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.