Shared Perceptions: “When I Fell From the Sky”

The owl butterfly my jungle guide's discerning eye found in the rainforest.

The owl butterfly my jungle guide’s discerning eye found in the rainforest.

After I had visited Peru and had completed my manuscript “Sojourn Into the Night: A Memoir of the Peruvian Rainforest” (see excerpt in my August 23 blog post), I discovered an amazing book, almost by accident,  “When I Fell From the Sky-The True Story of One Woman’s Miraculous Survival” by Juliane Koepcke Diller. Not only was her story of survival amazing, but I discovered that we had similar reactions to the same stimulus.

How could this be? After all,  Juliane is a scientist and I am not. Juliane’s approach is scientific and methodical while I use a sensory experience approach. Juliane was raised in the rainforest, while I was a visitor. Still, we reacted to a number of the same things and both found them important enough to mention. She was as much in awe of this environment as I was.

Let me tell you a little of Juliane’s life. Juliane was born in the Miraflores District of Lima, Peru in 1954 and raised in the Peruvian rainforest where her parents, well-known German zoologists, were important contributors to the world of science and experts on Peruvian plant and animal life. In 1971, when Juliane was seventeen years old, the plane on which she was traveling with her mother, crashed into the Peruvian rainforest, killing her mother and ninety other people. Juliane was the sole survivor. Although injured, Juliane survived for eleven days until she was rescued, almost by chance, by a small group of forest workers. Unfortunately, Juliane suffered from survivor’s guilt as she was pounded by the media and distanced from her father. Famed producer and director Werner Herzog filmed a documentary about her story of survival, “Wings of Hope.”

Juliane now works in Germany as a biologist at a zoo and returns to Peru each year where she works tirelessly to maintain Panguana as a nature preserve.

Juliane specifically mentioned the beauty of the owl butterfly. I described my encounter with this creature and wrote a poem about it.

Juliane did a thesis on vampire bats. I mentioned bats and wrote a poem about them.

Juliane used flashlights to spotlight bats at night and tells about the moon and the stars.. I mentioned the light of the full moon, the stars and three flashlights.

Mosquitoes bit her while she studied bats at night. I described how my feet were badly bitten because I had forgotten to apply bug spray for my night excursion.

Juliane mentions the sounds of the jungle. I use onomatopeia: warble, trill, chirp, buzz, hum, croak, squeak, whuh. 

Juliane talks about the Milky Way. I mentioned Orion and the Southern Cross.

Juliane talks about the camouflage and the importance of a guide, Moro. I also am in awe. Only the keen eye of my jungle guide opens my eyes to what is hidden in plain sight.

I have no explanation for this. Maybe the night experience is the same for everyone? Maybe this great biome is deceptively magnetic, drawing in visitors who are unaware of the pull on their senses which work overtime to unveil this subtle world.

I would love to meet Juliane some day to discuss our shared experiences. Although in a different time and place, it seems to me that we were there together.

© 2014 All rights reserved. No part of this content may be reprinted or used in any form without express permission from Elaine Donadio Writes.



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Andrea
    Sep 01, 2014 @ 20:54:44

    Beautifully described connection with the author.



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