Today is my last full day at Xixuau. I have wanted to capture the beauty of the rainforest in pictures, so Zezinio took us to a very pretty hiking trail across the lake from the village. Peter likes to sit in the back of the canoe and paddle, so I've gotten used to taking the middle seat and just watching the rainforest go by (when there are no good photos to be had). Thoughts of the boat ride back to Manaus began to enter my mind. It's a hot, sunny day, so it was nice to do our hike in the morning, before the worst of the heat came on. This section of the forest has several very big trees. There were many fallen trees as well, also a common sight here in the Amazon. Trees that die or are knocked over rot quickly in the dampness and are soon reclaimed by the forest. It's also rare to find plants and trees with perfect leaves, as most have holes chewed in them, are tattered by animals walking past, or have growths of moss or other organisms. Here's a secret of nature photographers: we don't show viewers a typical or average depiction of a scene. Instead, we look for exceptional scenery that we can use to create visually interesting compositions through camera position, lighting, exposure, etc. Contrary to the old adage, the camera always lies.
I probably produced some good lies this morning, though I'll have to wait until I can see them at home. Wildlife was hard to see in the forest, though we heard some birds up in the canopy. We did see two very pretty hummingbirds, which is always a fun thrill because they are such incredible animals. I didn't quite get my wildlife fix, so we planned to go out in the canoe in the afternoon for some more wildlife spotting. Somewhere along the line of communication from my discussion with Peter to his conversation with Chris to Chris' instructions to Zezinio, about 2/3 of the plan was lost. We wanted to first stop somewhere for a swim. But Zezinio headed straight for the flooded forest, which is not a good place for swimming because the water is shallow and has too many fallen tree branches sticking every which way. I had really wanted to take one more dip in the river, and was very disappointed that I missed my opportunity; my limited portuguese was not enough to tell Zezinio our true plan. Soon after, the rain began to fall, quite hard for about 20-30 minutes, and more gently for the next hour or so. The rain was thankfully cooling, but I had a hard time letting go of the anger and disappointment over the screw-up in the communication. I watched my mind contracting around the ideas about what went wrong and how the afternoon should have gone. And for the many moments when my mind returned to the present, I recognized how nothing at all was wrong. I was very happy to be sitting in a canoe in the Amazon, getting rained on, barely seeing any animals, as long as I wasn't getting caught up in thoughts about how it was a miserable experience. Misery is just a judgment. Contentment comes naturally from being present.
We saw a few birds and an Agouti, a small mammal that nearly blends in with the color of the ground. As we left the flooded forest, it became clear that Zezinio had missed part three of our plan, which was to go back to the den of the giant otters for more pictures. In talking to Peter, I become convinced that he had not described this to Chris clearly, which got me pissed off and sent my mind thinking about how I should have found Chris that afternoon to make sure we got things right for my final day. Again, the sense of self and complaining, judgmental thoughts ruined the experience. I managed to tell Zezinio that we wanted to see the otters, and we headed towards the den. They put on a bit of a playful show for us. I struggled with camera settings and changing lighting, but I think I got a few decent photos. All the while, I reminded myself not to lose the experience of watching these amazing animals in the Amazon by getting obsessed with capturing images. I also realized that the best view of them was through my long camera lens, which was quite fortunate.
Dinner brought more white piranha, which is still a treat. The conversation around the table was quite ordinary. No one seemed all that interested in closing out the week by sharing final thoughts or experiences. In some ways, this feels incomplete, but we do still have a long boat ride back to Manaus together. I have mixed feelings as I prepare to leave Xixuau. It's been a wonderful experience, but not the series of "peak" experiences that one hopes for on a vacation. I think that I captured some very nice photos, but not a big collection of stunning images. There is no doubt that this is a very special and wonderful place. It is beautiful and peaceful, with friendly people who have worked hard and done a great job to meet our needs and wants, and share their lives in the rainforest. I have drunk in the experience of being in the Amazon rainforest, and thoroughly enjoyed it for the most part. But I'm also ready to go home. I'm ready to be clean and dry, and looking forward to my house, food, friends, and community. I live in a beautiful place and have a great life. My Amazon adventure has run its course, and I will leave a richer person for having been here.