Alan Weisman


In memory of

Sonia Marguerite

with lasting love

from a world without you

Das Firmament blaut ewig, und die Erde Wird lange fest steh’n und aufblüh’n im Lenz. Du aber, Mensch, wie lange lebst denn du? The firmament is blue forever, and die Earth Will long stand firm and bloom in spring. But, man, how long will you live? —Li-Tai-Po/Hans Bethge/Gustav Mahler The Chinese Flute: Drinking Song of the Sorrow of the Earth Das Lied von der Erde


A Monkey Koan

ONE JUNE MORNING in 2004, Ana María Santi sat against a post beneath a large palm-thatched canopy, frowning as she watched a gathering of her people in Mazáraka, their hamlet on the Río Conambu, an Ecuadoran tributary of the upper Amazon. Except for Ana María’s hair, still thick and black after seven decades, everything about her recalled a dried legume pod. Her gray eyes resembled two pale fish trapped in the dark eddies of her face. In a patois of Quichua and a nearly vanished language, Zápara, she scolded her nieces and granddaughters. An hour past dawn, they and everyone in the village except Ana María were already drunk.

The occasion was a minga, the Amazonian equivalent of a barn raising. Forty barefoot Zápara Indians, several in face paint, sat jammed in a circle on log benches.


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