On the Move

 

To those of you lucky like us,

Did you heave a great sigh of relief when you finally made your vaccine appointment?

Did you have an impulse to hug the technician who gave you the shots, overriding more than a year’s aversion to hugging?

Did you dismiss the shot’s discomfort with the mantra, “Side effects by Moderna beat death by Corona?”

Was it hard to break the vigilance of the pre-vaccine days?

Did you wish the rest of the world could have quick and equal access to the vaccine?

Chris and I bore our punctured arms with pride, looking forward to when we could spring ourselves from house arrest, go visit our loved ones, and travel beyond the (pleasant) confines of our island.  And, in our case, the emancipation came not a moment too soon as illness in the family, (not of the Covid variety), is causing concern. Nonetheless, unless I accept mandatory ten days’ quarantine, I still cannot visit my relatives in the UK. It is long past time, but we have had to learn patience in these Covid days.  Here, in the US, we have already seen some folk, have plans to see others, and our annual exodus to Colorado is within range. 

Before we leave, under shadow of the night and with the protection of artificial light restrictions, a crowd or “bale” of female sea turtles will creep from the ocean and make their way across the sand to find their nesting sites. Each will excavate an egg chamber and birthing pit, proceed to lay eighty to a hundred eggs, cover them, and disguise the nesting site, before they march back to the sea. A mature female may repeat this process up to seven times during the mating season. Next year, the surviving females will inexorably return to our shores. Despite their mothers’ care in camouflaging the nest, only a fraction of the young will survive to adulthood and the return journey. Yet, barring environmental disaster, there will be sufficient to maintain the colony. In the intervening time, the turtles will swim hundreds and occasionally thousands of miles away to their feeding grounds.

While the sea turtles are processing up and down our beaches, out to sea the few remaining right whales are beginning their journeys north to their own feeding grounds in New England and Canada. Their numbers have dwindled to the extent that scientists recognize and log the remaining breeding females. Will “Harmony” give birth this year?  Will “Magic”?  Can they protect their calves through the treacherous journey north, or will they be mown down by our boats, or caught in our nets?

According to one estimate, by the time we arrive at our summer home in Colorado, far more than twelve million birds will have preceded us, some to stay, others to journey farther north. And these are just a few domestic examples of nature on the move. Think of the wildebeest migration in Africa. It’s been a few years since we were on safari and learned that annually, one and a half million wildebeest travel a huge and dangerous loop through Tanzania and Kenya following the rains and the pasturelands that sustain them. If you’re old enough and, let’s face it, very few of Salt Spray and Aspens readers qualify as young – except in spirit, then you’ll remember the time when we couldn’t get enough of the 2005 movie “The March of the Penguins,” that showed how the emperor penguins of  Antarctica emerge from their natural ocean habitat in order to march across that forbidding continent to breed.

So much for the animal realms, but what of humans – aren’t we traditionally homebodies, especially in the times before modern transportation? Let’s recall the domesticated horse, Viking longboats and Polynesian outrigger canoes are “modern” transportation along with trains, planes and automobiles.  A dear friend from church in Florida, who recently died, never failed to remind us to be mindful of people on the move –  Google claims there are more than seventy-nine million refugees who seek a safer life away from home. Perhaps these are a very large special case. Nonetheless, there remain, in our contemporary times, many nomadic peoples. As a student, doing the almost obligatory shoestring-budget tour of Israel, I visited a Bedouin encampment and, for my sins, was enticed to ride on a camel, almost slipping off its rear end as it lurched into motion. Comparatively recently, on our African adventure, we came across the Massai peoples of the Serengeti. Their way of life is threatened by tourism, yet has endured for centuries.

Like the nomadic tribes, we were once all travelers – before the dawn of “modern” agriculture our ancestors had to “follow the food”.  And before that … didn’t we all disperse in and from Africa to explore and populate the globe?

With this in mind it doesn’t seem so intrepid to be “on the move”, to board an airplane, or make the long drive with the protesting cats to our little house in Colorado.

Leatherback Seaturtle

End Notes

Reading

Behold the Dreamers
Imbolo Mbue

Listening

Miserere Mei – Gregorio Allegri
The King’s College Cambridge

Living Next Door to Alice
Smokie

 

Viewing

Safari 2017
Photos and Video Production by Chris Porth

Poetry

Tomorrow Has Your Name on It
Roger McGough

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