An Environmental Reset

An opportunity to think about what we’ve done.

I just read an article that says that now that there are no tourists in Venice, the canals are so clear that you can see the fish in them, and that dolphins have been spotted for the first time in recent memory. How wonderful. I wish I could see that, but unfortunately, our trip to Italy has been cancelled.

And then this article on the NPR website shows that the air pollution in China has all but disappeared, because people aren’t driving, and factories aren’t running. China’s carbon footprint isn’t nearly as footy or printy as it was this time last year. Again, good news.

As someone said on a meme that is going around, it’s almost as if the planet has sent us all to our rooms to think about what we’ve done.

We are experiencing a rare opportunity to see a cleaner, less crowded world. I hope that really sinks in with people. I hope it makes us all tread more lightly upon the earth. I hope that we learn more from the horrible tragedy of COVID-19 than the need to wash our hands.

Dolphins venice

A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book.


Intelligence in Eyes

There’s just so much there there.

Musings during a really bad commute: I can usually tell if someone is intelligent just by looking in their eyes. Why is that? How is that possible?

Am I profiling? Am I being judgmental? Maybe. But it works for me.

I respond to people who have curiosity in their eyes. Inquisitiveness. I like it when people are alert and participating in life. People who appear interested in learning are usually the very ones who actually learn. Go figure.

I can connect with some animals through their eyes, too. I’ve seen enough intelligence in the eyes of dolphins and elephants and whales to make me gasp. It amazes me that anyone could want to harm them. There’s just so much there there.

Dilation of the eyes can indicate interest. Eye contact can, too. (Although I must say that a prolonged, unblinking stare gives me the willies.)

There’s a reason that people say that the eyes are the window to the soul. We’ve learned to read people by gazing into their eyes. We’ve been doing it for thousands of years. Most of us (including me) couldn’t tell you how it works, exactly. But most of us know that it does.

So, if your eyes glaze over as if you’ve lost interest, then don’t be surprised if I lose interest, too.

Elephant Eye

Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book!

RIP Sisters Creek Bridge

A friend of mine just sent me this picture, and it made me really sad. To me, this feels like a death. It is the last gasp of a drawbridge that is about to be torn down because it has been replaced by a much higher fixed span.

(c)Paulie/ PDF IMAGES PHOTOGRAPHY. Used with permission.

I used to work on the Sisters Creek Bridge in Jacksonville, Florida. I spent many peaceful nights there, gazing at the moon and stars, and listening to the dolphins as they came up for air in the Intracoastal Waterway, on their way to, I’m sure, much more exciting places. I watched ospreys mate and nest and hatch and fledge there. I once saw an albino skunk standing as if in a trance in the middle of the road. I wrote and cried and laughed and dreamed of my future in that special place. Now it’s gone.

I’m sure most people will be thrilled. It means no fear of delay on their way to the beach. It means getting home on time.

But it also means the loss of jobs. And it means something else, too: one less opportunity to stop, for just a moment, to look about you. Gone is that chance to get out of your car for a second and feel the sun on your face. And that, in my opinion, is a reason to mourn.

Good bye, Sisters Creek Bridge. On behalf of 64 years of bridgetenders, thank you for more than we can possibly say.

Strange Natural Encounters

Yesterday I saw something that nearly made me drive off the road. A rainbow that was shaped like a backward letter N instead of being in an arch. A really bad picture of it is below. I wish it came out sharper. The only thing that I can think of is that it was a double rainbow plus a reflection off the calm, flat, glass-like river.

At that same time, one of my coworkers on another bridge saw a rainbow that started off as an arch, but then took a sharp right angle and ran parallel to the river. Unfortunately he didn’t have a camera.

That got me thinking about how weird nature can be sometimes.

I know a man who used to be a surveyor. One day he was deep in the woods surveying a property line when he came across a hive of very aggressive bees right where he had to stand. So he got some insect repellant and killed them all.

Two days later he was driving down the road with his window open and was unfortunately not wearing a seatbelt. Suddenly a bee flew in the window and stung him on the cheek. This caused him to swerve off the road and into a telephone pole. He flew through the windshield and broke his arm. He considers himself very lucky to be alive, and will now kill nothing, not even a cockroach.

Once I was using an electric weed whacker in the back yard when I happened to look over at the bar-b-cue grill. There was a bird hanging upside down from it. I turned off the weed whacker and slowly approached the bird, which seemed to be in a trance. Suddenly it shook itself and flew away. I can only surmise that it had been mesmerized by the hum of the engine.

A few years ago I was driving a van through Yellowstone Park and stopped at an intersection. When I looked to the left I was eye to eye with a buffalo. I could have reached out my open window and touched it. Having just come from a ranger station where I’d watched a video of people being tossed through the air by this very same creature, I remember thinking, “Please don’t hurt me.” He kept eye contact with me for what seemed like several lifetimes, and then he sauntered away.

One of my cousins had his car destroyed by a moose during mating season. Fortunately he wasn’t in it at the time.

When I lived in Mexico, I went into my bedroom one day and closed the door behind me. When I turned around, there was a tarantula on the back side of the door. I climbed out the bedroom window and went into town, but none of my friends would help me deal with this spider. Sucking up my courage, I went back home. I was creeping down the hall, wondering what to do, but knowing I had to do something, when around the corner came the spider. I don’t know which of us was more surprised. I just know that I jumped in sheer terror just as it lunged, and, well, suffice it to say that tarantulas make a weird splashing sound when they’re crushed that you’ll never forget.

In that same house in Mexico I was lying in the sun in the patio floor one day, and I looked over at the wall. It was rippling. I assumed it was an illusion from the heat, but soon realized that it was thousands of ants pouring down the wall. They came down the wall, crossed the patio, courteously parting to avoid me, then went up the other wall and disappeared. They were late for a very important date, apparently.

One day I was sitting on a couch with the boyfriend I had at the time, and we were talking about scorpions. I don’t think I realized just how much he was creeped out by that conversation until I saw a moth land in his hair. I said, “Don’t move,” and started to reach for the moth, and just as I did that he freaked out and swung his head and broke my nose. That was darned inconvenient as we were on holiday in a foreign country, and I wound up walking through museums with a swollen face, looking like I’d gone a couple rounds with Muhammad Ali.

I went camping once at a friend’s farm, and I woke up thinking for a moment that it was still pitch black outside, but then I discovered that was because I was looking straight up the nostrils of her horse, and it was actually quite light out. That was disconcerting.

There used to be an ape at a zoo in Central Florida that liked to spit at people, and had a deadly aim. I know this from personal experience.

Walking down the bridge after work one morning, there was a crow sitting on a lamp post and squawking at me. So I said to him, “Oh, shut up,” and he dive bombed me, hitting me in the head before flying over and sitting on the roof of my car. How he could have known which car was mine is beyond me. Freaky coincidence. I tried not to think of Alfred Hitchcock.

I went swimming with Dolphins at a place in South Florida, and the owner was telling us that one time all the dolphins surrounded a woman and kept echolocating her. When she asked him why they singled her out, he said, “I have no idea, but you may want to go get a check up.” She did. Turns out she had breast cancer.

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

– Hamlet (1.5.166-7), Hamlet to Horatio


Happy Earth Day!

It’s Earth Day, and that has me thinking about the intimate encounters I’ve had with nature in my lifetime.

  • I have swum with manatee, dolphins and stingrays.
  • I briefly dated a guy who could imitate a barn owl so accurately that every owl in the region would respond to his call. He also taught me how to walk through the woods at 2 am without a flashlight. (Lift your toes to avoid tripping, and hold a stick ahead of you to thwart spider webs, and you’ll be amazed how quickly your eyes adjust to the lack of light.)
  • Working graveyard shift for 10 years, I’ve probably seen about 2000 sunrises, enough to know each one is as unique as a snowflake.
  • Many times I have watched that moment when the moon expands and turns orange just before it sinks below the horizon.
  • I’ve hiked beyond the overlooks at Yellowstone Park, and was told by a ranger that less than 5 percent of the parks visitors bother to do so. I find this astounding, and a bit disheartening.
  • I’ve rescued wild birds with my bare hands.
  • I’ve pulled my car over to remove lizards from my windshield.
  • I have reclined in a mountain meadow and watched bats fly overhead.
  • I’ve ridden horses through national parks.
  • I’ve seen solar eclipses, lunar eclipses, shooting stars and comets.
  • I have snorkeled above a coral reef.
  • I have danced in the rain.

But perhaps most importantly I have looked skyward and thanked the universe for allowing me to live on this planet and feel the wind upon my face. I hope everyone will take a moment today and do the same.

earth day

Image credit:

It’s Worth a Shot #1:Touching a Tiger

Ever since I wrote the blog entry about writing a bucket list, I’ve been kind of overwhelmed by the number of things I’ve longed to do but may never achieve. Last night it occurred to me that in some cases I might achieve my goals by simply asking. So occasionally on this blog, you’ll find entries called “It’s Worth a Shot”, in which I’ll write completely insane letters to people who will have absolutely no reason to comply with my requests, but, hey, the worst they can say is no, right? And there’s also the remote possibility, what with six degrees of separation, that one of you may read this and be able to help me out. You never know. If I get any responses to these letters, or I get to achieve one of my dreams, I’ll definitely let you know in my blog! Here’s the first letter. (Some identifying information will be blocked out, because you could be a stalker. You have that look about you. )

To: xxxxxxxx, Senior Veterinarian,Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Dear Dr. xxxxxxx:

I have been a bridge tender here in Jacksonville since 2001. I currently open the xxxxxx and the xxxxxxxx Drawbridges. Sitting in one place 8 hours a day and looking out the window at the same view gives you a great appreciation for the natural world. I watch the migration of birds, and the passing of the dolphins, the gators and the manatee. The opportunity to be able to observe this makes me feel like one of the luckiest people on earth.

Having said that, and as I’m sure you can imagine, my income is a great deal more modest than I would like it to be, so I don’t get to visit the zoo very often. I also have a great many dreams and aspirations that I’m beginning to realize I’ll probably never get to achieve in my lifetime.

One of the things I’ve done while sitting up here on the bridge is create a “bucket list”—things I’d like to do before I die. Most of these things are way beyond my reach, but it occurred to me the other night that I have absolutely nothing to lose by asking for assistance in achieving some of my goals.

That brings me to the point of my letter. One of the things on my bucket list is to touch a tiger. Now, I know that the Jacksonville Zoo does not have tigers, but you do have other big cats, so I’m writing to ask you if by any chance I could be present the next time you have to sedate one of them for a medical procedure, even if only for a moment or two, to touch it’s fur and maybe take a picture. I long to see for myself if the fur of a big cat is soft or coarse. This type of generosity on your part would mean the world to me, so I’d appreciate it if you’d take in into consideration.



Cross your fingers, everybody!