[Tweeters] gonzo day

Connie Sidles csidles at isomedia.com
Sun Jul 31 11:49:52 PDT 2005


Hey tweets, My husband John and I were among the fortunate few to see the
Red-Necked Stint yesterday at 3 Crabs. We were really on a surf safari on
the way out to Neah Bay with one of John's hapless students. The poor,
dragooned young man thought he was going to surf big waves in the NW and was
shocked and awed to find himself at a classic birder scene instead: dozens
of intense birders with thousands of dollars of expensive optics all focused
on teeny little brown birds that all looked alike to the neophyte.

Our young man did his very best to make sense out of what must have seemed
to him to be a scene out of a Kafka novel. When I came down off my high
after seeing this glorious bird, the young man was standing in the shade
with his hands shoved glumly into his pockets. Not that he should point
fingers (and really, he was too polite to do so) because when we got to Neah
Bay, he and John were quite happy to set off carrying giant surfboards down
a 2-mile muddy path to Shi Shi, there to surf in 50-degree water with no
wetsuits and with waves not much higher than thigh-high. When the two
dragged themselves back up the cliff to the car, they were covered with mud
and sweat and mosquito bites. I asked them how many waves they had caught:
the number was 3, and that took 4 hours.

Meanwhile, I had gone off to hike to Cape Flattery and gaze upon Tatoosh
Island. There I saw TUFTED PUFFINS going about their business, numerous
COMMON MURRES and RHINOCEROS AUKLETS, along with large numbers of CALIFORNIA
GULLS and MEW GULLS. While soaking in the scene, I heard some loud keeks and
saw two PEREGRINE FALCONS arguing with each other in the air. I was up so
high on the cliff that I was actually looking down on the birds, a rare
sight indeed. While my heart was still pounding from this experience, some
of the people on the viewing stand spotted a whale spout just below us. The
whale surfaced in a rolling curve twice and then dove. We thought the show
was over and were congratulating ourselves on this fine treat when without
warning, the whale came shooting up out of the water 75 yards away, waved a
long, skinny fin at us, spun a half-turn and crashed back into the water.
People said it was a humpback, and it certainly looked like all the National
Geo specials I've seen on TV. Except this one was right there in front of
us, so much realer and more awe-inspiring than TV images. As if that weren't
enough, a large coyote then strolled out onto the rocks below us, surveyed
the vista of water, waves, rocks and seabirds and then slid gently off the
rock to take a dip in the ocean.

I have no idea how I drove the car back to Shi Shi to pick up the boys. I do
have vague memories of toiling up the trail back to the parking lot. What
would ordinarily have been a daunting hike for an aging lady with back,
ankle and knee problems (the 3 signs that the Makah caretakers warned should
keep one off this hike!) passed by so easily I barely noticed. I think I
must have floated. Back at Shi Shi, the guys were just as pleased with
themselves.

Which only goes to show what a remarkable species we are. Robert Heinlein
once wrote a sci fi thriller about aliens trying to take over the galaxy
(again!). In Starship Trooper, the enemy was a giant bug horde that could
make bugs to order. If they needed a death ray, the queens lay the right
kind of eggs and presto, a death-ray bug would pop up out of the earth to
shoot at our heroes. The queens could make bugs with pincers, flying bugs,
brain-eating bugs - you name it.

Human strategy is different, however. We seem to storehouse an infinite
number of sports on the ol' humanity bush. When we need a certain kind of
job done, the right type steps up and goes at it. Need explorers? We got
people who can't sit still. Need warriors? Catch the aggressive kids on the
block and let them have at it. I'm not sure exactly what ecological niche
the Hummel plate collectors would fill in a crisis - maybe as a kind of
packrat they would be ones who would stockpile the wherewithal we might need
to withstand another Ice Age.

I do know the niche that both birders and surfers fill, however. While at
first glance we are nothing more than lilies of the field who toil not and
neither do we spin, in reality we are the joy-keepers of our species. The
beauty of a perfect set of waves or a red-hooded visitor from afar pierces
our soul, fills us up to overflowing with joy and then bursts forth to shine
upon all of humanity. After seeing a bird like the red-necked stint, we are
so happy that we can't help but beam at everyone and everything. We bring
answering smiles from other people, whether they know the reason they are
smiling along with us or not.

The world needs more of such smiles. So the next time Mother Nature offers
up a rarity (I'm hoping for a curlew sandpiper soon), we will throw
ourselves and our optics into the nearest car and hie out to receive this
bounty, knowing that when we do so, the world is made lighter.- Connie,
Seattle

csidles at isomedia.com







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