December 30, 2011

Bittersweet: An excerpt from the forthcoming book "Sorcery of the Senses"

Every time I eat watermelon I remember that day.  It was the dry season, when the rust-red floodwaters of Quebrada Fierro or “Iron Creek” subside to a lazy trickle, exposing wide, meandering beaches near its mouth on the upper Manu River in southern Peru.  I was with a group of Matsigenka men and boys, we had spent the past few hours under a feverish noon sun portaging boat, motor and gear to circumvent a stubborn Dipteryx trunk, impervious as tempered glass, that blocked dry season passage along the creek.  

It was the summer of 1995 and I was taking Hiram, a dear Matsigenka friend who called me “brother,” to meet up with a film crew camped out at the research station of Cocha Cashu down river.  I was helping Hiram’s community negotiate for an upcoming shoot.  Cheronto, who came from a rival community nearer the station, was the best boat pilot in the region.  He was taking us down the river to close the negotiations.

Sweaty, thirsty, and famished, we trudged across the searing sand when someone up ahead cried out, “Watermelons!”  Senegui, an affable widower who lived nearby, seeded the beaches with watermelons every summer, and this year was a bumper crop.

“There are more over here,” called someone else.  “And are they ripe!”

Click HERE to read the full text published in "Dispatches" for December 14 on The Common.