Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bug Eyes

Maybe people see like bugs.

Light comes into the human eye through a single lens. But like the compound eye of a bug which receives information from multiple points of view, the human brain understands that single shaft of light by sending it through innumerable, interpretive lenses, each ground into a unique shape by genes and polished by experience.

Living in the rain forest of Ecuador for two months was physically uncomfortable. From moment to moment I felt my body probed for weakness so that it could be reabsorbed into the biomass at the first opportunity. Pricked and irritated by heat and dampness, I began to see the life in land as exploitive and grotesque.

At night lightning illuminated the forest like a horror movie on a television playing in an empty room.

In the light of day, parasitism paraded as lushness and…

a poisonous nature was flaunted through a display of brilliant color.

Blossoms took the shape of spears and fists and sported petals as thick as lips.

And the trees, competing for light, grew into odd shapes that were a record of their striving. But now that I have left, the distress of the body no longer dictates the story and other lenses in the compound eye of the brain can focus the image of the forest into a wider angle.

I remember the grotesquerie, but I also think about the vitality. The weather, for example, is as capricious as a teenager. Although the light and heat and humidity are constant throughout the year, the rhythm of each day is unique. Clear skies rapidly mushroom with fat white clouds that darken and hurl drops that sound like a carpenter’s rasp as they tear through the leaves. Sometimes the rain passes like an express bus, but sometimes it is as fixed as a waterfall at full flood, roaring for hours.

The greenery is so dense that it can induce a panic attack. But the light offers relief. Like Matisse with a pair or scissors, the sun cuts sharply through the canopy creating melon slices and asterisks of light which spread across the sky in a jumpy rhythm. The visual jazz is accompanied by birdsong that is in turn as sad a Mahler, as sweet as Satie and as rude as a whoopee cushion.

The agents of decomposition thrive here and consume every helpless scrap with a speed that is unnerving. As a result the occasional, drifting thought on mortality which lands in this over-ripe place is fertilized beyond reason and bursts into sex and …

other creative adventures, like painting pictures in the rainforest with the eyes of a bug.

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