Tag Archives: pelicans

Penguins

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Between Socorro and Truth or Consequences, NM lies the small town of San Antonio. If a driver exits I-25 at San Antonio and takes Highway 1 running parallel to the interstate, one will pass through the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosque),

A bosque (/ˈbskɛ/BOHS-ke) is a gallery forest found along the riparianflood plains of stream and river banks in the southwestern United States. It derives its name from the Spanish word for woodlands.

In the predominantly arid or semi-arid southwestern United States, the bosque is an oasis-like ribbon of green vegetation, often canopied, that only exists near rivers, streams, or other water courses. The most notable bosque is the 200-mile (320 km)-long ecosystem along the middle Rio Grande in New Mexico that extends from Santa Fe south past Socorro including the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

I took Highway 1 once and stopped at the Refuge’s visitor center. It had a clean women’s restroom (I can’t vouch for the men’s room), a gift shop, and exhibits aimed mostly at kids.

I can’t remember why I went up to the information desk, but a very nice lady was working there. While we chatted, a man–another visitor–joined us. The info woman showed us on a map where to find the scenic-loop drive good for bird watching. I decided to skip the scenic loop drive. The $5 entrance fee didn’t seem worth it because it was almost dark, I’m not a birder, and I was the only person in the van. Better to have a scenic-loop companion and get our money’s worth.

Before I could say thank you and walk off, the nice information desk woman mentioned the penguins that come to the Bosque.

Penguins? I asked.

Penguins? the tourist man next to me echoed my confusion.

Penguins, The information woman said firmly.

How do they get here? either the man or I asked.

Have you ever seen a penguin? the information woman asked.

I thought about it. On TV, I said. Then I thought about it more. I’d seen penguins at an aquarium once. That was real life, albeit through glass. The penguins swam around a huge tank. One wall was glass so visitors could watch them diving and paddling.

I considered what I knew about penguins. They didn’t fly, right? They couldn’t possibly fly to New Mexico, right? They lived where it was cold, right? Southern New Mexico–even Southern New Mexico in winter–couldn’t be nearly cold enough for penguins, right?

All of those penguin thoughts flashed through my mind. Maybe everything I thought I knew about penguins was wrong. Maybe they did fly to New Mexico and hang out at the Bosque del Apache.

The information woman was still talking, but the tourist man interrupted to ask again, Penguins?

Penguins? the information woman asked as she realized her mistake. Did I say “penguins”? I meant pelicans.

I knew she was embarrasses, and I felt bad for her. She’s seemed so sure, but she’d been so wrong.

Katrina Tree

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When my dad died, my sibling insisted I travel to Mississippi for his memorial service.

I was house sitting in Tracy, California when he passed on Monday afternoon. My dad’s wife scheduled the memorial service for the upcoming Friday evening. By Tuesday I’d bought a $600 round-trip airline ticket. By Thursday morning, I was flying out of Oakland, on my way down South.

My sibling and my sibling’s partner met me at the airport in New Orleans. They rented a car, and the partner drove us through the darkness surrounding Interstate 10, all the way to Ocean Springs. The three of us visited awkwardly with my father’s wife (who was holding up exceptionally well), then headed to Bay St. Louis where we would spend the night.

We stayed at the home of my sibling’s partner’s aunt and uncle. The aunt and uncle were out of town, but they graciously offered us the use of their empty home. It was dark when we pulled into the driveway, but my sibling managed to find the hidden spare key. It wasn’t long before we were passed out in the spare bedrooms, exhausted and probably still shocked at the unexpected death of the patriarch.

The next morning we were blessed by being able to sleep until we woke up naturally. My sibling cooked breakfast and we planned our day. I needed to stop at a thrift store before we saw my dad’s wife again so I could buy a new shirt. (I only had one shirt with me, the one I’d worn the night before. I thought my dad’s wife would only see me once before the memorial service, but it turned out she’d see me twice, and I knew she would notice if I had on the same shirt I’d been wearing the night before.) Before we went back to my dad’s house, my sibling wanted to show me the “Katrina Trees.”

My sibling and the partner and their son had visited my dad and his wife the previous summer. During the visit, my dad and his wife had taken them to see several “Katrina Trees.” The “Katrina Trees” were trees that had been killed by Hurrican Katrina in 2005 and later carved into large-scale sculptures. My sibling wanted me to see at least one of these trees that meant so much to my dad and his wife.

According to https://www.gulfcoast.org/listings/hurricane-katrina-tree-sculptures/3683/, the

tree-sculptures are located all along scenic Highway 90. There are now approximately 50 sculptures throughout the Mississippi Gulf Coast,

The website for the city of Biloxi (https://www.biloxi.ms.us/katrina-biloxi/sculptures/) says,

The trees were victims of the saltwater storm surge of Hurricane Katrina.

There was no plaque with the tree, no explanation or artist information. I did some internet research and determined this tree was carved by chainsaw artist Dayle Lewis of Indiana. My conclusion was confirmed by “Lewis 2012” carved into the bottom of the sculpture, just under the heron.

According to https://www.gulfcoast.org/listings/hurricane-katrina-carved-angels/4266/, Lewis has carved angel sculptures out of six live oaks killed by Hurricane Katrina’s 40-foot saltwater surge. The trees can be found throughout Bay St. Louis.

  • Two…“Carved Angels” stand in the Cedar Rest Cemetery on Second Street[.]
  • One [is on] Beach Blvd – In front of Our Lady of the Gulf Church[.]
  • One [is] near Century Hall[.]
  • Two are located on the first block of Demontluzin Avenue[.] The “Demontluzin Avenue Angel” was used as a life raft by three Katrina survivors and their dog.

I read an article on the Florida Times-Union website (http://jacksonville.com/sports/outdoorsoutside/2014-08-30/story/angel-tree-mississippi-gulf-coast-saved-3-lives-during) which shows a photo of the tree I visited with the story of the three Katrina survivors and the dog, but I think they used the wrong image. While both trees were carved by Dayle Lewis, the tree where the three people and the dog spent the night during the hurricane was described in an article on the WGNO web page (http://wgno.com/2016/09/14/the-unique-guardian-angels-of-bay-st-louis/) as “probably the plainest of them all.” The article goes on to say,

The most elaborate of the four angel trees looks out to sea, just like the original one — it has several angels carved into it, along with some herons, ladybugs, turtles and pelicans. One of the angels has white eyes — of all the angels that adorn the four angel trees, it’s the only one with white eyes.

The tree I visited is clearly elaborate, faces the sea, features turtles, herons, and pelicans (sorry, but I don’t remember any ladybugs), and includes an angel with white eyes.

We didn’t stay at the tree very long. I took photos, and my sibling hugged it, then we headed back to my dad’s house to prepare for his memorial service. We didn’t stay long, but it did me good to see the tree. It did me good to see such a wonderful part of the life of my father, a life that I missed for so many years.