Like landing on the moon

I’ve wanted to write about our trip since we got back, but, as seems to be chronic with me and writing, have lacked the motivation to actually do so. Part of this, I think, is a function of our home environment – we just don’t have a comfortable place to write. The rest, I think, is laziness – I have grown complacent in not writing. This is on the list of things to change – I have this glorious idea that once the baby is born and I am no longer working, I might be able to carve out more time to write.  Perhaps that will prove to be foolish, but as yet, I am optimistic.

That said, on to our trip. Michael has already written a great day-to-day synopsis of the trip, which you can read over at his website. He also included some of his photos – though to see more, they have already been posted on Facebook. I am less interested in writing a synopsis than in trying to capture how the experience made me feel.

Considering both the Galapagos and the Amazon Basin, my thoughts on both are simply: it was amazing to be there, and yet, I felt like I shouldn’t be there. Particularly in the jungle, when every step you take is a disruption, scattering ants, branches, leaves, dirt. The path we walked did not appear spontaneously; it is not endemic. The fires we could see above the canopy from the oil refineries was appalling – made worse by knowing that the same oil powered the motorized canoe which took us from Coco to the tributary that led to our wildlife reserve. All this should not be there.

But, of course, it is there. We were there and it is impossible not to feel grateful for the experience. It is hard to describe what it is like to step onto an island and see birds that you will never see anywhere else, because they don’t exist anywhere else. To see cacti growing on equatorial islands, to watch an anaconda (albeit manipulated by people) glide through a swamp, its belly full of its last meal. To watch sea lion pups nursing, penguins grooming themselves, and even to see sea turtles mating, rocked gently back and forth by the waves of the Pacific. Words are not adequate to describe the wonder.

The Galapagos are proof of two miracles – the miracle of Creation and the miracle of adaptation. Whether you see God’s hand in the process or not, you cannot help but be dazzled by the sheer wonder of this world. It is hard not to leave feeling hopeful about the utter resourcefulness of life – but also to be cautioned. These animals, which have adapted so splendidly to the environment of the Galapagos, are at, in many ways, the mercy of humans and our impact on the world (both in the big and small – from garbage floating in with the tide to global warming). This is also abundantly clear in the Amazon, where our thirst for oil has razed not only the habitat of the animals that live there, but also indigenous peoples (our guide spoke eloquently and sadly about how many years after leaving his mother’s village in the jungle, he tried to return, only to find that it no longer existed).

When I think of the Amazon, and to some extent the Galapagos, I cannot help but think of the first line from my favorite book, The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver:

“Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened.”

This was the kind of trip that changes a person. And while there was plenty of frivolity (reading on the sun deck, playing endless games of gin with Michael, relaxing by the pool on Santa Cruz), I think I be most forever touched by the gift of my trespass.

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