Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Travel Blog #20: Magic. PURE Magic


E t h e r e a l. We have eaten and the sun has sunk below the horizon.

Some of our companions will complain that there was no electricity, that the food was prepared over fire – and so is unevenly done.

We’ll skip past these people because I am getting tired of writing about them…and they are not at all travelers. They are tourists. The meal was wonderful. End of story.

As we ride in the canoe, darkness comes so fast, that I have the notion it was there all the time, lying in wait like a silent crocodile. Sheree and I are sitting in a canoe and I can see a struggle on her face. She will begin to lower her hand toward the water and then pull it back. She wants to feel the Amazon. But this is a foreign place. And we know the water is full of life. No one knows what could be in that water. But she wants to touch it.

I understand this, and yet I sit in the canoe and watch her.

Eni is standing at the front of the canoe. He has stripped down to his underwear. Maybe it’s a bathing suit. But I don’t think so. He stands there, legs spread for maximum balance and shines a large handheld searchlight over the water.

He is looking for a ruby glow reflected back in the light. A ruby glow means there is an alligator looking back. I look at Eni and the rapt attention he is paying to the slow playing of the light over the water and find myself thinking, not unkindly, of a terrier, looking for prey.

“It’s warm,” whispers Sheree beside me.

I look and she shows me her hand, dripping with the Amazon waters.

“It’s like a bathtub,” she says. The familiar wonder glints in her eyes. I have seen it so many times in our travels that my heart skips a beat. I was blessed to be here. But more, I was blessed to be here with her.

“Put your hand into the water," she says. "It’s okay.”

She wants me to feel what she has felt. It is a desire that is so completely and uniquely "Sheree." She selected the Amazon, researched it and then drew me into the trip, even as she invites me to dip my hand in the water now. I dip my hand in the water and smile at my mate.

The water is warm. I feel the heat around my skin and find myself thinking of the way coffee is made: hot water runs over crushed beans and becomes something greater than the sum of the individual parts. It isn’t water. It isn’t bean. It is something that is the synthesis of the combination of both. It is a new entity.

Perhaps it is simply my admittedly overactive imagination, but it feels as though my hand is touching a source of life itself. In this water live countless fish and predators and creatures beyond what I can imagine. And it is as warm as a tepid bath.

We cruise along the river and there is that ethereal feeling again. I sit in my place in the canoe thinking “I am on a canoe cruising down the Amazon. We are hunting alligators. And I know, because of personal experience that the Amazon is as warm as bathwater.”

Suddenly we see ruby reflections in the searchlight. Eni jerks his light madly to attract the attention of the driver. The driver obligingly points the boat toward the shallows. There are several “false alarms.” We go rushing into the shallow waters, searching for the ruby eyes. But in the end they always disappear.

Is Eni fabricating these “sitings of alligators?” I wonder absently. I certainly would…the people must feel they are getting their money’s worth. On the heels of that thought: “Does it matter even a little bit? I am on a canoe on the Amazon. The only light is from the searchlight…and that ethereal moon above us. Does it matter at all if we find a single caiman?”

I tell myself the answer is “no” and settle back into my seat, allowing my had to trail in the water, watching our guide standing at the front of the boat, looking for alligators.

I remember that I am flying back to the States and that tomorrow this will all be far away from me. This thought is instantly banished. This is not a time for sad thoughts. It is a time for eternal notions because I am gliding over the place where dreams are born and where life was conceived.

We come alongside another canoe. The guide on this canoe has captured a caiman about two feet long. They agree to share their alligator with us.

I have the vague sense Eni is offended that he was not the one to catch the alligator.

He asks if anyone wants to hold it. I put my hand up. Eni smiles and puts the small animal into my hands. It is passive. I am surprised at how passive it is. There are sharp teeth and a jaw that can exert tremendous pressure…even at two feet.

It is so soft on the underside and so hard on the top. I can feel it’s heart pounding under my fingers. This creature is absolutely still. It is completely aware of it’s surroundings. It’s reptile brain has accepted the fact that it has been captured…and that it’s fate has moved out of it’s own hands and into the hands of strangers. I have the idea that it accepts it’s fate either way.

But holding that small Amazon animal in my hands is mystical in a way I cannot describe.

The animal is passed from hand to hand and examined by wondering eyes and finally returned gently to the water. Eni seemed to understand it perfectly.

I was so blessed to be there.

And tomorrow we fly to Florida for four days on the Keys.

Tomorrow we leave mystical Brazil and the Amazon.

I suppress a sudden wave of absolute black sadness and concentrate instead on the moment. I try as hard as I can to impress on my heart and mind the magic of where I am and where I have been over the past two weeks.

Memories of Devil’s Island and the lovely people of Boca. I think of our tablemates who thought a moose singing “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” was hilarious. I think about the people I have met and the things we have seen moments they have shared. I think about Eni….and the eyes of the people of the river and a hundred other things.

I have been a part of the magic around me. I have entered into it...and it is so impossibly difficult to consider leaving it behind.

The Amazon will be there as it has been for thousands of years and it feels as though it will be here for a thousand more. In a few weeks the Pacific Princess will be back with someone else in our stateroom. Something about that bugs me.

I am broken and blessed at the same time.

I have been there and back again, like Frodo.

Tomorrow, we have the morning in Manaus. Oh, Brazil. I will miss you. But I'm not gone yet.

Nearly...but not yet.

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