This is a creative nonfiction story inspired by events from our time at the jungle. The story was written shortly after our visit to the Lookout.
We begin another day in the jungle. The air is humid and the temperature’s high; there’s a morning breeze that dances around camp, reminding us of the rain from the night before, and the rain yet to come—if it comes. Everyone begins to wake up, some of them more easily than others. The early birds are already up and about with their day, meanwhile the night owls, like me, can barely lift the bug net to put a leg outside of bed. All around camp the noises of bugs and birds can be heard, echoing the whining and complaining of the few humans that have ventured—that have invaded—this not-so-virgin land; a land discovered but barely touched.
We make our way to the kitchen, where most of us immediately sit down and start fanning ourselves with old maps of the concession that lay around the table. We know our fanning is in vane, but those few seconds of cold air are so necessary to stay awake.
Josh and Scullion tell us the plans for the day; today, it seems, we will not be doing much. There will be a few hikes here and there, and at the end of the day we will go to this place call the Lookout to watch the sun set. Everyone pretends to be excited about another day of hikes and heat.
* * *
The day passes by between mindless walking and conversation about topics of no use; we talk about the experiences from days previous, we chat about the days to come, we create scenarios of life after the jungle, and, most importantly, we ask each other the questions we’re afraid of asking.
Since day one at the jungle time has halted. We count days not by the number of hours passed but by the number of moments lived. We rise with the sun and set with the moon—except for those rowdy nights of loud cackling that keeps everyone around camp awake. We live in the moment, and then relive the moment through memories and the many photographs we have collected. This is what it is to be alive: to be able to sit down at the end of the day not complaining of the hours that you wasted but complaining of the moments you don’t want to forget.
* * *
Soon, we are riding the boats up-river. We pass by a cliff and one of the workers tells me this is the lookout. I look up and ask myself, “how in the world I’m going to climb that?”
We stop at this part where a little stream joins the main river. We secure the boats and start our ascent. The first couple feet are sharply inclined, and most of us have difficulties making our way up, but because I’m a worry head I can only think of the way down. After a 15-minute hike, we make it to the summit.
I thought the hike would be worst, but it wasn’t. We arrived early, so we simply stand there. Around us, the mosquitos and other annoying bugs try to suck the life out of our pores, and the heat gets increasingly unbearable. It’s worst at the edge of the cliff, where the beams of the sun hit you directly, and it feels as if you’re burning in Hell—this has been the few times I have wondered if a Hell exists.
As the moments pass, the light starts to decrease in hue and radiance, and the heat starts to become more bearable. Most people are tired and we start to complain to each other. The complaining goes on for a while, accompanied by horsing and joking around. Then, in a sudden shift, the sun begins to set.
The laughter stops. The feet begin to move, closer to the lookout, closer to paradise. As we stand at the edge of the cliff we are able to perceive the beauty of the jungle, the immensity of this ecosystem, the majestic grace of the river cutting through the green of the trees. The sea of life expands for miles and miles, and the sun, now setting, gives this scene a touch of magical realism.
As the sun hides behind the horizon, the sky takes on new colors, colors we have only seen in pictures. But now, we see these colors manifest upon our very eyes. Not a word is spoken; everyone has been struck by the beauty of the jungle.
A group decides to descend before the rays of light completely evacuate the atmosphere, but some of us decide to remain in the lookout for a while longer. After 15 minutes we see their boat go down the river. A breeze blows from our back. The moment is solemn and serene. Being here, being able to see the entirety and wholeness of the jungle puts life into perspective; this experience is a kind reminder of our mission.