Living and Giving

The Wisdom of Ecuador: SupraConnected with the Forest (Part Three)

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This is the third of an eight-part series on my volunteer trip to Ecuador. This is an unedited account of a personal journey and will be followed by stories from a few more of my international volunteer trips. Many of the experiences on these trips would become the impetus for founding UniversalGiving™. 


SupraConnected with the Forest 

What if We Came In and Destroyed Your Supermarket?  How Would You Feel?

A very powerful concept, then, of how nature is viewed by the animals and the indigenous people here. While in the United States we are “environmentally conscious,” and strive to do the right thing by recycling, here one is supraconnected and spiritualized to and with the forest.  Surely proximity and life sustenance has much to do with this, if you constantly see and work off of the land. But it’s not only that…

Whatever You Take Out, Must Gently and Respectfully Be Put Back

The Aschuar tribe, a tribe of over 2,000 years, calls the earth “Pachamama.”  It’s what the organization is based on “the Pachamana Alliance.”  Pachamama means mother earth, and they believe God exists in the river, in the forest and in the earth itself.  The ancestors live there and so does God.  Therefore whatever you take out you must gently and respectfully put back.  As Cristobal, a member of one of the tribes said to me (in Spanish) “It is about touching God.  But also, what if we came into your community and destroyed your supermarket?  How would you feel? How would you live?”

But it’s more than this – it’s about connecting and communicating with nature as a source of wisdom, not just food.  It’s about communing with it.  They truly believe that God speaks to them with and through the plants, and that special messages come to them when they do so.  They treasure plants and nature and this communication…

We can see the communion.  In our treks in the rainforest you become a part of this huge ecosystem that the Aschuar tribe lives off of both materially and spiritually. They cut down trees for shelter, fire—for needs.  They also worship, bless and pray to the trees, their friends and fount of spiritual wisdom.

It was a powerful first walk.  Density.  Strangler fig trees which drop down and land on a tree, and eventually, years later, encapsulate, strangle, effectively overgrow the initial tree from up to bottom.  Thirteen different bird species call and click and ooo-oooo-oooo, kEE WAH KEE WAH… Chicka chicka chicka roooooooooooooo and interspersed with an incessant groaning which I finally figured out were the chimpanzees. 

Vines, growth and the most fascinating furry, large, black, brown decorated caterpillars; little red cups (devils’ cups), special mushrooms, on the ground.   Enormous bright blue butterflies, the size of a man’s palm, flicker in the forest! Catch them with your eyes and hold fast they are gone.  Then stumble upon the thickest soup-swamp and watch for the eyes of a minialligator… and he slurps along. Beautiful flocks of yellow-black birds fly,  bevvied from one tree amidst the swamp, to trees on the fringe, back together to the middle…

Walk amongst the overlapping symbiotic trees… taste lemon ants, used for flavoring and have a tiny bitter sour taste.  Thin, thread-thin lace vines wrap in crisscrosses across the trees, embroidering the trunks in crochet.  Huge, dark brown-black termite nests hang from the branches of trees.   Mini-bees poke from a hive that has been built through a tube 1/16 of an inch wide into the tree, thereby hollowing it out and using the tree as part home-hive…

…be a part of this ecosystem…rest in its presence… and you feel at once vibrantly alive and, overawed, overpowered and powerfilled…


You can take action.  Support projects in South America:

Give $10 to plant a tree in the rainforest
Give $25 to give water to a villager
Give $115 to give light to a villager
Volunteer in conservation in Ecuador
Spend the summer teaching in Ecuador