“No longer talk at all about the kind of man that a good man ought to be, but be such.” Marcus Aurelius (Meditations, X.16)
We are starting to pile up some good film time for our documentary and the other day we shot some more interviewing Tom, the director of Cloudbridge, and Linda, artist and Tom’s wife. After the interviews and some time chatting away with both of them, I was reminded of Marcus’ quote. Tom was inspired by the ambition of the original founders of Cloudbridge, Ian and Genevieve. At the end of a winding road, amongst a collaboration of paddocks and pastures, these, I almost want to call them pioneers, saw vision of what forest could return and flourish along the slopes of such a picturesque valley. With the reserve as home-ground for research and reforestation, Tom and Linda use it as a platform for education and activism. Through collaboration, connections, outreach, funding, and community involvement, the impact of Cloudbridge extends well beyond the boundaries of the reserve to shape the lives of Costa Ricans, Americans, Europeans, and now even some Kiwis. Another thought that echoes this life of engagement and recognition lies in the words of Seneca that ‘if philosophy is the practice of a wise life, its truth cannot be learned apart from its embodiment.’ Linda expresses conservation reforestation and human liberty and action through her acrylic and collage, housing her work in her gallery that is a must-come-see.
We welcomed some fresh researchers from the GBI programme last week, coming to continue work on the camera traps, butterfly surveys, and bird counts. They gave a bird presentation the other day, inspiring Fredie and I to go out searching at 17:00 as the sun started setting. Not surprisingly, we encountered no birds but came across a car-sized stump crawling with a spastic horde of harvestmen, an inert anole, a springy caterpillar, a hoo-hoo-ing owl, a demon-like spider caught red-handed with a spun-beetle, a flower in disguise of the vampire squid, and an annoyingly loud giant pulsating cricket. The joys one can find in the jungle twilight.
Wow, a Brugmansia! Fredie roared fearlessly as she spots the size of a flower hanging down. I reminisce on the similarity with the deep-sea vampire squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis)
The plant traits never cease to impress me as I wonder through these forests. The other day Oli was setting up his tripod on the edge of the river waiting for some kayakers to come down the main drag. While he was doing some smooth-as rubber-band camera panning I was having a fine time contemplating some of the plant forms littering the riparian edges. One tree arched over the river with outstretched branches; to think of the overbearing strain on these extended limbs with so many vines, epiphytes, mosses, leaf litter, animals, all doing their best to stay attached and retain their place. Other trees seem to eject themselves like antennas out of the soil, thin as beer cans but storeys high; how would you fare playing wizard staff to the same extent. The kayakers shot through the section while we were making lunch and so we missed out on capturing one of them break their nose; “worth it,” he exclaimed to one of the staff here.
As well as taking in the variety of plant and animal forms around the place, I have been able to relapse into botanic enjoyment, wandering around sloth-paced through the tracks with a gaze large and broad, perception strong, sight weak. Oli and I have collected and recorded a decent amount of soil and invertebrates so are now in data science mode. Instead of gunning it up hills to grab some bags full of soil, morning walks have been rather leisurely and curious dawdles. It’s been a good opportunity to put my phone’s camera to the test as I begin compiling a presentation for the botanic society back in Dunedin. Also really good time for listening to audio-books. One that I have been listening to recently is Churchill’s recount of the path that allowed WWII to rise from the ashes of WWI. I’m in a quoting mood and this one of Churchill doesn’t need much context because of the badass prose he is able to muster:
“The governments simply cannot make up their minds or they cannot get the prime minister to make up his mind. So they go on in strange paradox; decided only to be undecided; resolved to be irresolute; adamant for drift; solid for fluidity; all powerful to be impotent. So we go on preparing more months and years, precious, perhaps vital to the greatness of Britain, for the locusts to eat.”
With twenty people merry, cherry, and hungry, we were all eager to please with dishes we had planned for days in advance. Tom and Linda hosted the crew along with a bunch of local friends for Christmas dinner.