The Brazilian Rainforest.

It will talk as long as it wants, the rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen.

– Thomas Merton

The Brazilian jungle welcomes the rain. For the next hour, we’re listening to steady, calming rainfall consistent with spring here in South America. Our microphone sits on a peaceful, shady forest floor, perfectly positioned to capture the rain as it filters through the canopy above.

Tanager

The climate at this time of the year doesn’t really lend itself to melodramatic storms – the downpours here are relaxing affairs; they provide serenity to the jungle. Most of the wildlife is sheltering, but a few persistent birds remain throughout, still contentedly chirping whilst hiding away.

These include the tanagers; glimpses of their rainbow-like plumage bring the forest to life. The seven-coloured tanager is only found in this part of the world – the depth and variation of its colours are breathtaking. Even amongst the brightest coloured plants and flowers, camouflage isn’t an option for these little birds.

Large swathes of this coastal forest are sandwiched between the ocean and the mountains further inland. The landscape here is not negotiated easily. Steep hillsides overlook stunning valleys where rainwater tumbles down into the basin below. The waterfalls here seem to appear from nowhere – one downpour can turn a trickling stream into a roaring spectacle.

Regeneration

The paratecoma trees loom large. They help form the highest levels of the canopy along with the manacá-da-serra and the Brazilian firetree. There are now several initiatives in this part of the world to help with restoration and reforestation.

Satellite data shows that regeneration of the more fragmented parts of the forest has helped to regain more than 4.2 million hectares of trees since the year 2000. This process helped save South America’s most threatened mammal, at one point thought to be extinct – the black lion tamarin.

rainfall

Smaller trees like the jatoba and the rosewood form the next layer down, helping to protect us from the elements, but they can only do so much. Some of the largest leaves are found on ground level, where the sunlight starts to dissipate – the shrubs down here need to soak up as much of the remaining light as possible. The rain continues to pitter patter onto these huge leaves – it is innately relaxing. The heat and humidity cause a mist that envelops everything on the forest floor. Whilst mostly consistent, there is some ebb and flow to the rain here. This coincides with the birds becoming slightly more vocal at times when it seems the downpour is ending. It won’t for a while yet, though.

Regularity Without Monotony
jungle rainfall

The soothing rainfall comforts us for several reasons. It’s predictable and repetitive, which naturally calms us. Whilst we can hear it and know it’s there, not a drop of it will touch our skin. We’re sheltered from it, safe and secure – as if we’re hiding under the leaves of a giant taro plant. W. J. Nichols further explains in his book ‘Blue Mind’.

“Water is changing all the time, but it is fundamentally familiar. It seems to entertain our brains nicely with novelty plus a soothing, regular background… It’s regularity without monotony – the perfect recipe to trigger restful involuntary attention”.

Rainfall like this is often referred to as ‘pink noise’ – a more relaxing version of white noise. It drowns out higher frequencies of sound that we find jarring and only lets the lower frequency, more relaxing sounds through. It’s perfect to fall asleep to, but also for relaxation, meditation or practicing a moment of mindfulness.

It is in our nature to find the sound of water soothing – whether that’s ocean waves, a gushing stream, or the sound of rainfall. Water sustains us – it makes complete sense that we should enjoy the sound of water falling all around us. Just as the jungle absorbs this rain and is positively changed by it, so are we. It leaves both us and the rainforest feeling reinvigorated and refreshed.