Sunday, May 31, 2020

To Live Each Day

Pima County has really seen numbers of Crested Caracaras jump.  I can't believe how many times I've seen these birds this year.  I finally have a shot I can make into a larger photo for the wall. 
If you knew what your "end date" would be, how would you live your life?  Would you wait for it to come?  Would you seize the moment and live it the best that you could? Would you say your good-byes to friends and family? How would you do it?  Back in the summer of 1987, I saw my past, present and future flash before my eyes.  I learned a huge lesson from my Grandpa who was looking forward to retirement and passed away before his time, seize the day.  

All of it ended with a massive heart attack while working outside in his backyard. For the years I knew him, he was a happy man, most of the time:)  We found adventure around every corner of their backyard along the river and woods, or while boating on Lake Michigan, or while eating at a restaurant in town....and even while gardening with grandma! Sometimes I hated it because she had a HUGE garden! Even breakfast in the morning was fun because we looked forward to visitors joining us telling us what they were going to do for the day. 

I remember sitting that first Christmas without him.  Nothing was quite the same again.  It was as if life had lost its flavor.  The holiday had also died for me on that day. A similar situation happened while standing outside in the snow while I looked into my parent's home at my grandma surrounded by family and relatives. I saw my grandma, dad, his brother, and her niece all standing together.  My little sister joined me and I told her to memorize that moment.  The following year, my grandma passed away.  As a child, I memorized every little space of their home and gardens. The dinner smells, the Sunday drives, the conversations, the games we played.....and the toys in that hallway closet. They were all very special moments

Like most of us, we learn from our families and if we look close enough, there are lessons to be learned from each of our friends, siblings, parents and grandparents.  I write about these two individuals because they were some of the people who helped me define how I looked at life. One was looking forward to retiring while the other waited for death to happen. During our weekly conversations, Grandma Rohrer had once told me that living longer than her friends and husband was awful, especially when she couldn't see or use her hands due to arthritis. Four of her favorite past times were reading, cooking, gardening and the thing that isn't quite sewing. Crochet? Anyhow, they both taught me to live life NOW.  Sometimes, it may seem in the eyes of others, selfish but I don't want to be on that bed dying regretting not having lived. I became a teacher so that I didn't have to have kids of my own and explore the planet for study.  My siblings have more than made up for the nephews and nieces count:)

My third year of teaching on the island of Santiago in Cape Verde off the coast of West Africa
I was struck recently by this quote "Because it's not enough to just live.  You have to have something to live for."  For some, it's having children.  For others, it's something else. For me, my purpose is through teaching, conservation work and the exploration of the unknown.  I know that when I'm gone, I will have left my mark. 

My little sis and I enjoy a fun trek to Rio Dulce in Guatemala
Fortunately most people get to enjoy their retirement.  But I think retirement can also be a little like this covid era living. With a lack of focus and the unknown, every day seems like one endless day after another. Often many people get depressed. I deal with this stress by going out birding, but with the 100+ temps now, it isn't easy.  Many people have felt locked up and lost. At the beginning of my writes since this lock down, I wrote about how nice it was to get this break in life. I may have changed my tune a bit:)

In 2008, we hiked the Inka Trail to Machu Picchu
As this has all gone on now for some time, I have also noticed entire life changes happening for friends who have found their way of living forever altered. For 10 years, I have assumed that I would have a long time to bird around the world.  I have also assumed that others would be able to do the same thing, or for at least a longer time.  It doesn't work that way and it's that realization that's beginning to sink in now. 

I'm super disappointed that I won't be able to see this guy again, Ivan from Gamboa, Panama this year.  Maybe next year. 
Last year, it struck close to home when both my father and friend's husband had to go through major surgeries. Our plans changed and we made it work. It was a lot of fun. Last October, my health took a turn for the worse. And this year Covid put an end to our planned Panama trek.  We got the phone call on Wednesday that all flights into Panama were cancelled.  In some ways, it was a relief helping me organize Plan B. But even with that, there have been personal complications.  And at the moment, if I am to be completely honest, I feel lost. However, something deep inside of me tells me to get into my vehicle and go.  It's a bit scary and it shouldn't be.  I used to do it all the time.  Ah age! It makes us a bit more wary. 

Photo by Alan Van Norman; to see how good I am at taking nightjar's my attempt below!  LOL.  I've seen these birds a lot, but I never can get this kind of photo:)  Nor do I really try.  I just like listening to their staccato song. 

Over the past week, I helped a friend with a client who had survived covid. We went to a remote area along the border that requires a bit of security. It was a beautiful evening as we went into the remote canyons far far away from civilization.  There we sat under the starry sky and listened to the Buff-collared Nightjar.  Absolutely wonderful.

The day before, I was in Ajo with my friend Celeste and Cheroot.  We went into the Alamos Canyon area of Organ Pipe and as we exited the canyon, Celeste's vehicle began to experience a really bad grinding sound. A stupid rock got caught between her brakes! We didn't want to do further damage to the vehicle, which I believe it would have done had we kept driving.  Thankfully, we were able to flag down some border patrol agents in this very remote area. We did have plenty of food and water with us, thanks to Celeste. Poor Cheroot had a very long day as we were towed back into Tucson.  

Luna helps me unpack my canvas prints from my tropical series from Trinidad and Costa Rica
Life is always full of good and bad surprises.  The older I get, the more I think it gets to be a bit more unpredictable.  I completed my room project during this time off.  My photography only makes me want to get back into the field even more.  For now, I have postponed the dream.  If October happens, I will treat myself to a monk's sanctuary in Guatemala to celebrate my birthday. It will be a spiritual retreat. And if December happens, I plan on going with my other half to Hawaii.  There are still so many unknowns in every sense of that word, but I will seize the day and live a full life.  We will reschedule our Panama trek for next year.  I mean after all, finding a Harpy Eagle is on my bucket list. 

They say Ferruginous Pygmy Owls are all over Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument  😉
Why pay a million dollars in Texas to go to King's Ranch when you can see much more for free here? Just saying.
So we have rescheduled for next year.  It will be a big event as I mark a very important milestone in my life, the anniversary of embracing the life of a birder. I have changed as a person.  And my life has changed because of it. Until next time....

I stand on a hillside overlooking the town of Antigua, Guatemala with an active volcano in the background.  It continues to remain one of the places on this planet that I feel most connected to spiritually.  Mexico, Guatemala and certain spots around Central America hold some amazing places


  1. A bit hard not to get 'lost' with such drastic changes around us. So many experiences, positive and negative, affect us throughout our lives. Having the capacity to remain flexible and seek new opportunities certainly keeps life interesting.

  2. Hi Chris - a real melancholy blog post from you here. I hope that you can raise your spirits soon. You got me thinking about important people in my past who are no longer with us, and how much my character was shaped by them.

    Don't know if you tried this trick when you had the problem with the brakes - find an empty bit of road and reverse at speed! It will often throw the stone out backwards. It's happened to me a few times (one car I had was prone to this problem) and the trick worked every time.

    Take good car, but keep on birding - - - Richard

    1. That's a great idea Richard! Thank you. I will say that we did go back and forth over and over but none of it worked. HOWEVER, at speed in reverse is a great idea. It's a damn subaru which has designed holes in the undercarriage. Great car but why would you design holes that rocks can get stuck in for an off road vehicle?!

      I am still dealing with my health issues from 7 months ago. They seemed to come back in full force. Had an MRI the other day and there were some findings. I will say that I'm okay for now, but it was an eye opener. I do think that a lot of it is still set on by stress. Our government here is really bad. The people who voted for the guy are terrible people. Covid. Environment. The protesters. We are looking at another civil war in this country. I'm not sure I can do another 4 years with this asshole. It's a constant battle every day here. And the worst part is that the people who support him are not people we will ever associate with again, even after he is gone. Family is the exception. But this all goes on while I'm birding. It's hard to sleep at night sometimes.

  3. Nice memories.. I'm fine... Be safe ... Cheers

    1. Good to hear Ana! You do the same! Saludos!


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