Thursday, May 17, 2007


Why? The age old question never to be answered. Today, one of the most beautiful creatures God ever made was taken from us.
Sienna, our 13-year old Eclectus, died. We have no idea what happened except that she may have been startled while on her favorite corner of the porch, jumped into the air and, since she was not a good flyer, landed on the rock path and either hit her head or broke her neck. I found her below the bushes lying still. My heart was and is broken. She was the most gentle, loving bird and the Queen of our household.
Sienna had been acquired as a fledgling and after about one month with us managed to fly off on a gust of wind while we were out in the front yard with her. We did not think she could gain much ground as we had just clipped her wings, but the gust was enough to sustain her and in seconds she was out of our sight. During the 3 days she was gone, it rained with thunder, lightning and hail. I had spread posters around the neighborhood and at the Vet's office and local businesses alerting people to our loss. The 3rd day a woman two blocks away called us and informed us that our bird had walked up to her in her yard and looked at her as if to say "help me, I need a home and food". The woman brought her back to us and we were thrilled.
Ever since then, Sienna had no desire to leave our home or the proximity of her cage. She could be let outside to wander the porch or play on her cage. If something startled her and she did take flight (limited as it was because we kept her wings clipped), I would wander around calling her name and she would reply "Woo" to let me know where she was. She was capable of speech but only said "Woo" (her nickname), "Wow" and "hello".

Sienna loved her freedom on our porch. She was queen here and the dogs and cats ran from her when she approached. She would growl at them to let them know it was her territory. She was loving and quiet. She could sit on my shoulder for hours to the point that I would forget that she was there. She loved eating peanuts with my husband and drinking orange juice out of his glass.
We often took her up to her bed in the afternoon where she would make a mad dash for anything resembling a tent and scratch and peck to her heart's content. She was not a chewer like the other birds who would love to demolish any wood item in their grasp. She would never take anything in her foot to feed herself. We would be sitting on the porch forgetting she was out and suddenly you would feel your toes being nibbled and there she was wanting you to take her up. She would often stand outside the window of our bedroom and peer in just waiting for one of us to come and get her.
She loved having an empty box on the top of her cage and would scratch for hours inside making a nest. The first year she did this, she laid an egg. After a few days my husband removed it replacing it with a polished stone and she was content. She continued on for years making nests but never laid another egg.

She could have lived another 20 years or more and the loss of this beautiful pet is devastating. We have lost 4 pets now since coming to the island. Two of our dogs; Tippy and pepper, one cat (Midnight) and now Sienna.

If you never had a pet you cannot comprehend the loss of a loved animal. I have cried over her like I cried when my daughter died. Sienna was such a joy to have around and totally devoted to me. I will never have another bird quite like her.....she was, as impossible as it seems, irreplaceable.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Floating on Air

I had a wonderful, exhilarating experience the other day. Our friend, Bob Barbanes, as an Anniversary present to my husband and I, took us up in the helicopter to get a new, refreshing view of our island.

It seems that the longer one lives in one place, the more complacent they become towards their surroundings. Guanaja has its beauty, but living so close to it one tends to forget what is there and becomes so accustomed to their surroundings that, like most things in life, you begin to take it for granted, thus missing the real beauty that is there before us. Bob gave us an inspiring view of Guanaja and renewed the beauty of it in our eyes.

I, for one, had never been in a helicopter and was quite anxious to experience the feeling of relinquishing the pulls of gravity that keep us bound to this earth and getting closer to the beauty than I knew was around me.

Years back, a friend of ours and I arranged for a hot-air balloon ride for my husband’s birthday. We were quite excited about the opportunity to float about the earth in a soundless environment. However, on the day of the scheduled flight, the fog rolled into Orlando in an uncharacteristic manner and the flight was cancelled. So the only view I have had of the Earth from above was from an airplane.

The day of the flight was quite breezy and my husband thought it would not be a good idea to go up as it would be a rough ride. I called Pilot Bob (an endearing nickname I have given him) and he assured me that in spite of the wind, the day was perfect and it would be a good photo opportunity. We met him at the airport as he had to pick up the job supervisor, Devant. We took Devant back to Clark Cay after his commercial flight arrived and Bob removed the door from the helicopter to enable my husband to photograph the island uninhindered.
Initially, on the flight from the airport to the Cay, I was astounded at the effortlessness of this machine to go back and forth, up and down and from side to side. It was like floating…..or, as Pilot Bob would say, it feels like riding a magic carpet. It was an exhilarating experience and the ride, in spite of the wind, was as smooth as silk. Pilot Bob is indeed a great pilot as he handled this craft with finesse and ease. I am sure that it took a great deal of work to keep it on a steady plane and to provide us with such an effortless ride.

This is a photo of the "center of our little universe". Bonacca, or "The Cay," where the seat of government resides, along with stores, shops, clinic, airline office, etc.

If God wanted man to fly, this was the way to go. We flew the length and breadth of the island and my husband managed to take 134 photos. All but 2 came out, sharp and clear. I also saw this island as it should be seen. Like a jewel in the ocean, it lay there in all its beauty. The colors of the water were breathtaking and the land rose up in hills and valleys to provide us with spectacular views. From above, all is peaceful and, like a fine painting, was laid out in vivid beauty. From one end to the other I was taken by the lushness of the island. Even bare mountains like Grant’s Peak had their own bleak beauty.

This is my favorite shot of the island. It is taken from the West end looking down the length of Guanaja and the mountains in the distance. Some parts of the island are more beautiful than others, but each part has its own wonderful character and here I was floating above it to marvel in its complexity.

This is the East End of the island with a light house on the point (you can barely see it). This end is quite rough with rolling seas and constant surges of surf.

Around the corner from East End is the town of Mangrove Bight. Mangrove Bight and Savannah Bight are connected now by a wide road which runs through the town of Mitch. Mitch was created after the hurricane and a lot of people from the mainland came to build their small homes here when the land was fairly given away! The road off to the right goes to Northeast Bight where about 15 homes are. I have no idea why someone saw fit to cut a large road to this area as there is absolutely nothing there but a few poor homes. The road was to have been covered with concrete but has not been as money ran out. That is another story.

When Pilot Bob announced that we must return to the airport as fuel was running low, I wanted to believe he was kidding me. I wanted to fly around some more investigating crevices and places I still had not see up close. But the pull of Earth is strong and the need to return to the home base a necessity.

He gently and with great accuracy put the craft down and the end of my ride had come. Bob gave me a renewal of my love for this island by showing me the beauty I had forgotten. I thank him for this wonderful experience and for Mr. and Mrs. Boss who left this wonderful machine behind to not only assist those in need but to give some of us a breath-taking chance to see the island as it should be seen.

Now, where is that hot-air balloon?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

A Complicated World

The world is getting smaller and smaller and more and more complicated. It seems wherever we go nowadays we can run into someone that either is from the same state or our hometown or who may have lived in the same neighborhood where we once presided. I am continually amazed at the fact that even living on this remove, small island in the Caribbean, people who visit here either come from or did not live far from where I resided before moving to Guanaja. And, this is not a merely a once-in-a-lifetime meeting. No, this happens all the time. The island does not get a lot of tourist or even boaters for that matter, but of those that do visit our shores, a surprising number of them come from some place some of us have lived at one time or another. I guess this just confirms the fact that people are constantly moving and the days of a family all being in one small area are gone.

Then, we come to the complications. Everything is more technical and it seems one must be well-read and up-to-date with present changes in order to cope. Engines are more complicated, cooking is more technical, communication is more varied. Heck, even taking a vacation requires more study and time. Our family use to jump in the car and head out “West” each summer to visit relatives; from Minnesota to the State of Washington was our annual trek. Now, people aren’t satisfied with going to the same place every year. They want change, excitement, new experiences, i.e., more work and more help planning these “fun” times is now necessary.

The work place is more high-tech and more education and training is required. This is one reason the third-world countries are so far behind. It bothers me that our young people cannot do math in their heads anymore and need a calculator for the simplest of tasks. It seems as if people have lost the ability to trust their brains and do thinking on their own.

People could once be unaffected if they missed a call from someone knowing that the individual would call them back. Now, people carry phones around plastered to their ears as if their world will come to some disaster if they are not constantly “in touch”. It saddens me to know that a law had to be passed in the States barring people from using their cell phones on planes. I for one am glad to see it happen as listening to these annoying people calling someone to announce “We have landed and I’m taxing up to the gate” is foolish. I wonder how we ever survived before?

Maybe we are lucky on Guanaja. We have little available to us and few choices. On the Mainland and in the U.S. when one goes into a store you are faced with a multitude of decisions. From choosing among 25-30 types of shampoos, 40 cereals, varying types of clothing, to an unprecedented choice of electronic gadgets, and the list goes on. Here on the island we have 3 large grocery stores and a handful of small, Mom-Pop corner stores with your basic supplies. Of course, large to us means about 3 aisles and a choice of 4 kinds of soup, 5 cereals, 4-5 types of canned vegetables and one type of olive! There is, thankfully, an ever-growing number of vegetable stands. Where at one time we only had 2, we now have about 6!
As to Malls - we have ours on Guanaja, but it is a little smaller and limited in its offerings. It contains the post office, 2-3 miscellaneous shops, a lunch counter and, for convenience, is across the street from the jail!

For the most part, I appreciate most of the high-tech gadgets. I mean, we are so thankful for internet. I may not have a working radio or T.V. but I can still get the news, weather, sports, craft information, order needed items, etc. on-line. Up until this year I did not have a telephone and really balked at getting a cell phone. We had a VHF radio and almost everyone on the island had one. It was a simple matter of calling someone, hoping they were within hearing distance to answer your call. Of course the downside was everyone could listen to your conversation (many people even monitored the VHF trying to get the latest news/gossip). But if no one was there, you would just wait and call later. I did break down and get a cell phone but because of where I live I only had a signal when standing out on the front porch. We solved the problem by buying an antenna but this means the phone is permanently situated in the house, connected to the antenna. This is ok but since the ring is so low (even at its loudest), if we are not in the same room or absolutely quiet, we do not hear it ring.

I am not adverse to change and, for the most part, welcome it. I still like simple things and enjoy the simple, basic life we lead on the island. But…….thank goodness we can have some place to go when the urge becomes overwhelming and we need “stuff” or diversion!