds. It made me smile and giggle the thought of a human hearing me in deep conversation with the frogs and tarantulas living in my home on the river banks. The birds at least replied and came regularly for a chat. This was when I realised birds are far more intelligent then we give them credit for. The small finches would move their heads as if trying to catch my words and tweet in reply. The bigger birds, aracaris and toucans, just stared, but felt comfortable enough to stay and watch me. The vultures looked at me as if I had come from another planet, practically sitting in my lap if the food on my plate was tempting.
I grew to love deeply the forest during these times. Sitting on the small wooden river platform doing the washing up became a pleasure. Aqua and crimson swallowtails butterflies came and landed on my hands drawn by the perfumed soap or salt from my sweat. I watched as they stroked my skin with their long black tongues and, yes, I talked to them too.
I got used to the silence and instead became part of another world. It was for a time an uncomfortable experience, but finally a liberating one.
I have just read that there is a word, under song, which describes the sound of a landscape or the murmur of an environment often hard to hear or tune in to.
I found undersong easily in the Amazon Rainforest. Lying neck deep in a cool stream on a hot, humid day with my eyes shut I could hear the rainforest around me ..helped by the rhymic pulsing of insect chirps…the forest seemed to speak to me. In the soft movement of leaves and the cathedral like canopy of trees it spoke to me of strength and vulnerability.
The drink Caiparinha was first made by Brazilian slaves in the1800s. It was made from boiled cane sugar juice and Cachaça, a spirit made from sugar cane. To this mixture was added fruit juice.
The name Caiparinha came from blending of two words Curupira…forest demon and Caipira a name used for the inhabitants of some remote rural areas.
Cachaça can be bought in good supermarkets. Its essential for an authentic Caiparinha.
Ingredients…, Cachaça, a lime, 2 teaspoons sugar, crushed ice cubes.
Cut lime into quarters, put in glass, crush. Add two teaspoons sugar. Add crushed ice cubes and 1 2/3 oz Cachaça. Mix.
Caiparinha is a delicious drink, especially on a hot day. I can only personally drink a couple before I start giggling.
It brings back memories of a vibrant, friendly country and the magnificent forest I love.
My first taste of this refreshing drink was on my first trip to the Amazon rainforest. I was hot and overwhelmed by the forest and this welcome ice cold drink was perfect. As I slowly sipped it through a straw, I relaxed, not knowing then how this beautiful forest would change my life.
Pope Cardinals were regular visitors to the lodge in the Amazon Rainforest, but a flash of blood red in the shrubs was usually all I got to see of this bird…the bad photo shows the difficulty I found with photographing this vibrantly coloured bird in the forest.
Cardinal birds were named after the scarlet robes of the Catholic Cardinals.
They have a mostly black back, their black/grey wings are edged in white as are their tails. They have pure white chests and collars and the bright red head and red narrow bib that has given them their name.
These birds have strong bills and are seed eaters but also eat fruit.
The Agami Herons were regular visitors to the waterfall area. Being shy they kept hidden in the undergrowth most of the time, but occasionally I would catch sight of them on a branch or moving slowly along the river bank.
The Agami is a long billed, long necked, short legged, medium size heron. It has a chestnut neck and chest and with a creamy white stripe down the middle of the fore-chest. The wings are dark green in mature herons, brown in immature birds.
Agami gather together to nest in large colonies and usually have two blue eggs. A quiet, shy bird, when gathered together they make a low snoring sound. They eat fish, frogs, snails and small reptiles.
Despite their reputation for shyness the Agami did not fly off as we passed by in our canoe, but carried on picking amongst the reeds for fish…
This poem was written a few hours after I had left the rainforest. I did not know at the time but it would be the last time I saw my forest for years maybe forever.
Just reading it again brings tears to my eyes.