Thursday, February 16, 2012

Nights in the rainforest

A sunny day as I enter the Amazon basin
It is commonly accepted that the white noise of nature is soothing and helps one relax.  Many people in the world use nature sounds to lull them to sleep every night.

I decided to join their prestigious ranks.

This decision was mainly based upon the fact I like to listen to music to fall asleep.  However, it could possibly be said that the music that appeals to me on certain nights does not lead to restful sleep.

My solution:  Rainforest sounds.

Perfect, right?  I mean, the rainforest is my favorite place on earth (somebody should tell the fianc√© before it's too late and I make him move there).  There's nothing like laying there and hearing the rainforest swelling around you, enveloping you in it's humid grasp.

So, what did I do?  I downloaded several rainforest tracks and when it came time to place my head down on feathers and let sleep claim me, I was ready.  The unmistakable rise and fall of the oropendola's call flutters to my ears and assaults me with memories of the impossible task of trying to sleep early mornings with oropendolas nesting right next to the camp.   The burping call of another feathered friend reminds me of pensive moments along the riverbank.  The intermittent rain reminds me of the sudden storms while out on multi hour treks and how we used gigantic banana leaves as makeshift umbrellas.  The soft humming of the huatzin's four stomachs reminds me of how their mismatched oddities came to be familiar with each trip to the lagoon. The cadence of various birds shifting across the background dredges up memories of early morning bird tours in tiny dug out canoes, as well as afternoons sitting at camp watching the Indigenas playing soccer.

I miss the jungle - the sights, the sounds, the smells of it.

The night track brings me back to every night I lay on my mattress, enshrouded in my mosquito net that didn't always quite keep the bugs out if the door wasn't zipped completely closed at all times.  I remember wolf spiders in the showers, cicadas of surprising size that paid a visit to our evening candlelit cuarenta games.  A bewildered marsupial who waddled into our haphazard kitchen one evening, and on another, our surprise visit from a nocturnal monkey.  There were times where I just sat and looked at the stars in the night sky.*

Caida del sol
Night falling in la laguna after fishing, a swim, and bird watching.
After dark, we search for caiman.

Memory after memory came back to me as I lay on my bed:  The snooty German who insisted on leaving after the first intolerable night filled with insect noises.  The friendly Germans who used me as a translator when our guide spoke no English.  The American couple on their honeymoon.  The Ecuadorian couple who were newly dating.  The one man who snored so loudly no one slept at night.  Walking through the swamp and misstepping into water up to my knee.  Searching for anacondas to no avail.  Waiting for various bugs to crawl off of me (most notably the wolf spider, but there was a conga ant on a trip before that - they have a nasty bite).  Catching a blue and orange fish on accident.  Grating yucca.  Letting bright blue butterflies land in my hair.  Spotting a double rainbow twice in the same day.

Things on the verge of being forgotten seeped their way to the forefront.  This, perhaps, isn't a good way to sleep.  I have a rather active imagination and what used to be a good memory before grad school.  Laying in a dark room listening to sounds from my past transports me back to every moment I spent there.

On one hand, it makes me homesick.  But...it does bring a smile to my face.

What is not happening at night is sleep.  My mind awakens with memories of the mysterious swirling through the dark.  If I want to sleep, I might have to switch to ocean waves...or maybe just rain.

*I've done it with binoculars on several occasions.  Ever tried?  What we perceive as merely dark sky isn't, when you look through binoculars.  Instead of being covered by a blanket of stars, we are at the bottom of a million-mile-high pile of them.  It's breathtaking.

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