Snow from the Surface

Published on 22 January 2011 by in Blog, Peter, Ptarmigan

And in the darkness, our open, bathypelagic mouths await the snow,
Like detritus sinking from some brighter world,
That we may be granted a stale taste of the unknown surface we shall never see,
And imagine.

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A Few Summaries

Published on 14 December 2009 by in Blog, Evan, Peter, Ptarmigan, Ted



I have been living within the forest for over 4 months now.  It seems that the less strange the forest stangers become, the more strange the once strangless forest of people seems, thus a stange world of semi-strangers surfaces.  The only question is which stranger is stranger?

Provided here are a few numerical summaries of my life in the jungle for 4 months:

I have been stung at least 63 times by ants, bees, and wasps.

I have fended off 16 woolly monkey attacks.

I have taken 1 hot shower.

I have no dry clothes.

I have identified 135 different species of bird.

I have survived a stampede of 40 White-lipped Peccary.

I have gone 25 days without bathing.

I have searched for nests 8 hours a day, seven days a week, 4 weeks a month, for 4 months and have only found 10 nests.

On average, it rained every 2 out of 3 days.

I  caught 12 minnows for dinner when we ran out of food, but 8 jumped out of the bucket before getting to the frying pan.

I wrote 4 whole songs, 5 pieces, and many many more concepts.

I have taken over 8,000 pictures, 232 videos, and 176 sound samples.

I wrote an outline and drew a picture for every single day I’ve been here.

I have had 12 separate cases of diarrhea.

I have killed thousands of mosquitoes, but fed millions.

I have seen the serpent of death with my own eyes 3 times.

I have not shaved or cut my hair.

I haven’t heard my mom’s voice in 3 months.

I haven’t experienced silence.

I haven’t known refrigeration.

I have been barefoot once.

I counted 13 species of cricket in this 1m squared area.

I have been drunk once.

I drank coffee every morning.

I am nearly vegetarian.

But now, I have left my jungle.  I will miss sleeping with the root between my shoulder blades and the tent cricket whispering in my ear.  I will miss the dense green leaves, and the soothing  Scaly-breasted Wren, and the highways of diligent leafcutter ants.  I will get on a series of airplanes that will take me back to the civilization i once was so familiar with.  I am excited and curious and nervous to see you again.  I believe the answer to the question is me.

I will continue to post stories and sounds of the rainforest, and keep you updated on the progress of Ptarmigan’s second full length album.  See you tomorrow.

Love, Your Forest,


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My heart to a warbling mother

Published on 13 November 2009 by in Blog, Peter, Ptarmigan



While traveling the 500 trail one day, heading out for a day of nest-searching, I was startled by a tiny, warm spirit, the Golden-bellied Warbler.  She was giving a very indearingly aggressive display; running in little circles on the ground, stretching her wings out and flapping them slightly, and chirpping with fervur.  Certainly, she was trying to distract me from finding her nest and eating her eggs.  She was obviously very stressed out as I succeeded at her first concern – the nest was a perfectly constructed cup of thin grass cussioned with soft moss inside sitting snug in the hole of a mud bank.   Every material weaved with care and percision to ensure the safest and most comfortable environment to raise her children.  There, inside this loving home lay 3 beautiful eggs, cream with brown speckles dense around the base, her children.  Meanwhile, she is still running in circles, more boldly now – only a meter away from me.  She is risking her life for her children that havent even hatched yet.   Though she need not worry about me, I do not aim to eat them – only moniter temperatures.  I set up the sensors and left the poor mother to tend her little treasures.

However, this is a very unfortunate place to put her nest – right near the trail.  How would she know her children arent threatened every time I pass?  With every person that passes, she lunges out of the nest, trying her best to maintain their attention, and each time with greater stress.  There are many other unspeakable creatures of the deep that she should save her energy for.  But alas, she is finally faced with a grave choice: contnue putting her life at risk by to gaurding her little ones in this unsafe habitat, or abandon, leave them to grow cold and die in hopes to start over in a place less frequented by large, awkwardly loud beasts.  According to the sensors, she abandonned her children 3 days after I found them.

Two weeks later, while I was hunting The Chuchupe deep in the forest (story forthcoming), I was pleasantly interreupted by our warm friend, the warblering mother.  Again with zeal, she gave mt her fantastic frivolous display with all her might.  Sure enough, there in a mud bank, another flawlessly crafted safe haven.  She managed to find an mud bank far from any trail and any awkward beast that frequent it (except for me).  And inside, 3 eggs – her smooth treasures seem to glow with potential.  After a few careful measurements, I left the frazzled mother to calm her jostled eggs.  Days pass and the nest is intact.  Her children are swiftly developing inside their shells as she warms them with her breast everyday.

It came time for me to go on a week break and venture into the highlands (story forthcoming).  I was very concerned that the beautiful family I left behind would fall victim to any of the thousands of evils that the jungle’s night harbors during my time away.  However, upon my return, I found that against all odds, the family was not only still alive, but the children broke free of their shells.  Nestling.  Featherless.  Exaggerated features.  Ugly in the most beautiful, powerful way.  Again the mother displayed her concern for her three helpless beauties as I hold them in my hand for measuring.  What a weak little creature, what power it will one day possess to ward off predators for its own younglings.  But the battle is only half over, a great number of days remain until they will fledge.  Everyday I returned to the nest for measurements, marking growth and progress, hoping for life.

One day returning to the nest, I found it completely ravaged.  The perfectly woven nest lie in shreds, scattered on the forest floor.  No nestlings.  No mother.  Later, after checking the predation trap cameras, we discovered our evil: the Chestnut-tipped Toucanet (a close cousin to your friend Toucan Sam).  It ripped the helpless children from the nest, one by one in broad daylight all while the mother watching.  Even her best display was futile.

Another two weeks pass.  Again, I was traveling the 500 trail and our dear warbling mother popped out and danced once again with might.  It was quite a relief to see her again, although she built her home in the same exact cavity as her first nest.  I felt a bit of frustration and helplessness as I watched her protecting her third brood of the year.  “Third time’s a charm” I repeated to myself as the measurements of the 3 fresh gems were taken.  The next day I needed to pass by her nest on the 500 trail.  To avoid stressing out the warbling mother again, I took a small, quick detour off the trail.  As I swiftly passed by, I peered towards her home.  Our eyes met.  In that brief moment, I felt so many emotions overwhelming me.  There she was, incubating, warming another trio of unhatched children.  She was weathered, tired, determined, willing.  I felt the trials and terrors that this loving parent had endured.  I felt her vigor to continue the fight.  She was teaching me the emotions of parenthood I am only beginning to understand.

The very next day, her nest was empty.  The eggs were gone, predated in the night by an unknown beast.  Our dear determined mother was nowhere to be found.  It is an absolute miracle that anything reaches maturity in this forest.  Even for those who are giving their lives everyday, there is no promise.  Know this warbling mother; my heart is with you.



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From one wonderland to another

Published on 13 November 2009 by in Blog, Peter, Ptarmigan


This is a poem in Lewis Carrol´s Alice in Wonderland that I set to music.

The Lobster Quadraile

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Melodies rise with the fern

Published on 13 November 2009 by in Blog, Peter, Ptarmigan



Again, a work in progress

We, the Forest

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Of the Hills and the Hunt

Published on 13 November 2009 by in Blog, Peter, Ptarmigan



Of the Hills and the Hunt

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Another work in progress.  Short and simple.

olly music

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Chrome Bumblebee

Published on 29 October 2009 by in Blog, Peter


Frogs scream terribly at night.

The fern uncoils its slimmy fingers.

The chrome bumblebee follows with elegants.

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song of the forest

Published on 19 October 2009 by in Blog, Peter, Ptarmigan


This is my song for the giant firefly.

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We, The Forest

Published on 09 October 2009 by in Blog, Peter, Ptarmigan



forest light

I have been wondering this strange land, lost, for almost 2 months now.  It is most definitely not getting any less strange.  Even more so if anything.

Every morning I wake up before the sun to a chorus of avian courtships.  I play my harmonica, roll out of my damp sleeping bag, put on my damp clothes, and exit my damp tent.  Breakfast sandwich time: fried egg, fried rice, (sometimes fried beans), butter, strawberry jam, all crispy on 2 peaces of moldy bread.  God, I love breakfast.   I set out into the jungle, down the trail for 20 minutes then strait into the dripping, pristine wonderland.

The sun is out at this point, but the only evidence I have for its existence is thin visible rays diagonal through the mist.  The leafcutter ants have a very powerful work ethic.  The early cutting crew is already returning with the day’s first fresh harvest, running against the hundreds of empty handed workers eager to sink their mandibles in after a hot cup of coffee.  The Forest rains even when the sky above is not.  Staring straight up, standing underneath the ceiling of tiny leaves high, high above, water droplets boldly make their base jump hundreds of feet.  They zip past my face, some just in front of me, some behind, some splatter right on my forehead.  Among these living monuments, there are so many tiny details to appreciate.  The diversity of fungus, insects, and moss is far more than overwhelming, too much to describe here so I will have to be selective.  The variety of caterpillar attire ranges from elegant to hostel to bizarre.  One particular fellow is short but stately and dignified, wearing a woolly fur coat with large, flashy scarlet feather structures rising around its head, reminiscent of Queen Elizabeth’s collar.  Two rows of smaller white feathers lead down the back to another collar of large scarlet feathers mimicking the first, but on the opposite ends.

The brilliant colors and magnificent structures and forms of the fungus inspire gasps of awe and mystery.  The role of fungus is to break down the nutrients of the dead back to the soil so it can be shared by we who are alive.  However, many fungi break this rule to feast on the living, who are then doomed to join the dead that cover the forest floor.  Cordyceps spores enter insects’ brains, whispering orders to climb the nearest structure before putting an end to their misery. Colorful fruiting bodies twist and creep upwards out of the fresh carcass, providing a perfect poem of life from death.

Moss covered vines are draped everywhere, ranging from hair-thin to thicker than me, lazily dropping from the heavens like great mastodon trunks plunging for the rich, damp earth. With an eerie, thundering collapse, the skeleton of an ancient friend towering 40 meters above makes his grand finale back to the earth and echoes through the forest.  Unexplored creeks, waterfalls, clearings, swamps, hills, and caves call to my curiosity each day, from sunrise to sunset.   The forest gives me its beauty, its secrets, and its strength, teaching me strange lessons and specialized techniques.  I feel lifted, elevated, skyward, but at the same time humbled, grounded, deep, firm.  Much like a tree . . . hmmm.  I am certainly becoming part of the forest.

However, the jungle doesn’t offer its wisdom and beauty for free.  Certainly not.  We have a very healthy give and take relationship.  In return for my lessons, I offer parts of my body and mind.  The relentless clouds of mosquitoes find me anywhere in the forest and take my blood, through my clothes if the must.  They help me stay in motion through this wonderland.  Every night at camp, I participate in the blood drive hosted by the myriads of huge tabanid flies, some equipped with 2 cm needles to pierce deep and easily draw my blood.  Hundreds of tiny biting flies swarm around my headlamp, cackling like witches on the black Sabbath and feasting on any exposed flesh.  Despite their size, they deliver the most painful bite.  The razor sharp bamboo spires that rise from the earth and are covered in short, hair-like needles are the weapon of choice for the giant forest trolls.  As the spears develop and discard their needle skin, they reveal hard, complex spikes at every segment that grow 8 inches long.  They ask for the skin off my shoulders and the plastic from my rain gear.  I happily share all my meals with a nematode named giardia that lives in my stomach.   He expresses his gratitude by implementing constant diarrhea, nausea, stomach pains, and weakness.  I provide proper nourishment and care for the lump developing in my right foot that is a beautiful moth larvae.  He returns the favor by stabbing me with extreme fiery pain that only last 30 seconds, four or five times a day.  These are only a few examples of my generosity.  This is a very small price to pay for the emotions that this land inspires everyday.

I have written 2 new songs and plenty of ideas and pictures, but am unable to upload them here today.  Soon brothers, soon.

I will potentially have internet on the following dates, so be concerned:

Oct 19, 29; Nov 8, 18, 28; Dec 8.



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the jungle at night

Published on 03 September 2009 by in Blog, Peter


moon canopy

The moonlight peaks through the canopy, spurts and drips down upon the many layers of vegetation.  What little light is left for the forest floor shifts slowly with the sway of the rainforest giants.   The soft glow from the mycelium of the luminescent fungus is speckled among the fallen leaves as far as the eye allows for detection.  The dark is alive with the song of the insect, both mechanical and organic, operating at all frequencies, hundreds of different voices simultaneously.  Hoots, bellows, and moans occasionally erupt and echo from the deep.  Unseen pitters and patters, cracks and creaks allow the imagination to work wonders.  Soothing thunder rolls in the distance.  A bright yellow light zips from the tree tops, swerving recklessly down a few feet from the floor and all the way back up, like headlights from a futuristic skycar.  More of these spirits light up and maneuver through the forest much faster than I can run and disappear again. We are surrounded by a silent, whirling radiance.  The source of light comes from the shoulders of a friendly insect three inches in length.  I am writing a song for him.  Hopefully it will be on my next post.  As for now, I love you all.

By the way, I count 10 large horseflies on my computer screen right now, among dozens of other diptera.

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