Secoya Territory

Perhaps inspired by the courtship and fecundity of mating insects, I too was overtaken by the scents and charms of a female animal. My antennae and feelers first detected Loli in the Strybing Arboretum of Golden Gate Park. She smelled of philadelphus, and the white vireyas of the Malaysian cloud forest. Birch skinned, with a tinge of pinsapo fir and western azalea. Lips of angel's trumpets. Bright eyes of ochna pulchra, the mickey mouse plant. Her limbs weeding carpets of ivy moved as a forest of trembling and quaking aspen, leaves spinning in the wind. Her voice flowed across camellias, a moon in a lake, and sank into my heartwood. Even her farts blew softly, like the papery flowers of dieramas. A flannel shirt covered her nerine bosom and proteaceous heart. One night, under the blessing of Santa Maria, passion flowers blossomed, pollen and stigma touched. The rainbirds danced, then showered rice and rose petals.

Along a small bend in the Aguarico River in the Ecuadorian Amazon is where we spent part of our honeymoon. We visited an old macaw couple, Don Cesareo and Doņa Joaquina, living amongst the chonta duro palms. They had adopted an oropendula (Luke Haas), a monkey (Luke Weiss), and a three toed sloth (Jonathon Miller-Weisberger) as their children. The family lived there sucking on plant saps, pecking on yucca roots, and whacking pacas and electric eels with machetes. They took us on a tour of their home, where roads were rivers and cars were canoes.

Warm moist thick air enclosed this breathing paradise. It was the mother lode! My senses convulsed and exploded. Huge trees stretched to the heavens, hundreds and hundreds of different kinds. One seeped white chewing gum, another housed colonies of ants in its stems. Palms tiptoed gingerly on stilts, massive ceibas stretched their enormous folded roots. Scale winged gems basked on the riverbanks and our backpacks; their spiraled mouths uncoiled and dipped into nectar and sweat. Lianas and bromeliads slithered up the canopy, holding onto branches and each other. The colorful birds tended a bountiful garden of plants that soothed the tummy, eased psychic pain, purged evil, and sacrificed their bodies in order to restore our vision.

"Drink another cup! Purifies the blood, makes you strong!" urged the smiling macaw. So I drank up, settled in, then retched some more. . . Ooooouuuaaaaagggggghhhhhh!". Our visit to the jungle was not all joyrides and merriment. While crossing the river to buy sugar and powdered milk, a captured praying mantis mother and her babies capsized our canoe. We went whooshing down river, disoriented and panic-stricken. Swarming conga ants terrorized us with paralyzing jaws; invisible no-see-ums delivered a thousand bites to our heels and calves. There were thieving possoms resistant to shotgun fire; and tales of snakes that came back to life after being killed, twice.

The brown and black fuels of coffee and oil had set hooks in this green world high in the sky. A little dynamite in the hole was traded for an aluminum cooking pot and a couple of steel blades. The monofilament lines pulled hard to drag her through cleanly polished alleys. In exchange, she sent down strangling ropes of cat's claws and blakea, and the twining helices of bitter vines and barbasco. On New Year's Eve, pan pipes spat phlegm and square jawed jaguars yawned. Marshmellows were traded for a flute song. Rainbow dragons sat coiled at the edge of the clearing, flashing one scale at a time.