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Video: Astronaut Leland Melvin Reads Pablo Neruda’s Love Letter to Earth’s Forests

Anyone who hasn’t been in the Chilean forest doesn’t know this planet. I have come out of that landscape, that mud, that silence, to roam, to go singing through the world.

Under the volcanoes, beside the snow-capped mountains, among the huge lakes, the fragrant, the silent, the tangled Chilean forest… My feet sink down into the dead leaves, a fragile twig crackles, the giant rauli trees rise in all their bristling height, a bird from the cold jungle passes over, flaps its wings, and stops in the sunless branches. And then, from its hideaway, it sings like an oboe… The wild scent of the laurel, the dark scent of the boldo herb, enter my nostrils and flood my whole being… The cypress of the Guaitecas blocks my way… This is a vertical world: a nation of birds, a plenitude of leaves… I stumble over a rock, dig up the uncovered hollow, an enormous spider covered with red hair stares up at me, motionless, as huge as a crab… A golden carabus beetle blows its mephitic breath at me, as its brilliant rainbow disappears like lightning… Going on, I pass through a forest of ferns much taller than I am: from their cold green eyes sixty tears splash down on my face and, behind me, their fans go on quivering for a long time… A decaying tree trunk: what a treasure!… Black and blue mushrooms have given it ears, red parasite plants have covered it with rubies, other lazy plants have let it borrow their beards, and a snake springs out of the rotted body like a sudden breath, as if the spirit of the dead trunk were slipping away from it… Farther along, each tree stands away from its fellows… They soar up over the carpet of the secretive forest, and the foliage of each has its own style, linear, bristling, ramulose, lanceolate, as if cut by shears moving in infinite ways… A gorge; below, the crystal water slides over granite and jasper… A butterfly goes past, bright as a lemon, dancing between the water and the sunlight… Close by, innumerable calceolarias nod their little yellow heads in greeting… High up, red copihues (Lapageria rosea) dangle like drops from the magic forest’s arteries… A fox cuts through the silence like a flash, sending a shiver through the leaves, but silence is the law of the plant kingdom… The barely audible cry of some bewildered animal far off… The piercing interruption of a hidden bird… The vegetable world keeps up its low rustle until a storm chums up all the music of the earth.

Anyone who hasn’t been in the Chilean forest doesn’t know this planet.

I have come out of that landscape, that mud, that silence, to roam, to go singing through the world.


Video recorded for The Universe in Verse – a charitable celebration of the science and splendor of the natural world through poetry, created and hosted by Maria Popova at Pioneer Works. Available on an open license from Vimeo.

Text from Memoirs by Pablo Neruda, translated by Hardie St. Martin (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux 2001).

Despite progress in protecting Chile’s vast temperate forests, they remain under threat. (photo: Patagon Journal)

3 comments on “Video: Astronaut Leland Melvin Reads Pablo Neruda’s Love Letter to Earth’s Forests

  1. Rose Mary Boehm
    September 5, 2021

    I have read that in Spanish, it’s even more gorgeous if that’s possible. Norther or southern hemisphere, I know those forests from Central Europe. And I am hoping we can save them all.

    Like

  2. Barbara Huntington
    September 5, 2021

    I didn’t know this existed. I learn so much from Vox Populi

    Liked by 1 person

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