Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Kodak Moment of my Life

A common catch-phrase when I was growing up was "A Kodak Moment" which simply meant that whatever was going on at that time and you felt it was important you should catch it on film. Believe me, I caught a lot of moments on film. I had baby photos, family photos, vacation photos, bad photos, good photos, out-of-focus photos and photos that I don't even know now what they were of! I grew to really appreciate photos after so many that I had were destroyed by Hurricane Mitch.

One of my most treasured photos was this photo of me at about 3 months with my mother, who was then 16! I found the photo among our things after cleaning our apartment after Hurricane Mitch and found it had been ruined by water. I cried my eyes out and wrote my Mother telling her how upset I was. Lo and behold somehow she had a duplicate of the photo and sent it to me. I have since kept it in, what I believe is a safe place.

In my search through various things that were damaged by Hurricane Mitch, I came across several more of my childhood photos which I have since begun to scan with the idea of setting up a book for my children of their Great Grandparents, Grandparents, Mom and Dad and siblings. I have lost a lot of the baby photos of my children, not due to Mitch, but because I gave the baby books of each individual child to that child to hold on to and they have mislaid them over the years.

I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota and was from strong Swedish stock (is there any other kind?). I lived a city life of parks, backyards, school yards, bicycles, roller skates, jump ropes, jacks, hide and seek, and, on a rare occasion our family went to a nearby lake where we could swim. At the age of 7 (photo on the left) my brother and I with our parents periodically went to the "farm" where our Great Uncles lived. There we were joined up with any number of our two dozen cousins. We slept 4-5 to a bed, got dressed in front of a wood burning stove, jumped into hay mounds in the barn, helped to herd the cows, pumped water from the well for the house, among other duties, and swung on a tire swing - a great life.

My life was busy but at that age it passed by soooo slowly. I remember hardly being able to wait for 1950 to arrive as it would be a year with my lucky number in it - 5. I remember the years dragging by, especially just before I turned 13! It seemed that during my Grade school years, time passed in slow motion. While in Junior High (which is now called middle school) time moved on a bit more quickly (maybe because I was then in my teenage years). But in high school, for some strange reason, time dragged again.

I graduated in 1961 at the ripe old age of 17 1/2 and since I had not taken the required classes in High School, going to College was out. Of course, at that time the positions to be gained by going to College were in nursing or teaching (for the most part). I did attend a Business School to learn shorthand and eventually my life's occupation was as a secretary.

Marriage, my career and motherhood filled up the majority of my young life and I was fulfilled with my role as wife and mother.

By the ripe age of 26, my life, like my friends' lives, had its ups and downs. I was active with my children and parenting duties, not to mention all the different school groups I found myself in to help nuture my children's education.

My children grew, married, had children and went on to live their lives independent of their Mother, as it should be. But something strange had happened, I was older! I don't know how it snuck up on me as I was much to busy to notice any differences, but, yes, one day I found I was 40, then 50 and 60. I don't feel much older than when in my 30's (a few more aches and pains) and I'm surprised at times to see a different face in the mirror.....usually my mother's. Where did these years suddenly go?

My husband, too, can't figure out how we suddenly went from our early 20's to 60 in a flash! Now we hear about someone who is 65 and say, "oh, they are so young yet". And now, people don't appear to be as old as they did when my parents and grandparents were of this same age. I never concerned myself with how old people were, they were just in categories: kids, grownups, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I never thought in terms of age and it was not something I dwelled upon.

But now I'm there - at the "Senior Moment" in life. What have I learned over all the years? Family is important; friends are essential; a good outlook will get you a long way and a deep appreciation of nature gives one a sense of peace.

There are a few things I wish I would have done in my life and I'm not giving up on them just yet. Thankfully my health is quite good and I feel that I will be able to attain some of my unreached goals - just have to work a little faster!
I have been busy scanning old family photos to make up a book for my children. Also busy on a book of all the wonderful photos my husband has taken to present to his children. We lost so many photos in Hurricane Mitch that the ability to recover some via a scanner is simply a wonder. I can still picture photos of my children in my mind that have been lost and how I wish I had them back. Since I do not have them, I'll just make sure that those I have remain for others to enjoy and to enjoy the "Kodak Moments" in life.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mother Nature at her Finest

Being from Minnesota, as a child I never saw a hummingbird and if they ever appeared in my home state I was not graced with their presence. So, to finally experience seeing a hummingbird plus having hummingbirds at my porch was a truly wonderful experience.

When we first came to Guanaja to build our home in 1997, our land was completely grown over and almost impassable. We have to clear out a lot of brush before we even reached the spot where we eventually built our home.

Over the months of clearing and building we never heard one bird, which I thought was unusual as I associated an island with the sounds of birds, monkeys (yup, we don't have those either), and strange animals. Instead we were met with silence from the time we started working our land until we moved into our home in October 1999.

Gradually, the birds started arriving. I surmise that they were happy to find an area filled with flowers and cleared for landing! We have the island Ching-Ching (a clever blackbird), wild yellow-napped Amazons flying around the perimeter of our property, buzzards in great numbers, Black Hawks, Pelicans (of course), Egrets, and several other birds I have yet to name.

Finally, we have two species of hummingbirds; the Green Breasted Mango and the Fork-tailed Emerald.

The photo to the left is the Green Breasted Mangoo.

The Green Breasted Mango is the bigger of the two species and much more aggressive and leary of people.
The fork-tailed Emerald is smaller, very curious and friendly. They will fly right up to your face or shirt and flit around observing you. They congregate at the feeder in a more friendly fashion, even to the point of being willing to allow another of their species to drink from the next hole over in the feeder.

We have 50+ birds at our home right now and with 5 feeders needing refilling 3 times a day we go through about 8+ pounds of sugar in 5 days. My husband has been photographing these little darlin's for quite a while now and has gotten some really nice photos as you can see from those I am publishing in my blog.

My husband has a better camera than I and is the better photographer and took most of the photos in this blog, but not wanting to be outdone I took out my camera and decided I had to take a photo of something I never thought I would see.... a hummingbird perched on my husband's finger!
Mike set out a small plastic cup (actually, the top to his shave cream container) and filled it with sugar water and waited to see what the birds would do. Within minutes the little Emerald buzzed around and drank from the cup. It took a few minutes more before the Green Mango bird would approach, but approach and drink they did. He left the cup on the arm of the chair for a couple of days and then decided it was time to sit in the chair to see how they would respond. If they have eyelids, they did not blink because they continued to zero in on the food source.

Next, he picked up the cup and held it in his hand so that his thumb and finger served as a rim. Again, the little Emerald approached and, throwing caution to the wind, drank from the cup. The Green Mango came in also, but not as often. I took a series of photos and finally caught several with the Emerald on his finger. We had his step-daughter and her friend, in turn, hold the cup and they still continued to come and land. I held the cup and was delighted to find this lighter than air little bird perched on my finer. What a thrill, and what a wonderful way to see the detail of this small bird. Their little tongue darts in and out of their beak and they are constantly looking around to check and see that a fellow hummingbird is not going to dive bomb them, as they often do.

If you have hummingbirds I guarantee you a real thrill if you try this method out.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Dangers While Boating - or - Keep a Sharp Eye Out

This past week our step-daughter and her friend visited the island for the first time. Normally our weather here during the spring is wonderful with strong breezes which cool one off and provide us with moderate temperatures (we usually are at 80 or 82 degrees F.) Unfortunately, we were in a trough for about 3 weeks and when they arrived we had no breeze whatsoever. This makes the normal temperature feel rather hot and with no breeze to blow the bugs away we experience another discomfort.

There is not a lot do do on the island if one does not dive, snorkel, swim, fish or hike. The girls were not divers, it was too hot to hike or fish and so snorkeling or swimming was the only option open to them. We did have a scheduled visit to one of the Cays for a lunch, to another for a birthday lunch and swim

and a local restaurant for dinner and unscheduled dancing with our own "live music band".

We went to the other side of the island for a couple days of snorkeling and lunch and visited with the woman who found Sue the dinosaur on display at the Chicago Museum of Natural History, so it was not all dull.

Because of the calm weather we were lucky enough to snorkel off the end of Southwest Cay where there are abundant reefs and a beautiful 80' drop off.

With all of this available I guess some excitement was due in the lives of our visitors - or, at least my husband unconsciously thought so.

While returning from a lunch with friends on their Cay my husband decided to take the girls on a short tour of the east side of the island down to the south end. It was still daylight and the seas were calm. We showed them the cliffs and the abundant foliage of this end of the island and upon making our return my husband decided to go in for a closer look at a portion called Caribe Harbour.

Now to approach Caribe Harbour one has to be very careful as it is lined with a stretch of reef and the entrance is difficult to find. As we got in close I was rather worried wondering why he was even attempting this feat when we found ourselves up on the reef! We were surround by reef and there was no way of pushing the boat off.

My husband leaped in the water and made a valiant attempt to free the boat, but it was useless. It was fortunate that I had my cell phone with me and it still had minutes (more about that in another blog). I called friends who contacted Andy, a young man who runs a dredging business at the airport (among other things) and Andy, Uli (a German friend) and a worker ventured forth in their small boat to assist.

By now it was dark and the approach to this strip of reef was even more dangerous. Our boat, at this point, had been pushed in towards land, up and over the reef and now laid on a strip of sand. Andy drove back and forth for about 20 minutes looking for the entrance through the reef and by some small miracle found it. They climbed out of their boat which was about 30 yards from our boat, walked to us and grabbed the rope from our boat and towed it over to theirs. We tied the boats together and Andy went to start his engine.

Unfortunately (how could we have more bad luck?), his engine starter rope broke and he was powerless. We were in water that was a little deeper now (about 3-4 feet) and my husband was able to put his engine down far enough to start it and propel both boats towards the sea.

With one person standing on the bow and with the aid of my trusty little flashlight (I always carry one) we navigated the area and found the opening and were out in open sea! The down side of this was that suddenly the wind had picked up, it started raining and the seas were extremely rough.

We let Andy's boat fall behind us a distance and secured the rope from his boat to ours and began to haul him home. They wanted to pull over at our dock as it was a short distance away rather than go all the way to the airport, but the rain was falling in torrents now and we could not see the land to determine where out house was. Therefore, we plodded on to the airport at a slow pace getting soaked and wondering if we would ever be dry again.

It probably took us 45 minutes or more to reach the entrance to the channel to the airport where we hit another sandbar and had to wrestle off that. Over all this experience took 3 hours and we pulled into the airport about 9 p.m.

Andy has a small "hotel" over the water and invited us to spend the night. He gave us shirts and towels to use and we retired to our rooms. Unfortunately, the double bed in one room had been drenched by the rain because someone had not close the window and my husband and I shared a twin bed with a lot of mosquitoes. The girls shared another room and we attempted to get some rest.

We rose at 6:30 a.m. to take our leave after getting little sleep and left for home. We arrived there and took a two-hour nap before getting up and leaving for the Cay for our shopping day!

This whole experience was uncomfortable and frightening for the girls but now they can look back on it as an "adventure" - at least that is what we will tell them from time to time.