Dreams are powerful tools that can help guide anyone to success and happiness. They represent some cherished aspiration, an ultimate ideal of achievement.

The word sylvan refers most directly to a setting associated with the woods. Reflecting on the vigorous life that abounds in sylvan settings is a very powerful force in my life. For me, this word evokes feelings of transcendence, clarity, and unity.

A Sylvan Dream is a dynamic compilation of my life dream. It is an attempt to seek out and document the truth, beauty, and clarity that exists in this world.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

I Never Would Have Thought...

“We’re going to Pozo Don Pedro, wanna come,” asked Susan and Lindsey as they approached Claire and I on the trail. It was almost 10am, and it was getting rather hot. All of my clothing was more wet than dry, and we were headed back to the station anyways.

“You can go if you want to,” said Claire, shrugging her shoulders after the girls asked her to come as well.

“Nah, come on,” I replied, and we all plodded down the trail to the palm swamp, in search of some interesting animals.

A few kilometers ahead, we descended eroding mud steps a couple hundred feet down to a boardwalk that took us to the pond, or pozo. We all hopped into the catamaran, which was two wooden canoes linked together by a wooden platform atop them. We pushed off with wooden, spade tipped paddles that reminded me of a serpent head, and glided into the middle of the murky, red pond.

I looked around at the towering palms. I had never heard of a palm swamp before, now I was floating in the middle of one. Palms stood perhaps almost one hundred feet above us, bright brown fronds heavy with golf ball-sized fruit leaned out from the trees like fishing rods, periodically dropping fruit into the pond like bombs.

We pushed into the first island of grass and stood up, searching around for movement, anything. The grass would move every few minutes, but we couldn’t see much. Floating past a leaning palm a few minutes later, we watched small, mouse-sized bats fly out from the underside of the crooked tree. Some swirled around us while others disappeared directly into the swamp forest, but they were all gone in seconds one way or another.

Floating past the palm, we approached a prominent finger of grass protruding out into the pond, and Lindsey stood up, looking around, and sat back down surprised not to have seen anything interesting. We sat around for a few minutes discussing some orchids that grew in the pond, and shared some knowledge of them. There were some interesting dragonflies and spiders around, so we took some pictures of them as we talked. The sky was bright blue above us, but the waxing sun was feeling rather oppressive, making me miss my hat in my cabin.

As we pushed off to inspect a few more islands of grass, something shiny caught my eye. I stood up, and saw something definitely shiny and rather large in the grass. I stepped up onto the deck of the hobey-cat, and there it was, clear as day coiled amongst the swamp grass.

Its scales glistened like thousands of huge fingernails in the sun, the texture of each individual one easily noticeable. At it’s thickest point it was about 18” in diameter, but we couldn’t see its head.

“I’d say its about 4 meters,” said Lindsey as she knodded her head, keeping her eyes on the large serpent.

Twelve feet, twelve feet…I was standing less than ten feet from an Anaconda, that was over twelve feet long.

We jockeyed for the best photo spots on the deck of the boat until finally someone saw its head, shining eyes staring motionlessly from behind a sapling.

Its head was bigger than my dog’s head back home, which I think to be pretty big. I couldn’t get over it. We stood there next to the thing for maybe 20 minutes taking pictures of it, seeing if it would move, until finally for us to move on. We actually found another Anaconda within a foot of the boat at a later point. Lindsey spotted it as it was moving away from us through the swamp grass, but this was a small one, its girth a little less than my thigh, most likely about 3 meters long.

Back at the station for lunch, we questioned two of the locals about the size of the Anaconda, showing them how big the snake was, using a hugging motion with our arms, something usually reserved for showing tree girth until I came here.

“Eight meters,” replied Antonio solidly with some quinoa hanging from his lower lip, his brow furrowing in apparent assurance, making a large scar on his forehead stand out from his skin.

“What, no! Eight meters you think?” replied Lindsey in disbelief.

“Yes, of course, eight meters,” he repeated, getting up to walk over to Angel (pronounced an-hell).

Antonio and Angel exchanged a few sentences, Angel asking him to show him the girth of the serpent. Antonio showed the common hugging gesture indicating the massive girth of the snake, and Angel immediately replied, “eight meters.”

My jaw dropped. I was standing about three meters from a snake whose girth was bigger than my waist or chest, and was possibly over 24 feet long. It was apparent this snake had eaten recently enough from its behavior and girth for this distance to not be an immediate threat to us, but at such a distance, imagining the sheer strength of that body wrapping around me and its rough scales biting into my skin seemed quite visceral.

Back in April I sat on the bed of Kevin’s truck sipping a beer with Silas in Central Pennsylvania, close to Penn’s Creek. It was then they made me realize I may be seeing Anacondas and Caymans in the Amazon. I was so focused on finally living my dream of life in the jungle with only visions of so many of the most amazing birds in the world that I had never remembered what everyone else thought of when the word Amazon, or jungle was mentioned. Within hours of getting on the boat that took us the final leg of the journey to the research station, CICRA, Claire spotted a large, 3 meter quite rare Black Cayman, which quickly submerged into the river,. Now, only my third day at CICRA, I have seen two Anacondas within a few feet of me in a pond where four such serpents are known to live. Sitting on the bed of that truck, sipping that beer as we swatted relentless blackflies in the early spring, I never would have thought…


Sarah said...


Patrick said...

What a brilliant blue! The dragonfly shot is beautifully captured.