Monday, March 19, 2018
The Silliness of Anis and Olaf
In my last column I spoke about my beloved grandmother’s completion of her life journey and an observation that I had yet to determine what, where, or when my next adventure would start. After we laid her to rest in a snowy cemetery in Wisconsin, about 20 yards from where I’ll also end up eventually. I began to think about things. Thoughts filled my head like “life is short,” "does it all really matter?" and “there is no time like the present.” But to do what exactly?
Today, I' was reading Facebook and noticed a post by a birder I know from Redding area of northern California who wanted us to name a children's book from every state. Unsurprisingly, Laura Engels Wilder came up but somehow Kentucky got named and then corrected to North Dakota (The long winter etc was from DeSmet South Dakota, North Dakota be damned), and then comments went along that no one from South Dakota really mattered....sigh, no none of what we do matters and no one from anywhere truly matters, all this and it's soon my birthday. Whether I go and do something means little to anyone but me, or maybe this is just my birthday thinking....
Birthdays, for me, are always a very scary depressing thing. Not in the “one year older, poor me, sense,” but in the “bad things happen on my birthday” sense. Bad things have frequently happened on my birthday. I’ve gotten food poisoning, had some pretty major travel delays, I’ve broken my ankle, and had some other surreal things happen. The pain and tears can become a bit overwhelming, and just staying in bed hasn’t proven to be a good defense. Toasting in my 50th birthday at a beach in the Florida Keys alone (everyone forgot to show up) and then accidentally tipping over the $200 bottle of champagne all over my rental car was probably the silliest snafu of recent memory. I’ll just leave it at that. Typically, I prefer to spend my birthday somewhere else besides home, it helps me deal with it. This Wednesday, will mark the 52nd anniversary of my birth and since my travel plans for 2018 have kept me in South Dakota. I suspect I’ll spend it holed up in my house and then, possibly going to eat somewhere.
I do reflect well around this special day. I see birds or animals and try to see omens or inspiration. I saw a merlin falcon in my backyard and many suggested to me it was my grandmother checking up on me. I don’t know about that but I made a decision of where I want to be for my next birthday. I thought of the journey I’d always forsaken or felt the least likely the one I’d ever accomplish. Over a beer, while I wallowed on a beach in Honduras last week, it came to me.
I do claim on my business card to be both a birder and an adventurer. My interests aren’t all about birding. I like to chase mythology and find strange archeology. I’ve spent many, many weeks seeing the great megalithic ruins of the world and gone to places like Gozo, Carnac, Stonehenge, Menorca, Cahokia, Spiro Mound, Crete, and Jutland—places that took much effort to build and places that leaves one with more questions after visiting and few answers. I’ve sat in a tomb on the coast of the Baltic that could very well be the burial place for the legendary Hector or Apollo from the mythical Battle of Troy, (there is a competing theory that Troy is in Finland since they had to pass through Gibraltar to get there from Greece), and I’ve mapped the mysterious Templar churches of Bornholm in Denmark. In other words, I’ve been to a lot of places and seen a lot of weird things. So what great journey could possibly be missing?
When I was a young adult in the 1980s, I watched a captivating documentary on PBS. It was a Great Journey special or something by that name, and it was a trip so magical, I never wanted the one-hour special to end. Trisdan de Cunha, a place with an odd name, is a veritable speck of an island 1500 miles from Africa and 1700 miles from South America—the most remote settlement on earth. Once reached only by a mail ship the HMS St Helena, a ship that for the last 20 years, I’ve received the itinerary of, but sadly no longer makes the mail run out there. I could say this was the ultimate bucket list item, but it is an item, I never added to the list since I knew, I’d never be able to go there. They say Trisdan is hardly a place just a “destination of the mind.” Maybe it is a place better to travel to than actually to get there or for me, a place that one can only dream about or maybe even one should only dream about.
The nice thing about sitting on a beach is that there is little to do except see the waves, get a tan, and ponder how many times should I go and find the locally rare flock of smooth-billed ani.
These all all-black birds with a comically thick bill that I’ve seen twice in Florida and once before on Roatan, the bay island off mainland Honduras I was wallowing on. A group of anis is called either an orphanage or a silliness of ani, again making me wonder who invented these names. Why are anis silly?
I pondered the life history of an Allison's anole I found.....but that didn't help me much, although it was a cute reptile.
Still pondering my future, I trolled the internet and then found a French boat leaving South America on March 3rd, 2019 heading east into the lonely South Atlantic. I emailed a buddy of mine, Don Harrington from Northfield, Minnesota, a man almost as crazy as me, and about the only couple that would go along on such a journey. Shockingly, he didn’t say no, then his wife came home and said yes. I don’t want to be stuck on a boat where everyone only speaks French for a month. I almost died of boredom on a sailboat with only French and Japanese people as passengers for a day just going to St Barths where no one talked to anyone.
I asked my wife, a woman that can get seasick just by looking at water, and even more shockingly, she said, “if we can go to Galapagos later in 2019, I’ll come along.” As such, I just booked passage, and on my birthday next year, I plan on being near the most improbable of all destinations—Trisdan de Cunha. Now, I’m determining if this will be the journey itself or a puzzle piece for an even longer adventure. I have many applicable bucket list items like visiting Uruguay, see the big game of Africa, go to Easter Island, see penguins, and there is also a beach in South Africa I want to tick off. How far is Mauritius from Africa? Is also visiting Easter island too much? Maybe, we’ll just sail on sail. Can we circumnavigate the globe? I also have an angle about finishing something I started a few years ago and that may be something I want to do. It is just too early.
Now I’m starting the fun of any great adventure, planning the logistics and outfitting. Where is the nearest specialist for satellite phone service, anyhow? Ah the fun is just beginning… First, though, I’m soon off to Texas to climb a mountain just to prove to myself, I still can. More on that next time.
silly thoughts from silly me
I have never seen a deceit or possibly a brace of Wilson's Plovers (who gives out these names for groups of birds? We will get to tha...
Some of you, I suppose, figured I'd be posting photos of the ultra rare crescent chested warbler today from Arizona, and despite i...
I spent the last few moments of 2016 not in Adak, not in some forest hoping for an owl but at Papagayo, in Club Orient Resort on the Fren...
EXCERPT from: GRANTSBURG: THE GOLDEN YEARS to be published, Chapter 20: AFTER LOOKING AT two people who overcame personal h...