The men came across the clearing carrying a writhing corn sack. It was the kind of scene that you don’t walk away from, 2 men carrying a jerking, distorted bag. Chepe released his grip on the opening and I stood transfixed waiting to see what was inside. They put the bag on the ground and waited for the movement to stop then very slowly opened the top so I could peer in. An expulsion of air came out, a great sound like the rushing of wind. I stepped back without seeing the source. Peeling the top of the bag back revealed a huge boa and when he emerged to go back to his hole under a giant rain tree, he was more than 12 feet long and a good 6 inches in diameter. The sunlight caught points on the scales, prisms flashing blue, purple and turquoise. An iridescent play of light over the moving form was both fascinating and frightening. That image was imprinted in my mind. He raised his head and expanded his mouth to give us that eternal sound of a mighty wind before he disappeared into the jungle. Overhead chaka lakas, the brown jay jungle sentinels screamed their warning disapproval.
Boas are beautiful and toucans are beautiful. The encounter that is the subject of this painting is the raw and unfortunate truth of the wild life; the life lived by the rules of the food chain. Why do such awesome creatures have to come to a point of conflict where there must be a death?
The toucan parents are not going to die. If they so choose, they can easily abandon their stance and take flight leaving the helpless nest to the intruder, nor is the boa going to die. Only the innocent will die. At risk here is procreation, the next generation destroyed for the sake of one meal. The price is so high for the benefit gained. What a waste of such beauty to sacrifice two baby toucans that took commitment and dedication to produce, and can decorate a stressed and troubled world, extracting awe from even the most staid observer, to the boa who is a casual albeit ruthless opportunist looking for what ever it might come across, which can survive, at most, three days on this nourishment.
Oh yes, the toucans can defend their nest. Their beak is a sword. Their strike is powerful. They can pick out the boa’s eyes. They can inflict serious wounds to its neck and head in that its kinetic energy is already expended in gripping the tree trunk. But will they stay and fight? Will they face the adversary with courage and determination? Do they have concern for their young? Is it true what I have witnessed, that they care for their mates and keep the same one returning to the same nest season after season?
Is it true that we humans enter into senseless conflicts where the price is far too high for the benefit gained? Are we capable of such serpentine, mindless behavior? Do we defend what is right and good or do we satisfy our appetites at great and insidious expense. Do we start wars, destroy homes and derail lives because we are hungry for the delectable, the bright, the beautiful and the innocent? In fact, will we sacrifice our very existence?