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January 20, 2020

We received the visit of Guillermo’s parents in November, and these are some of the thoughts and feelings of Beatriz, his mother, during the days they spent with us. ¡Hope you like them and encourage you to come!

The snow covers generously the hills of the northern Sierra of Madrid. I am bathed by the golden light of autumn, which joins my search travelling desire in order to add a little more sap to my veins. I put on my headphones and listen to Mother Nature and that delicious McCartney chorus doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo…

The impenetrable forest of Mindo awaits me without my imagining that it will win my heart as it is going to. Besides my son’s hug next to a lost cabin, the splendid morpho, deceptive as a black and blue bird, makes me cry as soon as I set foot in that jungle, feet subjected to a pair of new moss-coloured boots bought in Decathlon. I am overwhelmed with sensations and I do not know if I will be able to sort them out, or if in my desire to express myself, the moments will lose sentiment. There is no electric light and I can hardly write at night, so I dedicate myself to breathing while listening to the sounds of the inhabitants of the reserve, of those who like to express themselves then. The darkness and the emotions experienced during the day greatly enhance that moment. After six o’clock the light disappears and with it a lot of diurnal creatures.

We are separated from civilization by a hanging bridge of enchanting instability, so much so that only one person can cross it at a time. When we cross it in the nightfall, I stop in the middle, greedy, avaricious, and I look around and smell the water running under my feet. And my eyes fill up with that, with water, as I discover the twinkling of the male fireflies in their tireless search and I realize that I am part of that world in which everything fits together without stridency.

Sometimes at night it rains, and I eat artisan chocolate with a little coffee. They are thin and irregular pieces that manage not to make me forget the artisan process from the cocoa bean, from the sunken root in the fertile land of the nearest coast.

I am fed by the green shades offered by the Mindo Forest, mixed with the golden, orange and ochre shades of late autumn. The canopies of some bushes near the cabin quiver, and a dappled mule loaded with two silver butane bottles appears among them. The animal is ridden by Simón, who speaks the rhythmical Spanish of the area, which I am excited to understand, even though it sometimes does not seem to be the same language. The mule is still wet. She cannot cross the bridge and has to go through the water until she reaches a half-hidden path that Guillermo and Ayla have to clear often with the machete. Simón and his mule leave a music of water and sun in the air and I am enveloped by the strength of that pure life. I am overcome by a doubt that is difficult to avoid: the superb beauty of the place makes me think that someone has set up this stage to make me believe it. Everywhere I look it is like this: the green and yellow grasshopper, the electric blue beetle, the butterfly that pretends to be a leaf, the one with two owl’s eyes stamped on its wings (for whom the aroma of ripe banana and papaya is irresistible, and which makes her sweetly unwind her trunk in front of me), the thirty different species of hummingbirds within a couple of kilometers, which emerge under the bushes near the house buzzing like crazy coloured bumblebees… I know that when I return and remember these things, my soul will be filled with colour and joy, and that I will remember the little black hummingbird (which is the first one I saw) and that the sun was shining on it, endowing it with a beauty as surprising as inconceivable.

I look at the sky without thinking and I see them. The vultures are flying high at that very moment and I feel that life is beautiful between vultures and hummingbirds, ludicrous, contradictory, but beautiful.

Mindo has brought me closer to my essence through the simplification of everyday life, to live again with the stars as in the past, to buy only what is necessary, to pay attention to what the land has to offer, to stop at the small things, to feed on the light, on the colour palette of the foliage, of insects and of birds. It is a beauty that feeds, that enlarges the planet and those who fight for its protection. Lovely, beautiful, splendid Pichincha land, I thank you.

We arrive at the reserve after a long day, and I thank with my all my soul for the hot shower we take under the shelter of the sounds of the nocturnal animals and the thunder of the Nambillo River. The only tree growing out there whose name I know is the cecropia, whose single leaf can shelter three or four people from the rain. I am moved by that cushion, that reassuring wrap of trees with unknown names which, nevertheless, seem so close to me, an indispensable complement to my being.

At dawn hummingbirds wait for their food and come to us without fear. We counted about 15 different species out of the 30 that live here. I am often short of words to help me express what I have experienced. And the hummingbirds’ moment is one of them. Suddenly, here, in the middle of the forest, I am speechless admiring so much beauty, and with no desire to write. I just live. Every night we have to remove the feeders so that they do not get moldy, first chasing away the bandit bats eager to sweeten their dinner. The truth is that they instill, they are enormous, and it makes me laugh how we shout at them without much conviction to make them leave. Ayla screams more than anyone else and that surprises me because she is usually a soft and restrained woman. However, she does not hold back and exclaims that the buffet is over, clapping and waving her hands.

These strong impressions I get, are they because I did not expect anything? I did not want to prepare myself or know, so as not to imagine, so as not to prejudge.

It is time to get up with the sun and I enjoy it very much. I feel that I am born with the day and that makes my energy run full steam. Today we are going to visit the lek of the Andean Cock-of-the-rock. To do this, you have to climb a lot in a short time and reach the summit before six o’clock. The behaviour is always the same. There is a female with a dull plumage that seven or eight males try to conquer with their crimson red plumage. As we approach, the bird call is deafening and we immediately distinguish them among the green foliage, as if they were Christmas decorations worthy of Fifth Avenue. The passionate explosion lasts only thirty minutes. Then, the shouting fades away until the next day. At that point we are very close to the primeval forest where the jungle is more closed and exuberant, where no human being has dared to intervene. I am sorry that I do not know what species of trees surround me. There are many epiphytes, bromeliads proliferate… But I am so concentrated on learning new birds that I cannot stop at the plant world.

The cloudy forest looks like a huge flower shop where everything fits together. And this virgin forest conveys to me the essence of purity, which is matched by the warm heartbeat of this land.

I feel that at least in this piece of world everything is in its due place. It must have some kind of protective aura that prevents any human being from coming and damage it (not to say screw it up). I feel privileged to be on this ground, so I get down on my knees and kiss it when no one is looking.

The time has come to leave and despite the powerful expectation of visiting the Galapagos Islands, I feel that it has been planted in me (due to the unexpected trip, perhaps) the unexpected seed of this jungle that has turned out to be a real home. I thank the tangara pichincha spirit that lives here. Blessed be it.

By Beatriz López Blanco. Translation by Ana María Navarro López.


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