The last four months of my whereabouts in mostly southern Brazil witnessed much intense and almost daily rainfall, unusual even for my numerous experiences in rainy-season Latin America. In the past I may have caught the cusp of the occurrence in one location or another for a month or two maximum, but never more. Yet it was sooner or later inevitable. Flip enough coins, and in time ten straight are bound to land on heads.
I would be lying to suggest the phenomenon had not inspired certain contemplation. It had me thinking alright; reflecting, observing, projecting.
My relationship with rainfall and water accumulation has not been what one would call the healthiest. And I find this a bit unfortunate considering the amount of water covering the planet surface and comprising the human body. Few observable matter are more ubiquitous.
Having always been a dreadfully inefficient swimmer, I have nothing but cringed over the prospect of finding myself in a swimming pool, the ocean, or in strong contact with any bodies of water really. Boats and water sports naturally have evoked nothing short of skepticism. Water has become a kind of a bully slash vigilante - an untameable soreness of my existence. Maybe the old Poseidon opted wisely to stay occupied with bureaucratic matters in those vast seas of his.
As I spend a week in Belem, in the northern Amazonian region of Brazil, heavy persistent rain is no exception. Humidity, poor canalization, water sanitation problems, deteriorated construction, all these things intensify the struggling city infrastructure. Yet in spite of that, I can’t help but be amazed at how incredibly folkloric the environment can look in rainfall.
Have you ever walked through the fishing docks in rain? The air infused with the smell of Amazonian fish, colorful, yet rotten ancient colonial structures of commerce, churches and forts abound, merchants lazily stretched out on the still boats, the river energetically radiating in pale light brown canvas, aggressive flocks of black vulture birds scavenging among the waste piled along the shore, the water feverishly flowing along the cracks between the stones under your feet; all these things, projected onto a moving oil painting, would fail not to impress upon the contemplative eyes of a romantic soul.
How about the sight of a museum courtyard in trickling, persistent rain? Nothing of a glorious museum courtyard. Rather, a simple white and gray motive of tiled stones, arc-shaped passages, deteriorated columns, and but a handful of tropical plants to add a slight contrast of hues. Observing the bleak emptiness, the sheer simplicity grows into a species of physio-temporal white noise. To remain in that passage for eternity, an ordeal I imagine quiet fashionable for the ancient mythological period of man, were one to confront such a fate, evokes, I dare say, certain degree of nihilistic pleasure.
In the cinematic domain, it takes a craftsman among the caliber of Andrei Tarkovsky to employ raw, organic environments to such powerful effect. Squeezing much visceral emotion from the fabric of barren landscapes, ravaged interiors, drenched fields; all these motives, when carefully observed, incite one to rediscover the inherent charm in the long forgotten, in the abandoned. The cinema especially served as an anchor for my rediscovery of life essence in what one may consider unsightly surroundings.
The element of water also heavily prevails in the Tarkovsky films, experienced in such forms as the swamps of Ivan Rublev, the ocean Solaris, the sewer nicknamed “мясорубка” (meat grinder) in Stalker, or the dreamlike pool and sewage settings of Nostalgia. The cinema much intrigued me to reevaluate my entire dilemma.
And with that I arrived at the gradual undertaking of the legendary novel Moby Dick. The reading experience has demanded greater perseverance and focus than I’ve yet faced. I was not prepared for the amount of poetry, literary references, sea terminology, and periodic jargon employed among the 1850’s whaling ship crew. Insofar as the setting, similarly to the treatment of the desert in the fiction novel Dune, Moby Dick glorifies the precarious open waters (leaving otherwise little in common, however). With that said, lets extend a toast to the environment I shall occupy for some unpredictable time.