Monday, September 10, 2012

Death in the concrete jungle

I'm bugs about the Amazon!

In Lima most afternoons downtown one finds a sad looking fellow sitting amidst scenes of death so beautiful one could weep.

 This man sells butterflies and beetles and other Amazonian bug in wood and glass display cases to the locals, most or probably all of his collection being illegal in Europe and North America. Perhaps some things he has are rare, but most likely not. There seem to be a billion of everything anywhere one looks in the jungle; but sense is not an issue for those Europeans and Americans who are intent on Saving the Amazon Rainforest. For the sad man, it's some extra money after work. He sells art, wildlife now deceased and preserved under glass. We should be so lucky as Lenin.

I think I prefer the painted wooden butterflies on display at tourist joints ubiquitous, but maybe if I lived here I too would be thrilled to look at my walls decorated with specimens of my environment mounted for me to see as I would. I think I'd rather have a painting sentimental, but maybe not. I might like dead bugs. I like looking at them on the street corner in Lima. I might like it even more if I saw them on my living room wall.It's a question I won't have to answer now. I'm satisfied with pictures from the street.

These bugs are exceptionally pretty, and one sees them in flight in the jungle, though they rarely land close enough for me to get a good photo.Until I get to the butterfly farm in Iquitos, this will have to do. And for those who will never come to the Amazon one might hope this is good enough as well.

I have, I confess, seem more beautiful and more dramatic butterflies in wilder jungles than the Amazon, but there is nothing less about this beauty for its lack of drama. The butterflies here are as beautiful as any, different, to be sure, but as lovely as a woman one from another. Yes, there are some ex-wives and girlfriends I would prefer to have under glass, but that's not hardly my poetic point here. I'm on about bugs of a different sort.

Let's forget about that for now and concentrate on life as beauty in the world and the earth, two very different places. Here, bugs are of the world. 

The jungle is so wild here that one needs a local expert to guide one in and out. One sees what one sees, of course, but what one sees is from the world as one is of the earth. Few of us from outside the jungle know it as anything other than pretty, if dangerous. We are of the world. Those things of the Earth look pretty to us, but they are otherwise in Nature. They kill. And they die. Just like us.

Some years ago I nearly died from a spider bite, and during my recovery I still came close to losing my arm. I have some deep fear of the wild things. But I love the beauty. I love it as much in the wild as I do when it's preserved harmless and dead under glass. Beauty, death, longing for eternity, maybe the man is sad about something trivial that we don't know of. Or maybe he knows he's a butterfly and he can't wake up.

A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:

And here are some reviews and comments on said book:

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