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Posts Tagged ‘animals’

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She hangs there, upside down, eyes fixed on me as I open the gate and ease into the garden. I leave it open behind me, a gateway to the wild air I hope will call to her. As I draw near, she unclamps her talons from the netting and explodes out of the corner. She bumps against the overhanging net, this oddly constrained sky, and latches on again. I try to herd her to the open gate, but she’s not having it. The yellow toes, tipped with tiny scimitars, cling even tighter. The sharp eyes, bright and lucid, do not blink. The beak–that deadly instrument–gleams and menaces.

I have to get her out, but how? How, exactly, does one extract a wild peregrine from one’s tomato garden without either party being wounded? Bird netting is supposed to keep birds out, not in, but here we are. Bees, I remember suddenly: my long-cuffed goatskin beekeeper’s gloves are just the thing. I fetch them from the house and slip them on, feeling anxious, desperate, and hopeful. Somehow, I have to manage this.

She lets me get right next to her, eyeing me intently but without complaint. I stand still for a moment, then reach out both hands and cup her body gently. The heart beats at the speed of light–hers and mine alike–and I feel her anger, fear, and hope. With one hand, I softly stroke her back and head, and tell her it will be alright. We stand like that for several minutes. Gradually, the toes begin to uncurl, and I pull her free of the netting. Her wings quiver once, twice, and I hustle to the open gate, my hands full of impatient, flapping falcon. At the threshold I open them, arms high. She soars away, without looking back.

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It’s more than a bit ironic that my mother died, quite unexpectedly, only a few weeks after my last post. As you might imagine, that’s a lot to deal with….and I will address it here in a while. Blogging hasn’t been foremost in my mind the past few months as a result but light is beginning to creep over the horizon. Here’s a piece I wrote yesterday.

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Bambi is relentless. Oh, sure, he’s cuter than just about anything–especially when he’s new and tiny, all decked out in bright white polka dots. Those enormous, outsized ears, the tender inky nose twitching at the slightest hint of danger or excitement, the dark, moist, long-lashed eyes, and endless spindly legs would make anyone smile and coo. Anyone, that is, except a gardener.

Bambi, it turns out, has a voracious appetite–and he’s not alone. Mother, aunts, cousins, and siblings join him on patrol, irregular brigades of Bambis fanning out along the edges of the day in search of anything, and everything, that might be tasty or digestible.

I know this, of course, having shared my forest home with Bambi and his crew for years now. I’ve got deer fencing around my garden beds, and the fruit trees are in their own secure enclave. Other plants are deer-resistant, or ample enough to share. The yellow plum, for one, bears way more fruit than we can use, and Bambi’s welcome to the windfalls and whatever’s hanging out beyond the fence. I’m thankful that I have this wild and lovely space, and glad for our (mostly) peaceful coexistence.

Recently, however, I transported a young Meyer lemon tree and left it–overnight–outside the fence. After breakfast, I found it barely recognizable–every leaf, bar none, nibbled to oblivion, branches utterly denuded and forlorn. It was my own fault, to be sure, but every single leaf? Talk about a low blow!

Fortunately, the tree–which I immediately moved into the enclosure–recovered, and actually looks better now than before its run-in with the Bambis. And I’ve relearned a lesson about being a good neighbor–sometimes, it really is about good fences.

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copyright 2011 Peggy Hansen

The squeals were incredibly loud, for such a small creature. The chipmunk who’d been despoiling my blueberries was in the planter munching away when I approached. She panicked, and somehow got neck and all 4 limbs tangled in the bird netting I thought was protecting the bush from just such meddling. My first thought was serves you right–maybe now you’ll leave my plants alone. The next was even worse: I could just leave her there, trapped, and put an end to the marauding. Maybe I’d get to enjoy a few berries myself, if she were out of the picture. After all, wasn’t that why I’d planted the bush, and nurtured it painstakingly? Then I drew that picture to its one possible conclusion–a slow, tortured death from fear and dehydration–and I couldn’t do it. I turned and went into the kitchen for a pair of scissors.

Holding the netting up and carefully untwisting it, I found the strands that bound her and cut them, each by each, taking care not to cut her or let her bite me. I could only imagine the terror she felt, and the bewilderment. Seconds later, she was free, and promptly scampered off to hide beneath the grill, chittering as she ran.

Will she remember our encounter? Will she be grateful? Will she and her progeny forswear forevermore my garden’s bounty? I have no reason to believe it. No doubt a day from now, or a week, or a month, I’ll search in vain for the plump, ripe purple berries I desire….and have second thoughts. Maybe I’ll wish I had left her there to die. I’m not a fanatic, after all: I do kill mosquitos, gophers, and other assorted pests. But this was a line I could not cross–I can’t say precisely why, but I can say I’m glad of it.

update: I’ve since started using Havahart live traps to catch and relocate the chipmunks, with some success. They sure do love almond butter!

copyright 2011 Peggy Hansen

This essay aired on KQED FM as part of its Perspectives series on August 16, 2011. See their website for the downloadable MP3 file, as well as some interesting listener comments.

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copyright 2011 Peggy Hansen

I suppose it was inevitable. After years of living in the mountains, I’d seen enough to know it was a matter of time, no matter how careful I was. Still, I thought I could escape.

It was dark, and raining, but that’s no excuse. I’ve driven in far worse conditions without an issue, though there have been some close calls. The most serious was due to fog: creeping 5 miles an hour up a narrow, windy road at dusk with zero visibility , I heard–and felt–a soft, fleeting thud against the left front fender. As I realized what had just happened, the deer sprinted off across the road, a brownish ghost emerging briefly from the mist. A second later, unharmed, it was swallowed by the fog again.

copyright 2011 Peggy Hansen

This time, I saw the blur of motion in the corner of one eye–a few erratic stops and starts off on the side of the road–and thought the animal had decided against crossing. I was wrong, and because I was in a hurry I did not slow down. The thump and crunch were sickening, not least because right before I hit it, I saw the little skunk run toward the road again–and knew it was too late. I’m so sorry, baby, I told it, wishing desperately for a different outcome.

copyright 2011 Peggy Hansen

One skunk more or less may seem insignificant, but I’d just contributed to the estimated one million vertebrates killed on US roads each day–one every 11.5 seconds. This includes wildlife from mice to moose, endangered species, and household pets. Human injuries and deaths result too, and pricey damage to vehicles. Fencing, signs, and wildlife crossings can reduce roadkills, and high-tech solutions may help in the future, but awareness and reducing speed are still the best bets for avoiding these tragic incidents. It’s a lesson I know I’ve taken to heart.

This essay was aired as part of the Perspectives series on KQED-FM on April 6, 2011

copyright 2011 Peggy Hansen

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copyright 2011 Peggy Hansen

Since I just returned from another fabulous trip to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, I thought I’d post this article I had published a couple years ago about its magic. The bird count this year is 32,000 geese and 9000 cranes, but that’s the only change. You can see many more photos of the birds on my Facebook page.

“Wildness incarnate,” conservationist Aldo Leopold called the sandhill crane. Standing at the marsh edge in the freezing January wind, I close my eyes and feel his meaning as a cascade of plaintive hoots sets my brain afire. A group of sandhills flying overhead, headed for their evening’s refuge, is the source of this eerie anthem. The sound is unlike any other birdsong I know—primitive, strange, and heartfelt, it evokes an era and its creatures long since vanished. Yet the cranes are still here, very much alive after more than two and a half million years on earth. They may be even older: some fossil evidence from Nebraska suggests the sandhill crane may be ten million years old, the current version little changed from that ancient prototype. Unlike the dinosaurs, however, they have somehow managed to escape time.

copyright 2011 Peggy Hansen

I’ve come to southern New Mexico to see and photograph the migratory birds over-wintering at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. This means mainly snow geese (an estimated 48,000 “light geese” this week, according to the posting at the visitor’s center) and sandhill cranes, though there are other waterfowl and shorebirds here, and a handful of bald eagles. The geese are spectacular, rising en masse from an icy pond at first light amid a literal thunder of wings that fills the rosy sky mere feet above my head. The din conjures a freight train in the frozen air, and the first time I hear it I look around for one, not realizing that it is the rush of feathers assaulting my ears. All around me on the observation deck, gasps of wonder and amazement escape from seasoned birders and photographers and first-timers alike.

copyright 2011 Peggy Hansen

But it is the cranes that captivate me: roughly 13,000 are in the refuge at the moment, every one a beautiful enigma. Necks out straight and wings spread to the limit, they trail their legs behind as they travel from their daytime feeding grounds to the pond they have chosen for the night. Watching them land is a delight, and often I find myself not even reaching for my camera—though that is the reason I am out here like a fool, shivering in the wind chill and bemoaning the icy needles tormenting my fingertips—the better to enjoy the sight of their wings tenting upward as they spot a likely landing site, followed by those legs! Those long crazy legs now stick straight down, prehistoric toes spread wide like forks, as the cranes spiral slowly to the water. The ballet is the same every time, and I never tire of it, this odd vestige choreographed back in the Pleistocene.

copyright 2011 Peggy Hansen

Sandhill cranes are large birds, weighing in at roughly 7-10 pounds and with a wingspan that can be five to seven feet, depending on the subspecies. On land—and especially on ice—they are gawky, even hesitant in movement. This is most affecting as they tap their toes against thin ice in the low-slanted early morning light, gauging whether it is thick enough to run and lift off from. Satisfied that it will bear their weight, they lean forward ever farther till it seems they must pitch over headfirst. A few more tentative steps forward, a few more degrees of tilt, they inch across the ice, toes still tapping. Just at the point where you think capsizing is inevitable, the wings bow upward in a feathered arc. Legs and wings begin to churn, and suddenly there is liftoff. Watching it reminds me of being on an airplane, trying to feel the precise moment when the wheels lose contact with the tarmac: it always catches me like perfect magic. One moment you are rooted, solid, and the next—without ability to name it—you are loose, weightless, flat earth slipping out the corner of your eye.

copyright 2011 Peggy Hansen

Once the sandhills are aloft their gawkiness morphs into grace, as anyone who has seen it will attest. The goofy tuft of feathers on their rump, so odd and frumpy when the birds are earthbound, becomes elegant and streamlined in the air. The long neck and legs fuse in one elongation punctuated by slow beats: up, down, up, down, up, down. Unlike the geese, whose rapid wingbeats seem more than a little frantic, the cranes have a laid-back flying cadence. Feathers at their wingtips fan out wide to catch the currents. The long downbeat is unhurried and imposing, huge wings like hushed grey blankets descending through thick air, while the upstroke is more lively and ephemeral. As the wings rise, widespread feathers at each wingtip are etched with burnished back-light. Coupled with the cranes’ haunting cries, this flight pattern is a spell that binds. I know I should raise my camera and get to work, but I just can’t, not yet. Time enough after this batch passes, or the next, or perhaps tomorrow morning.

copyright 2011 Peggy Hansen

One morning there is mist, some odd conjunction of warm sun the afternoon before and chill pre-dawn air causing it to rise from the ice like spirits seeking consolation. The cranes huddle in the cold, resting on one leg with the other folded up against the body. Many have their heads tucked under one wing, turning them into an orchard of fuzzy lollipops planted in the ice. Others preen their rump feathers, narrow bills darting here and there to put them right. The mist turns mazy orange as the sun begins its morning circuit, and the mass of birds is silhouetted in breathtaking luminosity. In front of the cranes are rows and rows of snow geese seated on the ice, heads popping up in random agitation to show against the coral-shaded mist. I’d seen photographs of mist like this at Bosque, and hoped fervently that conditions would be right during my visit. This truly is amazing luck, and there is no way I will waste it. Despite the bitter cold, and the folly of having left my tripod in the car, I click the shutter furiously as the color shifts from tangerine to cantaloupe to honey and the mist begins to dissipate. Wide-angles and tight zooms, artistic blurs and requisite crisp-focus shots, I fire away until the mist—and the memory on my camera card—is nearly gone.

copyright 2011 Peggy Hansen

The sun rises, and the mist vanishes. The geese and cranes are still on the ice, and give no sign of taking off anytime soon—or none that I am able to interpret. After several days in the refuge, I’ve begun to think I know their pattern: sleep on water safe from predators, rise in tandem with the sun, fly to corn fields for a full day’s feasting, return to marshes as dusk nears, and sleep again. But now it’s bright, sharp morning, the light is fast becoming flat, and they’re not going anywhere. It’s nearly time to stow the camera gear and find a way to fill the hours till late afternoon, when shadows lengthen and the angle of the light is sweet again. For now, though, I will stay and wait, watching these old spirits and wondering at how little we understand of the rare wild things and places left to us. Finally, after what I’d swear is hours but is really more like twenty minutes, a few cranes forsake the ice and fly over me. I look up and listen keenly as wildness, made flesh in these great birds, sends a haunting call into the sky and trails its dark legs high above.  

copyright 2011 Peggy Hansen

A shorter version of this essay aired on KQED-FM (88.5 in the SF bay area) on February 3rd, 2011, as part of its ‘Perspectives’ series. See their website for downloadable MP3. (program = perspectives; search = peggy hansen)

I’ve posted a few very short video clips of the cranes, and snow geese, on my Facebook page. Check them out, and be sure your speakers are turned on!

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copyright 2010 Peggy Hansen

It’s complicated. Most things that have to do with life and death are, it seems, but eating meat is way up there on the list. I’m not going to get into the debate over whether to eat it or not, or why or why not, though it’s something I struggle with myself. There are no easy answers to those questions.

copyright 2010 Peggy Hansen

One answer that is easy, though, is how to eat it if you do. More precisely, how the meat you eat is produced–every step of the chain from birthing pen to plate–matters: for your health, the animals’ welfare, the planet’s well-being, and the survival of the family farm.

copyright TLC Ranch/Tana Butler

By now you probably know our food system is a mess. Michael Pollan and many others have written eloquently on this subject. Both government policy and consumer demand have driven the goal of producing larger and larger quantities of food at lower and lower prices, without regard for what that ultimately means for everyone. Antibiotic resistance, pollution, deforestation, and greenhouse gas production are just a few of the problems large-scale commercial agriculture has given us. Its dependence on fossil fuel, for production, harvesting, transport, and storage of food is another major weakness. We need to eat greener for a lot of reasons. The final straw for people of conscience is the unspeakable cruelty that’s at the very heart of meat, milk, and egg production in our country.

Livestock raised on factory farms, which account for about 99% of meat eaten in the US, endure short, miserable lives with no opportunity to know what it really means to be a pig, a chicken, or a cow. If you’re not familiar with what factory farming entails, I encourage you to read the powerful books on this topic by Jonathan Safran Foer and Peter Singer. The truth isn’t pretty, but it is important: ignorance is not a substitute for ethical behavior. It’s simply not OK to satisfy our taste for steak, or omelettes, or bacon if these animals aren’t treated humanely, with respect and care.

copyright TLC Ranch/Tana Butler

There has to be another way–and there used to be, in our own country. Joel Salatin and Wendell Berry remind us that till fairly recently, the small family farm was the norm, not the increasingly rare exception it is today. Lack of access to affordable land, demand for cheap–rather than good–food, and poor quality of life are all critical issues facing small farmers, driving more and more of them out of the business. Tyson Foods, meanwhile, keeps churning out the low-priced, chemical-laden factory-farmed beef and chicken we can’t seem to get enough of, even though it tastes like crap and makes us sick.

copyright TLC Ranch/Tana Butler

I don’t eat meat very often, but took comfort in knowing that I had a local source that was ethical, humane, and honest. Since 2004, farmers Rebecca Thistlethwaite and Jim Dunlop have raised animals on pasture and organic feed at TLC Ranch in nearby Aromas, doing their best to educate consumers about food, farming practices, and why we all should care. After 6 years of struggle, though, they’ve done the math—and made the only viable decision for their family: TLC Ranch is going out of business. Another dream has died, and it’s a damn shame.

copyright TLC Ranch/Tana Butler

I can understand people who don’t know better not doing what it takes to ensure that farms like TLC survive. But here in northern California, and Santa Cruz most especially, we do know better. We pride ourselves on eating organic, fresh, and local, patronizing independent businesses instead of big-boxes, and being green (greener than thou, most certainly!). We think we understand what seasons mean, and life cycles, and we eagerly chat up the wait-staff at our favorite restaurant about their food’s sustainability. But when push comes to shove, we still buy organic food from Wal-Mart or eggs at Costco (see my earlier post, The Price of Eggs), because they’re cheaper….and we ask for, and expect to see, asparagus in October, strawberries in March, and lamb year-round.

So what can we do, now that another family farm has folded, to ensure that safe, wholesome, humanely-raised food will be available? This too is a question with an easy answer–or, rather, a lot of easy answers. Rebecca Thistlethwaite listed many of them in a recent 2-part blog post that’s essential reading for those who want to make a difference. The bottom line? What we do, what YOU do, does matter, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. My heart aches that it’s too late for TLC, but if enough concerned and educated consumers try, it may not be too late for other small, sustainable farms that are still hanging on.

copyright 2010 Peggy Hansen

Meantime, I will hoard and savor the four packages of bacon I bought at the farmers market today–the next to last week meat from TLC will be available. This treasure will be parceled out in precious aliquots, and eaten with respect and gratitude toward the animals and farmers who made it possible. I hold every good wish for Jim and Rebecca, and thank them profoundly for the effort they made on our behalf. They’ll be traveling around the country with their daughter, checking in on small farms and ranches across the US to see how other farmers are meeting the challenge. I look forward to hearing about those journeys and discoveries, and trying to do my part.

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News of the BP disaster’s lethal effect on sea turtles made me recall a trip to Mexico some years ago to help with turtle conservation. This story is quite a bit longer than my usual posts, but I hope you’ll find it worth the time.

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Today we learn the names of animals. Zorro, says Luis: fox. Zorro, we repeat, but it doesn’t sound the same. The starting sound isn’t quite a Z, nor quite an S—it’s as if a T has snuck in there too, hiding at the very edge of vision. And of course there’s the rolled R, so toilsome and foreign to our gringo tongues. He offers it again: zorro. We do a little better this time, and he moves on. Mapache: raccoon. Vibora: snake (poisonous; others are just serpiente). Gaviota: seagull. Tiburon: shark. Lagarto: lizard. Coyote: well, that’s obvious enough. Alacran: scorpion. And finally, tortuga: turtle—the reason all of us are gathered on this windy stretch of open sand for an impromptu Spanish lesson. More specifically, sea turtles—in this case olive ridleys, which come to this still-wild fragment of Mexico’s Pacific coast to lay their eggs. Elsewhere, they are stymied by development, bright lights, noise, and hordes of humans confusing them or spooking them away from the places of their birth. Here there are no lights, no resort hotels or nightclubs (that is, not yet), and few people to disrupt the cycle they’ve enacted for millennia: sea turtles have existed, scientists say, for over 200 million years.

There are, however, the hueveros, poachers who prowl the sands at night alert for signs of turtles or their nests. They dig up the fresh-laid eggs, load them into sacks, and sell them in the bars for a few pesos each. Their customers are men who want to feel more virile, more alive, mas macho, and believe eating raw sea turtle eggs will take them there. Sometimes the hueveros come upon a turtle, and they slaughter her for meat as well as eggs: one afternoon, beside a dirt road a few hundred yards from the beach, Luis shows us a clutch of empty carapaces piled one atop the other like so many worn-out shoes, mere garbage. The soil beneath them has a greasy, darkish tinge we’d much prefer not to notice. Meanwhile, he says, the hueveros often carry guns, and we are not to confront them. Our task is to patrol the beach, watching for the furrowed tracks of out-and-back, or the distinctive patterns in the sand that indicate a hidden nest a few feet down. Based on past experience, Luis says, our presence (in pairs, armed with strong flashlights, walking up and down the beach all night) generally provokes the poachers to hunt elsewhere. They desire obscurity and anonymity, and are no more eager to meet up with us than we with them. This suits us fine, for we are eco-warriors in only the loosest sense—vacationing Americans who’ve tired of mindless, sybaritic holidays and want to make atonement, however meager, for our affluence and our profligate way with the world’s resources.

So here we are, volunteering to help save the olive ridley. Like all sea turtles, the olive is imperiled—though much less so than its cousin, the Kemp’s ridley, currently the most endangered of the seven species. The leatherback and hawksbill are also critically endangered. Sea turtles are long-lived, but mature slowly, and a ridiculously tiny fraction of their offspring makes it to adulthood. Many eggs are infertile or deformed, and never hatch. Many are eaten by coyotes, foxes, or raccoons–or by humans. Some hatchlings are devoured by gulls, or by crabs. Some fail to find their way to the water, and succumb to dehydration and exhaustion. Those that do reach the ocean face predatory fish, uncertain food supplies, plastic trash that masquerades as food, pesticides and other toxic waste, and fishing lines and nets waiting to entangle them. It’s a wonder, really, that any do survive to make this pilgrimage.

Our path to this isolated beach started in Vallarta, where we were met by Luis, the team’s biologist. We drove down the highway, marveling at how closely jungle rimmed the modern city, and then along a deeply rutted red-dirt road with rocks so sharp we punctured two tires before reaching camp. There we joined the rest of the team. Tents were set up on the beach, well above the tide line, and there was a firepit, a latrine, and an outdoor kitchen with enormous pots, beat-up tin plates and a few utensils, and massive carboys filled with drinking water. A ways down the strand there were rectangular fenced-off patches, one with rows of upside-down blue buckets on the sand. This was the sanctuary, where eggs we found at night would be reburied, safe from the hueveros. With our help, Luis would record data on each nest—time and location found (with weather and moon conditions), date and number of eggs laid, number reburied (in rare cases, an egg broke before it could be safely ensconced in its new home), depth of burial, date hatched, number of live hatchlings, number of infertile or deformed eggs, and so on. We’d keep watch on the nests whenever we weren’t sleeping or patrolling. Every morning, Luis would tell us whether any nests might start to hatch that day, and which ones to keep a special eye on. And we would shepherd the tiny hatchlings as they struggled against sun, wind, and would-be predators on their slow crawl to the sea. Fighting off the impulse to intervene too much was always tough—why not just pick them up and put them in the water, give the little guys a break? It’s so far, the sand is so hot, they are so impossibly weak and small. But Luis says no, you can shoo a gull away, or turn a hatchling around if it starts heading in the wrong direction, but no more than that. To do more would not be in their interest; the weakest ones would never make it anyway. This seems unnecessarily hard-hearted, though I know he is right: we interfere too much with nature, to its great detriment, and even when we mean well, unintended consequences can arise that make things worse. So this too becomes data, the number of hatchlings from each nest that never reach the water.

The first night we find neither turtles nor nesting signs, and are disappointed. The excitement of being up all night, something most of us haven’t done since college days (longer ago than we’d care to admit, at least in my case), has worn off and now we are just grumpy. Sleeping in the daytime is hard, the cold Pacific is nothing like our comfy showers back at home, and the night’s strong winds have blown sand into every crevice of our underwear. We sleep anyway, and wake mid-afternoon to the smell of coffee. It’s a perfect sunny day, and after breakfast we dunk ourselves in the ocean, not really caring how clean we get. Tonight, we tell each other, we will get lucky!

That night again we don’t see any turtles, but we do find a fresh nest, undisturbed by poachers. After laying her eggs, the turtle smooths the sand atop the nest with her shell and legs to camouflage it, but it’s not that hard to recognize once you know what to look for. We excavate cautiously with bare fingers, digging up the eggs and handing each precious, leathery orb to Luis. They look like yellowed ping-pong balls, heavy with their priceless cargo. One of us records the data, and Luis counts the eggs. When we have them all, we fill in the hole with sand and brush away the traces of our intervention. It’s all we can do not to run at top speed down the beach to the sanctuary, but we get in the truck and navigate the rough road back to camp. I cradle the sack of eggs in my lap, hardly daring to breathe whenever Luis hits a rut or an unexpected rock—there are no streetlights, and not much of a moon, so the going is slow and painstaking. When we finally arrive, we pour out of the truck and shout with glee to the others that we’ve got eggs! Everyone comes to see, and to help us bury them in our protected space. We write them in the data book, proud and satisfied.

The next day we have incredible fortune. Late in the afternoon, we’re driving back to camp from a water run, more than a little tired and cranky. A burst of sand erupts from the strand to our right, and Luis squeals the truck to a sudden halt. “Tortuga,” he says.

She’s just getting started, digging patiently through the hot dry sand. He cautions us to stay back till she begins to lay, at which point she will be implacable and we can approach without fear of causing her to abort. Soon the sand she tosses to each side is heavier and darker, indicating that she’s nearly reached the proper depth. Time drags and flies at once, as we are torn between desire to retrieve the precious eggs and amazement at our proximity to this creature. Finally, the sand stops flying, she positions herself atop the hole, and eggs begin to drop. Now we can tag and measure her, which we do at Luis’ precise instruction. When the nest’s about half full, she stops laying and sweeps sand across in broad, half-circle strokes. It seems a little crazy to make her go to all the effort when we’re going to dig the nest up immediately, but Luis is firm, insisting that this is the way. Only after she begins the trek back to the water are we allowed our turn to dig. Pros now, after last night, we unearth each globe tenderly and with respect. We record and count, fill in the nest, and head back to camp. Again, the bag of eggs rests in my lap, heavy as dreams and light as hope. I close my eyes and whisper to the turtle, deep somewhere in dark ocean and lost to her future babies. Thank you for these gifts, I tell her. Thank you for your perseverance despite our disregard and cruelty. May we now prove worthy to receive what you have given.

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