The news flash about the discovery of the olinguito comes on a day when I feel dull, unimaginative, and apathetic. Now I sit up and take notice because there it is in the newspaper, the photograph of a cuddly-cute two pound member of the raccoon family, the first carnivore to be ‘discovered’ in 35 years, that lives in the tree tops of the Ecuadorian and Columbian rain forest.
The discovery has me wondering what else hides in that high, cool, damp region which is always shrouded in mist. If I close my eyes, I can see the outlines of great trees and ferns that look as if they used to grow three hundred and sixty million years ago. I can see… yes, I can actually ‘see’ the heroine of Green Mansions, Rima, the beautiful jungle girl envisioned in 1904 by Henry Hudson. High in the high tree tops, far away from the prying eyes of man live… what? Truly, there are mysteries and discoveries yet to be made on Planet Earth!
Under the earth, there are surprises, too. Hidden so deep underground that our atmosphere has not reached them for 4,000 to 6,000 years live tiny nematodes unfairly dubbed Devil’s Worms. These multicellular organism, discovered not long ago, have existed nearly a mile underground in the absolute darkness of a South African gold mine. Is it possible that similar life could exist on seemingly inhospitable planets? Could it be that these organisms might someday evolve into something new and wonderful? The possibilities make my mind spin. There is so much I don’t know, too much I will never know.
For instance, I’ll never set eyes on the Nepalese Autumn Poppy, yet I can picture it in all its brave and vibrant loveliness. Found at an elevation of eleven to thirteen thousand feet in central Nepal, this flower grows in so inaccessible a place that it has bloomed for untold autumns unseen. I would love to see this beautiful flower just as I hope not to see the recently discovered blue tarantula of Brazil. This surprising arachnid(encountering it would surely be a surprise!) hangs out high in the tabletop mountains of Brazil’s tropical Andes, and although its iridescent blue glow is supposed to be amazing, I am glad to take this at face value. Some things should be encountered only in imagination.
Science fiction doesn’t even scratch the surface of the discoveries that seem to be turning around us. And it’s surprising that there is so much that exists in the world —perhaps has existed for millennia—about which we know nothing. Perhaps even if we came across the Spongebob Squarepants Mushroom (yes, there really is such a mushroom happily and squeezably living in island of Borneo!) we would not care, but what about the snub-nosed monkey that sneezes when it rains? Can’t you picture it wrinkling its simian brow at an approaching rain cloud and hear its sneezes reverberating amongst the high mountains of Myanmar?
Discoveries are not limited to the natural world either, for archeologists have been busy discovering fascinating bits and pieces of our past. Not long ago, I read that in a site that overlooks the Philistine capital of Gath, a handle stamped with a seal of the kingdom of Judah was found. Could it have belonged to someone who saw David slay Goliath on that fateful day? Could it have belonged to David himself, perhaps, and was it once warm from the pressure of his hand? That one simple handle hides a hundred stories begging to be told.
So, I tell myself today that this is no time for apathy. There are wonders waiting to be discovered in the sea, under the ground, in the high mountains and tree tops, and, yes, in the vast universe beyond our earth. Not long ago a solar system has been discovered out there,, and it has planets that could be teeming with life. What kind of life no one knows, but we can imagine— and isn’t it true that the greatest and most wondrous discoveries will always be made first in our imagination?
In a drop of dew
There may be entire worlds
And many stories!