More Context: These were written just a day or so after taking part in a shamanic ritual in Quito that involved consuming ayahuasca which put me in a very interestingly receptive state of mind and influenced my taking of the listing photo, which is iconic of my tramping through the rain forest:
1) The Achuar, the local native tribe, can walk through the forest silently. Even along a path I cannot help but make some noise. I concentrate on maneuvering quietly, carefully placing my feet, avoiding brushing against plants. Soon I am striding confidently and what I think is quietly through the forest. Exactly at these moments, when I feel I have attained some mastery, my foot catches on a vine or root and I stumble, trying to catch my balance and not fall. And I realize (for the umpteenth time today) that I am not a master of the forest; it is saying to me, “If you are to be my friend there is much, much, more for you to learn.”
2) In the forest on the hike today, Sarah asked, “If a tree falls in the rain forest and there is no one around to hear it, is there any sound?” And it occured to me that that viewpoint puts the asker at the center of the universe. I am not the only creature in the forest that can hear. I can walk through the forest and make no visible impression. The forest was here long before I arrived and will be here after I leave. I alone cannot bend the forest to my will. I can destroy the forest but I cannot bend it to my will. If I am to be here in the forest and flourish I must become a part of the forest and listen to what it has to tell me. There is room in this world for both of us - the forest and I - but only if I, with humility, allow the forest to be my guide.
3) On our hike today, Felipe our naturalist guide pointed out the interconnectedness of the trees and vines in the rain forest. High above us, often hard to see, vines connect the trees together helping them to stand up. When one of the trees falls it takes down with it many of the other trees it is connected with, leaving a ‘light gap’ in the forest. On the forest floor lies a scattering of seeds many of which can lay dormant for decades or more, waiting patiently for enough light to grow. A tree falling, pulling others down around it to create the light gap, gives these seeds their opportunity to flourish. However there is no way to predict from what has fallen what will grow to take its place. During our lives, we are all connected. Directly in many cases, but often in ways unknown to us. When we fall, we cannot control what grows in the ‘light gap’ we leave behind. The seeds that we have planted during our lives will grow ... but which ones and how their lives will proceed we have no influence over.
Originally posted on June 18, 2008.