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Amazon jungle can be as different as night and day

By Greg Goodsell
April 9th, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Great Green Giant that is known as the Amazon jungle is a lush and mysterious place. What is not widely known is the rolling verdant plains take on totally different personalities in the light of day and the fall of night.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) According to National Geographic correspondent Wade Davis, the Amazon goes into a lull during moments of high, blinding sun.

"The Amazon by day is a place of plants, water, and silence. The overwhelming grandeur of the tropical rain forest lies in its subtlety. There are no herds of ungulates as on the Serengeti Plain, few cascades of orchids. Just a thousand shades of green, an infinitude of shape, form, and texture that mocks the terminology of temperate botany. It is almost as if you could close your eyes and hear the constant hum of biological activity, of evolution, if you will, working in overdrive," Davis says.

"In the air is a fluid heaviness, a weight of centuries, of years without seasons, of life without the rebirth of spring. One can walk for hours yet remain convinced that not a mile has been gained."

The Amazon jungle takes on an entirely different form once the sun sets and the moon begins to climb into the evening sky.

"The air cools. The light becomes amber, and the open sky above the rivers and swamps fills with darting swallows and swifts, kiskadees and flycatchers. The hawks and herons, jacanas and kingfishers of the river margins yield pride of place to flights of cackling parrots, to sun-grebes and nun birds. Toucans and scarlet macaws offer spectacular displays. Squirrel monkeys appear, and from the riverbanks emerge caimans, eyes poking out of the water, tails and bodies as still and dull as driftwood," Davis says.

There is a brief respite at the moment twilight, and "then comes night, and perhaps a downpour. Later the sound of insects rules the trees until, after dawn, once again silence: The air becomes still and mist rises from the cool ground like something solid, all consuming."

Davis relates how he and his companions were lost in the jungle and without sleep, the journey took on the texture of a dream. "One morning, as we followed a faint game trail along a ridge, a jaguar leapt suddenly into our path. Yellow eyes radiant. Fur wet with rain. The perfect image of the transformation shamans seek. The avatar of the wild.

"The cat paused for just an instant and then sprang into the forest. We followed it, and within a day we found our way."

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