Being newly arrived here, it has taken me some time to hit my own stride within the graceful arms of LFP. Ha! I say newly arrived, yet a check to the calendar indicates I have been steadily employed here for one day short of a full month! The time has flown by in a swirling brawl of new experiences, new studies, and a new schedule for life, work, and sleep.
My opening week was dedicated to the task of learning the intricacies and intimacies of slow loris behavior, as well as the detailed methodology of recording their minute subtleties in the dark, a complex compendium of codes and catalogs . All this mixed with juggling a new batch of alien equipment and observation aids on a borrowed hour of sleep and several all-night watches – as I found myself descending the mountain slope at daybreak. This, an awesome spectacle with powers to aright the pains of a taxed mind. Daylight hours have been spent digesting the copious literature on agroforestry and coming into step with a fledgling project already begun. I will be taking over the duties of caring for our infant flora from Marion, whose passion for the project left me with but a light load to bear. In addition to these large scale visions of conservation in Indonesia, I have also had my fingers in, to at least sample, many other Fireface pies. These include collecting data from the motion sensitive camera traps, mapping the agriculture of the mountain, and a part time study in the differences this dialect of Sundanese has from other regions previously travelled.
I would like to applaud this small company for their ability to execute in the present while keeping a mind on the future. Myself having been involved in the founding of a company back in the United States I know how easy it can be to get bogged down in minutia, financial worries, personal quibbles, and a fixation on the task at hand. The good people at LFP seem wonderful at remaining organized while successfully converting visions into goals, and goals into action steps, and action steps into tangible results despite a constant change in the characters playing the roles.
In the field I find it difficult to remain dispassionate regarding our subject matter, the slow loris. It is hard not to humanize the expressions on their face and assign complex emotional states to their activities. Case in point was a loris named Toyib whom we observed late in the night at a high altitude on the mountain slopes in a dense patch of tangled bamboo. He seemed perplexed by the predicament of being watched. He cast his eyes from us the observers, to the ground, and then around his wooded apartment, and back again to slowly repeat the process in a deeply thoughtful state of devising his next move. The portraiture of his face seemed to always say “If I move I will give myself away to these human meddlers, but if I stay I am surely a sitting duck, what to do, oh… what to do?” Like a tiny Hamlet in his mountain kingdom stronghold, he wrestled with first one side of the question, and then the other in a constant and costly battle of indecision. Consulting his court of moth and mouse, he seemed to settle on the insecure compromise of both holding still and seeking entertainment elsewhere. This resulted in terrifically animated slow motion, perhaps only a centimeter per minute of time. It was like watching a perfectly sculpted ballet set to the slowest possible tempo of unheard music from the stars. This first act concluded with a nap-ful intermission and the sound of applause from the rain striking the canopy high above. It truly gave confirmation to the name “slow” loris and it is a moment that has captured my imagination as striking experience here in West Java.
I take pains in parrying those who criticize this anthropomorphized view of the wild kingdom. Are we too not animals, with the same deep origins to our minds somewhere in history. If we share these long sinews of common days past, can we not also share, in some sense, hope and fear, drama and disgrace, enthusiasm and quiet entertainment on a night’s mountainside?
The steps carefully taken here by LFP can truly put one instep with the natural world quickly. It is a peace that is seldom realized, or can be quickly overlooked. I look forward to further immersion, further peace, and further work here in Indonesia. As the agroforestry project unfolds we shall have new tales to share of proud tree trunks and beautiful flowers filling the Earth and air with treasured resources.
- John Thompson, Volunteer