I became aware of it when our guide pointed to an enormous gray-black termite nest that looked like a boulder stuck in a tree. Be careful, he warned, do not get too close; a hive of bees has taken over that nest. We stepped back while raising our binoculars to inspect the swarm. Sure enough, thousands of tiny wings sequined through the morning light. I could almost feel my cheeks vibrate. Bee hum surrounded us all that day and the next, like a dream that follows you slowly into daylight.
We trailed our guide like chicks down a jungle path that was lined with sweeping fans of olive-green Cahune palms. He led us to an unexcavated, but sadly looted, Mayan plaza site. 40,000 Mayans once lived there, but all that was visible now were gently lolling mounds of tree-covered earth. The jungle has taken herself back again, jamming insistent roots into Mayan bedrooms like fingers in a cookie jar.
While we were busy finding birds, the black howler monkeys sounded. They roared back and forth down the corridors of centuries to the handful of humans now toeing their way down a path once occupied by an ancient civilization, a people who birthed their babies and buried their dead under the mounds of the years before us. The howlers’ roars were stupefying. I wanted to make the sound a part of me, or somehow take a picture of their voices echoing through the jungle so I could show my friends what it feels like to have the earth open up before you by the power of a howler monkey’s roar.
This is the last posting about Belize (for now). I have been back at work for a week and a half, and it’s time to move on. I admit, however, that little country is getting under my skin.
The Last Day:
Somewhere in the jungle, a Red-capped Manakin drops into a shallow pool and snaps his wings. The plaintive cry of a Limpkin calls from an invisible copse, and a Barred Ant Shrike passes a seed to its mate. The single note of a Great Tinamou winds its way from the jungle to entwine its way around the hearts of us who have shared its Song.
We are sad to leave here. We hope some day to return.