Iwas profoundly affected as a young man by the primeval rainforest and the savannahs of British Guyana in South America.
I travelled as a land surveyor on the coastlands and into the interior for many years and became immersed in the fabric of the place, the waterfalls, the calm but treacherous intervals that lie between the rapids.
The rainforest makes both a subtle and a deep impact on one’s consciousness and on dimensions that lie beneath consciousness. First there is an unearthly chorus sprung not only from the sudden cry of wild creatures but from an organ of mimic voices within the rush and the impact of water on rocks in the rapids and in the waterfalls. One hears in a great waterfall, or in the long descending ravines of a series of rapids, sounds akin to the ceaseless commotion of a great city, the sound of wheels and of traffic, the gigantic archetypal step of phantom crowds in pounding water, the applause and clamour of phantom populations. It is as if an embryo is secreted in nature that bears the impress of diverse echo, diverse orchestration.
As the inimitable voice of a particular series of rapids declines or fades as one travels away from it, one may become peculiarly sensitive to the intricate volume and murmur of the rain and the wind within the immense tapestry of the jungle. And at times an acute sensation may arise that what one hears is caused not by falling distant rain but by the adversary of rain, by the hiss of flame making its way by stealthy degrees along the ground and in the air.
The jungle sometimes is a sponge of light, it absorbs light, it is porous with light. There is dazzling brilliance in an open savannah or in the mirrored sky in an open stretch of water in the forest, but that dazzle changes abruptly into a canvas of luminous darkness with a single brushstroke by a hidden artist clothed in the rustle of leaves as one steps into the density and gloom of the great Bush.
Night and day are hinged together there; night and day are adversaries upon an elusive hinge, within an elusive doorway or window backwards in time to evoke a sensation of lost or broken architectures, lost
Many cultures in South and Central America have vanished in the rainforests and the savannahs for reasons that remain obscure. Some were crushed in the sixteenth century under the heel of the Spanish Conquistador but even so conquest may have but brutally hastened internal conflict or internal enigmatic collapse that was already occurring. Other cultures survived the conquest only to disappear and we have but tenuous records of their fall. All this was to be augmented by the seed of new conflicts, by slavery, by the Middle Passage, and by new tides of greedy colonisers from Europe.