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the Spirits" -- call concerning availability
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"The Coming of Darkness"
As we walk briskly back to our jungle camp along the Usumacinta River, a group of fascinating sounds begin to emerge from the rain forest canopy. During the day visitors are greeted with the remarkable songs of numerous tropical birds: the Keel-Billed Toucan, Blue-Crowned Motmot, Violaceous Trogon, Mangrove Vireo, countless parrots, dozens of hummingbirds -- all (and many more) are present and accounted for. As evening approaches the birds subside, but the insect sounds increase to a crescendo. The humming and buzzing seems almost deafening (and in fact is rather bothersome to friendly conversation). We are treated to a wonderful village/"typico" (of course!) dinner of chicken, rice and black beans. The elderwoman cook and guides dine apart (separate table in the same small hut) from the "guests." Villagers and "tourons," two Italians, two Dutch, two Americans, and many conversations -- now merge into one discussion concerning the local fisherman's new tool -- a battery-powered flashlight. With this device he can locate fish at night, and then "catch" them with his proudly-displayed (if roughly-hewn) prehistoric looking forked wooden spear. Questions are asked and answered -- albeit in a variety of languages -- but this did not really matter. What was being discussed was understood by all.
After dinner Cheryl and I decide to walk back through the ruins, just a few kilometers away from our airstrip camp. We take a side trail that we had previously familiarized ourselves with, and begin to follow "wild" sounds up a hill and therefore into the jungle canopy. The voices we are following are the unmistakable roars of the sentinels of this "neck" of the rain forest; the primal utterances of "mano congo" -- the small great ape of Mesoamerica -- the Howler Monkey. At dusk and dawn various groups call out to one another from differing locations within the jungle. Their sound is like no other; starting with grunt-barks, the resonance (steadily louder) becomes a roar, not unlike a lion's statement, perhaps as heard through a metal pipe or tunnel. As a human approaches the sound becomes almost deafening. Placing oneself directly underneath the monkeys allows the unwitting individual to be pelted by fruit, and then urinated upon.
After some time, we join the rest of the group in the plaza of the ruins and when we (the human visitors) reappear from behind adjacent structures, the monkeys begin roaring again. It is a troupe from the giant Ceiba tree on the edge of the excavation. The apes seem to be guarding this area of the forest from our intrusion. We all spend the final available daylight enjoying the each other's and nature's presence in the beautiful backcountry of southern Chiapas, Mexico.
Near dawn the rain-drenched jungle is utterly, almost unwittingly quiet. Then the sounds start anew; a crescendo of joyous monkeys, birds, insects and life -- after a fulfilling rain -- celebrating the dawn of yet another day in the primeval lowland rain forest.
Copyright Willis Greiner, 1995. All rights reserved.
We're very honored to be the June, 2001 featured artists on Barbara Tampieri's wonderful international (!) fine arts web site -- BTDesign Art Gallery. Her site features fine visual and graphic art, award-winning movie and music sites and the work of internationally acclaimed artist Giuseppe Tampieri. Click on the left icon below to visit the BTDesign home page, and click on the right icon below to visit our exhibit on her award-winning site.
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