In what seems to be a lifetime ago, I was offered a volunteer position to work with Earthwatch Institute for a series of weeks.
I applied to study Manatees in the Bahamas. I was sent to Peru to study endemic species. Truth be told, I didn’t even know what endemic meant. With scientists and teachers in tow, we mud-bogged through the Peruvian Amazon using nets, boats, instruments, fishing devices of all sorts in hopes we find an elusive species only found in the Peruvian Amazon.
We traversed hundreds of tributaries, saw native land, stepped into the effects of drug lords who has taken over native land, and did our fair share of open-exploration in this wondrous, abundant river.
We boated, swam, bogged, dug, netted and filtered.
We never found an endemic species. Not one. We saw and caught piranhas. We experienced overnight, flooded forests. We captured and released plenty of catfish-like creatures. We saw and came far too close in my estimation to many snakes and over-sized lizards. But all had been found before. They had been named, categorized, classified and appropriately researched.
I remember the scientist assigned to our crew holding a facial expression that read, “We’ve failed.” While simultaneously saying in his broken English, “This work takes time. Always time.”
Years later, I cannot believe that that experience was afforded to me. Because for all the years of teaching experience, no matter how vast or diverse it was, truly the experiences in the Peruvian Amazon would be a constant reference for parenting above all in the most profound ways.
You see, the Amazon river can rise and fall in one season more than 30 feet.
That river, vast in its complex life forms that thrive there, also holds a peace like none other I have ever seen.
In the late afternoon, during dry season the Amazon’s water is so serene you cannot make out what is real and what is a reflection.
The Amazon has hundreds upon hundreds of tributaries – there is never a route that looks the same and you have to maintain sincere humility when passing through any one of these, because vulnerability is an understatement when you are at the whim of such immense, deep nature.
I remember drawing a map of the paths we had traversed. I remember wondering what I might recall when looking at this map years later.
Parenting is exactly like traversing a wide river. How we navigate with so many resources in hand oftentimes still, coming up with nothing visible in our nets. How we work together in tribes, scientific research groups really, to show support and genuine effort but how individual our experience becomes. How we rise and fall, over and over. How we go searching for endemic species, any kind of light that will make our journey lighter, and there isn’t much to be found. How we have to dive deeper to understand what is at the heart of what matters most. How each time we see our children, there is a powerful reflection of self staring back. How deep, vast, wide, volatile, ever-changing, nutrient-packed, it all is. Just like the water, the soil and the expanse of the Amazon.
I don’t know if I will ever return to see with my own eyes the depths of that jungle again. But I revisit it in my heart daily.
An endemic species was found ~ I just didn’t know it until years later. It was so minute not even the finest instruments or nets could have seen it. It took years for me to sense it, to observe its detail, to capture its magnificence, and it will take many more years for me to understand it even more.
FOCAL POINT… EarthWatch Institute is a thriving expedition and research organization . For more than 45 years, this organization has connected citizens with scientists to do their part of improving the planet’s ecological balance. They hope that in doing so, teachers and community members will continue to preserve the natural environment in all ways possible and spread their awareness to their individual networks. Now, more than ever do organizations like EarthWatch need our support. http://Earthwatch.org