While in Llanachamacocha in Ecuador, with the Sapara people our group went for a hike one day to the top of a local sacred (and slippery) mountain. We climbed the steep muddy slopes in wellington boots trying not to grab onto anything having been told that there are poisonous snakes and ants in the area and plenty of plants that could be harmful to touch. It made for an interesting climb and interspersed with nuggets of information about the medicine of the various plants that we were seeing along the way and stories of the local wind god Paratu we were kept alert, educated and entertained.
At the top we were each brought to a different small clearing in the forest and given some large leaves to sit on. There we got a chance to spend time on our own in the forest. This sounds like a simple thing.. and of course it is. But after being introduced to so many different plant insect and bird species along with footprints of tapirs and the local call of monkeys we were very aware of how incredibly ALIVE the forest is.
I settled myself on my large leaves to meditate. And I began to slowly look around and really take in this forest, without any sign or sound of other humans. There were sounds of many insects and bugs.. many types of which paid me a visit... most were welcome... some bothered me and others I was suspicious of.... not knowing their capacity to sting or bite but I figured that if I sat relatively still and caused no harm to them they would most likely cause no harm to me... and that was the case. I don't know how long I sat there but I felt a deep sense of aliveness in me and at the same time enormous respect for this tremendous and thriving aliveness all around me. Being in the forest my senses felt heightened... I felt more human.. I felt more alive and all around me were reminders of birth and death and everything in between. I was reminded while I was there of how fragile I was as a human brought up in 'the west'. My pale skin and soft feet were not made for exposure to the elements of the forest and all the leaves and vines looked unfamiliar to me and indistinguishable from one another. The Sapara work with over 2000 different species of plants for healing.... and I didn't know even one of them. So as I sat there I decided to get to know one of these plants; a beautiful spiralling sculpted vine...I painted it and then drew it a scarlet red spiralling companion... the image felt like a welcoming dance between the vine and the unique part of me that really was at home here..
I've attached an image of the original painting made while meditating and then the progression of that image so far as I paint it now at a larger scale back home. Also I've attached few photos from that day: showing our wonderful friend Manari guiding us, an image of some wonderfully coloured turkey eggs that were found abandoned and a view from the mountain as we descended back to Llanachamacocha.
The forest is so wonderfully abundant in life and medicine and mystery and the Pachamama Alliance are working hard with the people of the forests of Ecuador to protect the forests from oil exploration, which would be the death nell for the balance of life in the forest. You can help protect the forest from oil exploration by supporting the Pachamama Alliance (the organisation with which I travelled to the forest of South Eastern Ecuador with).