29 December 2007

Grey days on the marshes

I awoke again today to sheets of rain, lightning and the rolling drum line of thunder. I ached to stay under my covers, warm and dry instead of arising to greet the day at 0500. I'd agreed to be on Perdido Key at sunrise to see if there were any hunters today before heading to Santa Rosa -- tomorrow will be the reverse. I've been wet for two days now, and wonder if I will ever be dry again.

There were brief periods of cool mist instead of rain in the flat early morning light. In the distance, the Pensacola Light burned through the shrouded morning to remind one and all that we were in a safe harbor. Even the birds seemed more at ease in the mist, but that was likely as a result of the hunters staying home in their beds... They're not as crazy as biologists!

I couldn't capture the flight on film as it was raining at the time, but I took away this image:

A race of Canada Geese, startled by the noise of the approaching ATV took flight, flapping their wings in the stiff northerly breeze and paddling furiously at the wave tossed bay as they rose, in a single, sinuous line, over the misted Pensacola Bay.

28 December 2007

Bhutto Assassination

The world has lost a tremendous light in the darkness today. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto has me sick to my stomach. I don't understand violence. For centuries, man has advocated war as a means of achieving a peaceful world, and it baffles me. How can this be effective?

We each have within us so much potential for beauty, truth and light. Whether we're beggars on the street, or cronies of the rich and famous, we're all essentially the same. Muslim or Christian, Atheist or Wiccan -- what unites us is stronger than what divides us. There is no true separation aside from that we create in our own deluded minds. We diminish our worth, our experience of life, love and joy in this world, when we fail to recognize the beauty of the other.

Why does the ego insist on creating class distinctions, racial divides and religious righteousness? Are we better off, living in our isolated cocoons, than we would be if we were truly connected and alive? If we all understood our interconnection, would war, violence, or murder even be possible? What would such a world look like? How would we feel to be free of stress, worry, want and terror?

We all have concerns. These self-involved obsessions cut us off from each other, and we create our own unique realities. I worry that I intimidate people when I look at them. If I don't have my 'blinders' on, separating me from the world around me, I SEE people -- I don't just glance at them. I'm a lightning rod for human emotion, positive and negative, everywhere I go. I've been that way for as long as I can remember; it can make a crowd a tiring and noisy place to be. I see the pain, happiness, and inner turmoil. I see past the facades into souls; that can be scary for both the viewer and the viewed. I've never seen a soul that was evil -- I've seen some that make poor or irrational choices, but these are mostly based on fear. Fear of being hurt, of not having enough, of not surviving, of not achieving, of falling short. Rarely have I see true malice. I don't know if it really exists. There are evil acts, but most are borne of misunderstanding, confusion, pain and self-defense. It's understandable to a degree, but still no excuse for violence.

I'm not sure where this monologue is leading other than to rail against another light, another hope for a more peaceful world, that has been extinguished before its time. Martyrdom may inspire, but what a terrible price to pay.

I imagine a different world. A world where we look at the other and see our selves. A world where love is more powerful and available in every heart than the pain and fear that blocks its light. I imagine this world that way. I imagine it becoming a place we all can call home.

I know this seems to deviate from my usual nature girl blog, but it's really all part of the same ethic. I don't believe conflict is ever the answer. There's enough pain in the world without deliberately creating more. Love is more powerful than hate.

26 December 2007

Christmas (posted a day late)

Christmas in NW Florida was indeed a chilly day, though we didn't have any snow. It was surreal, just like a day off without any holiday trimmings this year. I mailed gifts to my family, gave a few things to local friends before Christmas and spent some time helping a friend get his shopping finished, but it didn't feel at all like the holidays. Somehow, spinach and salmon don't feel like Christmas dinner. At least the weather is beautiful, and I did actually take a day off ;)

Time Capsule

I spent a good portion of this morning at the Fort Pickens Ranger Station, hunting around for satellite location data for Shelly and Sandy, two loggerheads tagged at the park several years ago. It was like walking into an office that stood still while life moved on in the distance. The last day is marked on the wall by the visitor's entrace, just in case anyone forgets what flattened the park...

There's evidence that those in the offices beat a hasty retreat. Garbage bags cover old computer components, boxes and paperwork are strewn across the floor, spilled coffee mugs roll on desktops, cans of cat food, labels faded by years of intense sun, stand by an east facing window, magazines, unopened mail, random rain jackets and gum wrappers, bug repellent and family photos weave a crazy trail through recent history.

I felt as if I was disturbing a memorial, and apologized to the room as I dug through the debris in my hunt for the elusive data. Once I unearthed the priceless paperwork, I headed back to my ATV to return to our temporary office. Traveling by ATV in late December with a box of paperwork is less than ideal, but three years post-storm, there still isn't a road out here. How have we allowed this to happen to one of our national treasures? Have we sunk so low in our quest in the middle east (for what?) that we our trashing our own country? What a waste...

Thankfully though, this retreat into the recent past reminds me of how much better things are today than they were three years ago -- at least we have an office (in a garage, but hey, it's dry and has heat!). The road closure has been great for the birds, though the sea turtles continue to struggle. The lost dunes, flattened landscape, light pollution and frequent flooding make it nearly impossible for nests to survive, even when they are present. There's a lot of work to do, and not just in the box of paperwork now sitting at my feet.

18 December 2007

Red and Yellow and Pink and Blue... Why am I so blue?

Literally, blue... and shivering, and dressed like the Staypuff marshmallow man, dipped in NPS green ink. I know it's 42, but my body thinks there should be a (-) in front of it... I am not built for winter!

These lovely, though dangerous, purple-blue jellyfish were all over the beach today at Fort Pickens. How can something so beautiful be so deadly?

16 December 2007

Winter is Back...

Yesterday, it was so muggy by mid-afternoon, in the high seventies, that we had some severe thunder storms. It was a nice reminder of summer, as the whole week has been. This morning, I awoke to 30 mile an hour winds and 45 degree weather, and I had to get up to be at the beach by sunrise for hunting patrols. Why did I agree to work today? Oh, yeah, I remember, Christmas bills...

The sky is quite stunning, as if to make up for the bite in the wind. Fingers of light reach down from heaven...

I'm a little worried about the beach... We'll see if I'm a human popsicle by noon!

13 December 2007

Nudes in the Forest

The day started out as expected -- at work early, getting ready to meet our volunteer who was helping with gopher tortoises for the day. Once she arrived, we headed into the woods north of the Naval Live Oaks compound to search for a burrow that hadn't been located in a while.

Ann and I spent a beautiful December morning tromping through the woods until we got to the newest fire trail. Pine chips were still strewn across the fire break, as my boss prepared the area for a prescribed burn in a few months. Walking down the path towards the north shore, I was stunned to see a Ford Explorer parked along the coast. Was that a park vehicle? The only way to tell was to check the tags, so I approached the SUV to check for federal tags -- the driver had handicapped Florida state tags. While noting this, Ann and I witnessed the driver skinny dipping in the Sound. Not a normal sight in the middle of a national park. Rather than approach the naked man on our own, Ann and I called Law Enforcement to deal with the issue.

We never did find that gopher tortoise burrow -- maybe we were too blinded by the earlier sighting.

10 December 2007

A Grinch or a Procrastinator?

I realized today that I have purchased exactly one Christmas present... and I don't know if I have the budget for anymore, but I love to buy gifts for people. Not many know it, but Christmas is my favorite day of the year. Circumstances usually keep me from celebrating with friends and family, and keep me as a wall-flower when i do, but I am like a little kid. I really just want to see that smile on someone's face.

Which brings me to my current dilemma... If I do drive to my sister's for Christmas, I can't afford to buy anyone anything (including groceries for myself for the next month). If I don't go, I can probably get a gift or two for my roommate and the intern at work (my roommate is my co-worker). However, I don't really know who they are or what they would want. How do you buy gifts for people you don't really know? Other than work, we share nothing in common -- we're completely different in every respect.

I looked for gifts for them all weekend, but I don't want to buy a gift just to buy a gift. I want to find a perfect gift for them, and I am completely lost. I think I usually go into debt this time of year, and this year, I'm really trying to stay out of that trap. The work situation looks dismal, and it won't be better while GWB is in office. I still can't afford to go to law school, and my book remains unpublished, so things are really tight. Knowing me, though, I'll go out and hunt for gifts until I find just the right thing for everyone... I can't resist the Christmas spirit!

08 December 2007

Foggy and 72?

This morning didn't dawn until 9am -- I know because I was on the beach in dense fog by 0600. Two opposing bank signs, on either side of the road on the drive to Perdido Key indicated it was either 68 or 72 when I passed them just before 6 this morning. Isn't it December? Wasn't it about 30 two nights ago? No wonder I feel sick!

It's still rather foggy now at lunch time, and likely will be all day. Tomorrow, they're calling for a high near 80. Just wish this weather would last!

05 December 2007

The Plover Cafe and the North Shore Hoodlums

Today is piping plover survey day -- we do them on the north shore of our three beach areas the 5th, 15th and 25th of every month (+/- 2 days). I was at Santa Rosa today, which is undoubtedly the best!

On the mudflat just east of Opal Beach, there were at least 50 plovers -- Snowy, Piping, Semipalmated and Black Bellied. I kept losing count, unsure of which I'd already seen and which had run across my field of view again and again.

This picture isn't very clear (I still need that 300mm zoom), but it gives an idea of how many were running around.

At least one of the snowy plovers was the bully of the north shore -- he, she or they would swoop down on feeding piping plovers, scaring them into flight. One really scrawny snowy plover bent down low to the ground, as if creating an avian battering ram. He, or she, then sprinted towards the feeding piping plovers til they ran or flew. It was pretty gutsy for the little guys to fight like that!

Here's one charging...

And the big piping plovers flying away in fear, or is it annoyance at the skinny little SNPL that's charging them?

One angry plover was loaded down with "jewelry". I wonder how the extra weight changes the flight, running ability and feeding demands of this hollow-boned little beauty.

The chatter of the plovers was constant, as they were dipping into the mud, searching for food. I stood still at the edge as they swooped, ran and fed around me, learning to accept and ignore my benign presence. It was really an amazing day! What sad thoughts can occupy your mind when you're stuck in a gaggle of gossiping plovers?

04 December 2007

Freezing in the Florida Fall

It's 35 degrees this morning. I don't know how low it got last night, but this is ridiculous! Winter doesn't start for three more weeks, and I'm at the beach in Florida. Isn't there a law against that? Maybe I need to move back to Antigua. Suddenly, the pay there seems much more appealing!

I'm not sure what the day will bring yet -- I'm headed out to one of my favorite spots in the park at Perdido Key to try to count plovers. I really should go to Santa Rosa, but maybe I'll have time for that this afternoon. Santa Rosa always has TONS of plovers, even the endangered piping plover on it's wintering feeding grounds. The road crews out on that section make it a little less fun though -- I'm used to being about the only person on the seven mile stretch. Now, I have an audience of a hundred every time I go to the beach to do my job. They must think I'm nuts, riding around on my ATV in the rain, in the wind, in the red tide. I am nuts, because after that, I'll go for a manicure. I am one complicated little woman.

03 December 2007

The Day of Blue Green Clay

Well, today was my day off and I finally had the time to get my hair done. It's been so neglected in all the fuss and bother of sea turtle nesting season, red tide, red tide strandings, etc. I was so embarrassed when I walked in -- it had been six months since I last saw Saiko, and I couldn't make it to her salon (in Delaware) so I had to visit one here in Florida. Not a good way to make a positive first impression!

I realized, a few months ago, that my hair got tangled in the metal grating of the mule everytime I drove it on the beach. I actually had to work to free my ponytail a few times before I wised up and braided it. It ruined my ends... Six months in the the sun, salt and intense sunlight wasn't good for my color either. What a mess! It's a good thing I've been able to wear a hat lately!

The fashion gods are already laughing at me due to my lack of winter wardrobe. I wonder what they think about my hair. I am a huge fashion don't these days, and that's so not who I am. I'm debating driving all the way to Delaware to pick up some of my winter classics, but I really dread the drive. I think I dread being such a dud all winter even more -- I love my cashmere sweaters, my pashminas, my boots and winter coat collection, my fall and winter fun pants (lots of Alica and Olivia quirkiness for weekends!). For now, I'm stuck with Park Service green and some diesel and seven for all mankind jeans. What's a girl to do? At least an hour with a vibrant blue green clay hair mask, the color of the local sea, took care of the hair problem!

International Coastal Clean-Up!

The 2008 Coastal Clean-Up on Santa Rosa Island was a great success, but we can work together to make everyday a Coastal Clean-up Day... Help us keep our beaches beautiful!

For details on the 2009 coastal clean-up efforts in Pensacola or in your area, or other ways you can help, click here.

Hello World!

Hello World!
Which way to the sea?