Wednesday, April 7, 2010

You know where you are? You’re in the jungle, baby. ~Belize part 1

Belize 101

There are some places you visit that are so idyllic as to be unbelievable. You get there, look around and say: This place is so great, it’s unbelievable! You hang around, do vacation things, but now and then you find yourself stimulated by a sunset or drink or really good moment to say it again: unbelievable, as if reminding yourself of its unlikelihood somehow helps to fix or define its reality. When you leave, you’ll look back and remember, but pictures will not capture or express what you only fleetingly managed to grasp. You’ll remember the things you did, the little or large adventures. Or, you’ll remember that nothing much happened. Nothing had to; it was enough to be there, to partake in the experience of how unbelievable it was.

Then there are the other places.

Places that are so deep in their own reality that they make you question yours. The place you came from seems unbelievable. You have arrived in the hyper-real. Every moment is piercing. Every other place ceases to exist. You’ve come here for the first time but you’ve been here before. You remember the sounds—the rush of the river, the movement of trees and breeze, twilight frogs, and birds that scream at dawn and wake you up. You feel the humidity and there is no instant of wondering where you are. The memory of teak pulses under your feet as you rise and open the screen door and step out into the spicy air that seems to settle on, then penetrate, your clothes and skin and hair. The slap of the door cuts off the avian cacophony. You walk into the quiet heat, down the stairs, the railing is satin under your palm, the boards like warm marble under your feet. At the bottom of the stairs, the grass is wet and cool, with squashy mud underneath. Something shakes the underbrush as you pass. Something else zooms by in the air, either a small hummingbird or large bug; you don’t really want to know. 

You walk the few steps to the boulders overlooking the river; the rocks are warm, both rough and silken. They are damp, shiny grey and shaded pink. Sleek white veins run through them like rivers. You leave faint red-mud footprints. Although you stand upon them, you can feel their heaviness, as if gravity is always upside down when you’re standing on the bones of the earth.

The hills rise around you, cradling the watercourse. The air has a presence and mist is coming up over the trees. The birds have dismissed you and started up again. The river is before you, fast and slow, squeezed by boulders to jump, bubble and froth, then smoothing out into deep pools that throw themselves over into descending falls again until, weary, it calms and steadies to flow sure and quiet between overhung banks. This is a twice green river: milky agate water reflecting shimmering jade dark trees as it  uncoils itself downstream and disappears beyond the bend. You wonder where it goes.

You look around and realize a thousand greens.The river green before you, the bushes and trees green around you. Green as light as white, as dark as black. Greens glossy, streaked, spotted, mottled and matte. There are slashes and spots of flowers and hummingbirds: crimson, orange, hot pink, like licks of flame amid the smoke of green rising from steaming soil.  Life is crammed together. There are things growing on other things: strange spiky plants sprout from the joints of trees, vines climb and hang in heated tangles, lichen and moss cover everything. Some of the trees have leaves larger than you. The air tastes damp and rich and gigantic. The sky is silver gray-green, heavy with rain; granite above and granite below, water before and water behind. This is the only place you’ve ever known.

The jungle is silk, the jungle is around you, and the river goes on forever.


  1. wow, how poetic and profound. :) how i wish i could experience that! i am the green of envy! ;)

  2. At this time of year we left, I crave the missing green. We left in the brown and grey of Minnesota, hit the jungle and found green. We returned and spring had happened.

    The place was magical. While words are difficult to describe such a thing, you wrote a beautiful piece to try and recreate such a place. Photos fail, words fail, nothing quite seems to capture it. It's unbelievable.

    You however set the stage beautifully.

  3. Very nicely written - I enjoyed it so much because I could see it and feel it. Thank you for sharing.

  4. mmmmmmm, you speak to the senses. lovely

  5. Hey, you took me back to the 'backdam' rivers of the rain forests, where your Dad tried to navigate a boat. It was horrible as I was pregnant with your sister. But I think you peeped at me through the moist leaves of the gigantic towering fronds and said to yourself - hmm,I have to describe this someday!!
    WOW!! Your writing is awesome, amazing and I can't find words...really. But then I am your Mom!!