She felt the sound before she heard it. Goosebumps arrived as the muffled snarl crept toward her on tiptoes, a poison arrow wrapped in a cloud of spun sugar. A cat, perhaps? The foliage was too thick. Whatever throat was emitting this warning, an impenetrable bank of multilayered green blinded her to its source. Her first impulse – – well, other than the goosebumps, which were decidedly involuntary – – her first conscious impulse, then, was to relax. Relax, become part of the landscape. Blend with the ferns and the figs, the vines and the soil. The Medusa-like strangler fig behind her left shoulder gave no foothold low enough to make climbing it an option. She considered getting behind its aerial roots that hung all about her like a veil made from dangling threads of burlap. She was reminded of the waterfall whose backside she had traversed the day before, in what turned out to be a magically successful effort to find and photograph the indigo swallows whose nests were mud-plastered to the cliff behind that watery curtain. But the fig tree was only inches from its own hanging tendrils, and any part of her body that touched the tree would’ve disrupted the steady march of termites that were soldiering up and down its trunk, navigating their pheromone-laden path with purposeful determination and no time to lose. Her peripheral vision was disturbed by the movement of a leaf near her right knee, a fist-sized tarantula peeking out from the curled bedcovers as it awoke from a midday siesta. The hairs of its legs glistening with the kind of moisture that only a tropical rainforest can produce, the spider straightened its two front legs in a blissful moment of arachnid yoga.
The feline growling had a stronger wingbeat now, with a rhythm reminiscent of purring but definitively threatening; no pleasure here. No invitation for contact, none of the sensuous deliciousness of fur on fleece or chenille.
She closed her eyes, silently called to the moon and sent an umbilical cord from her solar plexus out into the vastness of spacetime. Her breathing slowed. Her knees unlocked. Her fists uncurled. The spider emerged from the leaf and she could taste what the spider was smelling. Her lips felt the imprint of a million termite feet as they trod the chemical pathways that surrounded her, that enveloped her in uncharted intricacy and brilliant geometry. The hair on her arms vibrated with the peck-peck-peck of an Antpitta that was browsing in the undergrowth; her hair danced against her forehead at the cry of a howler monkey two miles away. She opened her eyes as the jaguar’s tail disappeared into the jungle.
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash