Friday, March 20, 2009

Uncharted Prayer

Stooping to add my face to the collection peeking into the thatch house, my eyes adjust to the dimmer light. A small room easily crossed in a few steps, a battered wooden table, and a red hammock strung crosswise halfway into the hut. Swinging there in the hammock is a small girl playing a black guitar, unperturbed by the intruding audience at her doorway. Smiling at me she continues her original praise song, strumming with ease as she pushes off the center pole of the hut with her left foot.

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“Izailda” She pronounced again, her black hair falling back from her amused face – amused at my attempt to remember and correctly pronounce her name. I sat down beside her in the beached canoe for the promised lesson in Santerén.

We are surrounded by the simple music of a jungle village. Little brown bodies fling out into the brown water, their laughter the color of tropical flowers. Women scrub and slap their clothes clean along the margin of the river – the ribbon that ties all their lives together. It is their water source, washing machine, bathtub, pool, and only mode of transportation. It is a long and winding corridor through wild greens - their only connection to the outside world.

“So pé,“ she tugged on my shirt.
“So pé,“ I repeat in Santerén, verify in Portuguese, and then write a phonetic version in English for reference.
“Meh top, é vmeh, vwako.” Our giggling duet crescendoed with the difficult words, and my frustrated attempts to write the unusual sounds on paper. For example - ú-e-i which means ground or soil. Most of the words are two syllables with an earth-toned guttural pronunciation.

“How do you say ‘love’?”
“Ámor – the same as in Portuguese.” Her dark eyes glow with a simple fire, and mine ignite in response; some things are always the same.

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The cool night air blows in across my face, billowing my mosquito net and drying the clothes I washed in the river earlier today. Purring along, the motor of the launch rumbles a steady pattern, and I can hear the swoosh of the water as the wake peals out around the boat. My hammock swings slightly in cadence with the forward momentum of the boat and I can see out between the white board railings that curve around the deck.

The moonlight tosses a shimmer path across the still dark water - so still, so smooth that it reminds me of polished pewter… a mirror reflection of the quiet sky, with an ebony border of jungle between. Even the moonlit clouds are perfectly reproduced on the liquid canvass. There is a holiness in the stillness, as if our boat is traversing through an uncharted prayer.

Behind us several hours is the indigenous village of Ponta Alegre where we have spent the last four days holding clinics for the community. Behind us are the smiles, honest eyes, impulsive hugs of a hundred little brown bodies. Behind us are hearts; pieces of ours and pieces of theirs.

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