Monday, June 13, 2005

Orchids and bromeliads

Despite our despair over failing to be released, the forced march to Perote felt like freedom compared to the fortress at Molino del Rey. We left the valley floor and went up into the mountains, which during the rainy season were usually swathed in clouds. We smelled the fresh sweet scent of fir and pine and saw tropical ferns and the late-season bloomings of tens of thousands of orchids. There were bromeliads--Charles McLaughlin had read about them, and told us about them excitedly--plants with upturned spiny leaves that formed cups and goblets holding so much rain water that sometimes they supported little populations of minnows, which in turn fed on the mosquito larvae living in those same cupped flower goblets. Each blossom was its own tiny world, with the world's struggles within, and as McLauglin pointed them out, nearly all two hundred of us, Mexicans and Texans alike, crowded around him to listen and to take turns peering into the flower.

Transfixed, we each crouched beside it, staring into its shallow waters as if into a wishing well, watching the translucent little fish hanging suspended in their horizontal positions, finning steadily, and the wriggling little commas of wiggletails on the surface. Columns of sunlight came down through the treetops and illuminated the depths of the tiny world into which we were staring like giants.

--Rick Bass, The Diezmo

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