Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Philosophical Question

We pulled up to the fuel dock and handed our lines to the somewhat scruffy guy who had been sitting in a rocking chair sipping on a beer until we came along. The beer at work, in early afternoon, startled me until I remembered where we were -- not on the mainland any more.  Just another colourful character we'd met in the islands, happily unambitious.  While he pumped diesel we chatted, and got a brief overview of his life story.

This particular fuel dock and bait shop is a "mom and pop" store, owned (he told us) by a wonderful Cuban couple who took him under their wing.  They don't pay him to work there, but they allow him to dock the small boat that lives aboard for free.  Whatever they cook for their own family, they bring him a portion of, every day. So he has no income, but also no expenses.  On rainy days when no one comes to the fuel dock, they don't need him to work, so he lays on his bunk and reads or listens to music.  On sunny days he takes his boat out to the reef and fishes, or walks to the beach.  The owners give him various castoffs, from spare clothes to a small flat-screen TV. The staff splits their tips, that's enough to keep him in beer and cigarettes. He doesn't have or want a car, where would he go that is more wonderful than where he already is?  His wants are few, and he has everything he needs, he said, in this one tiny section of island paradise.

Do we pity him because his life is so small, or envy him because his life is so simple?

So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish!

Every time we went for walks in Crane Point, we went to visit the birds.  In fact, we spent so many hours looking, and learning, and watching the birds heal at Marathon Wild Bird Center, we were once lucky enough to be there when they were releasing birds that were fully healed.

"Before." The pelicans and cormorants hanging out in their cage. They're not all that interested in leaving -- Center Director Kelly G. claims that they are really mooches. Why should they leave? Here they get served regular meals and don't have to work!

There are a lot of birds in that cage! ID tags on their legs help keep track of which is which. The tag numbers correlate with records showing when each bird arrived and what it's medical problems were.

It's a pelican conference. They are fairly social in the wild too.

Testing his wings. Feelin' frisky; this guy is ready to be released! Actually the test is whether they can fly up, not merely glide. 
Normally this pool is full of water for them to play in. For now, it has been drained to make it easier to catch the pelicans who are going to be released. But at the moment, they're all just hanging out here in confusion; where'd the water go?
Here we go, pelican rodeo. Each bird is carefully examined before being transported to the carrier and driven to the release site. Catching them takes coordination; they don't realize that something good is about to happen. The volunteers worked in teams to isolate one bird, then quickly secure its beak (for their own safety). It was coordinated chaos as they first walked among the birds with their arms down, to allow them to pass between, then put their arms out to keep the target bird from fleeing.  At one point, Center Director Kelly needed to remind a volunteer to put his arms at his sides and in the excitement and confusion of the moment instructed him to "put your wings down, Kevin!"  

Examining his pouch to make sure he's fully healed. 

Each bird is placed in an individual carrier, and taken to the release site.
That moment of freedom!

So long, and thanks for all the fish!!

Dan got to release a couple of them too. The feeling was exhilarating -- for him as well as for the birds. 

Swimming away, to their new lives.