Look Out Below!

A fallen branch creates a clearing in the forest; the light it admits to smaller trees more than makes up for the mess it makes. 18"x24" graphite and pastel on Rives BFK.
A fallen branch creates a clearing in the forest; the sunlight it admits more than makes up for the mess it makes up. 18"x24" graphite and pastel on Rives BFK.

In case you thought the biggest danger in the tropical rainforest was poisonous snakes, giant ants or jaguars, the real scariest thing is the deadly falling branch. Anything plummeting from thirty meters is going to hit you hard enough to hurt (Mike got struck by a walnut-sized seed and he got a bump on the head from it). A large limb, say a limb off of a giant ceiba tree,  one that’s loaded up with epiphytes- now, that’ll squash a bus. A high wind, a monkey troupe crashing through the canopy, a heavy rainfall filling up the tank bromeliads to overload: down the branch comes. I like to picture a hummingbird landing on a branch with one too many epiphytes- crrrack!! Many researchers go into the field wearing hard hats, and don’t laugh if you see someone wearing a pith helmet (and do please look up the word of the day, “pith”; the verb).

Tall and skinny is the tropical forest, punctuated by some buttressed and vine-covered goliath of a tree.
Tall and skinny is the tropical forest, punctuated by buttressed and vine-covered goliaths.

I’ve been drawing a variety of thematic subjects for my upcoming show at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History while I’m here. To illustrate the theme, “The Burden of Hugeness”, I chose a substantial branchfall which had effectively created an entire clearing with its destructive force. The limb, about twenty feet long and maybe fifteen inches through, had crashed through palms and trashed saplings on its way down. I spent a good day drawing the twisted mess and the surrounding dead leaves and wreckage. Then I went for a walk in the woods and turned the recorder on to capture bird sounds. Such is the luck of the well-prepared. Listen.

4 thoughts on “Look Out Below!

  1. Ken Januski says:

    I think I prefer ‘pith’, the Noun……………… Speaking of favorite words if you were to reshoot the funicular at dusk you could then have ‘crepuscular funicular’.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s