Turtles, Part II: the Babies

When I visited Edisto Island, South Carolina, with my sister Jean and her family, one of my great hopes was to witness the hatching of baby turtles. I looked up the Edisto Island Loggerhead Turtle Project and found there was a presentation each Tuesday evening, so of course I had to attend. It was my second night on the island.

 My sister joined me for the presentation. We learned that there were nests ready to hatch at several beach access points. The town of Edisto numbers each access road, and when we left the presentation, we knew to look near numbers twelve, ten and seven.

 Two nights later, Jeannie suggested we go look for a hatching nest. We stopped first at number twelve and it was close to ready. The nest had already sunk, and we’d learned that the nests erupt a few days after sinking. We found a small group of people sitting around the nest, waiting, but they’d seen no activity yet.

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So we went on to access number ten.

Bingo.

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Prepping the runway

 There was a lot of human activity around one of the nests near number ten! We found one of the nests had erupted last night but only about half the babies had emerged. They were expecting the second half to come out very soon.

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Smoothing out the runway

Remember, because of beach erosion, mama turtles can’t get up high enough on the beach to lay their eggs and end up laying them where nests could wash away or where high tides would drown the babies. Therefore, Turtle Patrol Volunteers had relocated these nests, and when they did so, each nest was staked out and a sign was posted that told the date the eggs were laid and how many had been laid.

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So when the nests erupted, it was easy to figure out how many remained, and on the night we visited, the volunteers said we should see about fifty emerge.

And emerge they did.

Before the babies began climbing out, my sister dashed back to the house and picked up a few of her children. They arrived on the beach just before the eruption.

I didn’t know at first that the little round balls of sand were actually baby turtle heads. And the little pieces of what appeared to be leaves were in fact little baby flippers.

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See the little heads and flippers?

Then the round balls of sand moved. Flippers began to push sand away. And then … eruption!

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Out they came, one after another after another. In total, just about the fifty we’d been told to expect.

No lights are allowed on the beach at night. Mama and baby turtles tend to head toward light. Usually, the sea is bright under moonlight, so mamas, and their babies sixty days later, simply head toward the light to get to the sea. Red lights can be used briefly, but even those can confuse the turtles if they stay on too long.

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The only light was the flashlight of one volunteer. He turned on his flashlight a few feet away from the nest, standing toward the ocean. The babies scrambled toward it.

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As babies erupted and headed toward the light, the man slowly backed down the hill to the sea. The babies continued following the light. Down the sand ramp the volunteers had made. Down, down, down to the ocean.

There was a group of about fifty who had assembled to watch the eruption. All were enthralled, even the smallest child. A cheer went up when the first baby turtle went into the water to begin his sixty-mile swim to the open sea where he and the others will climb atop some seaweed and follow the ocean currents.

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The males will never return, spending their entire lives in the ocean. Females will return to land, usually very near where they themselves hatched, to lay eggs. They are not sexually mature and able to lay eggs until they are over twenty years old. After that, they will lay eggs every two to three years, sometimes creating three or more nests along the shore where they were born.

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Only one in a thousand baby loggerheads live to maturity. Of the fifty or so we saw emerge that night, will any make it?

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Look at that tiny guy headed into the big, big ocean!

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Turtles, Part I

I am a turtle person.

I became one in a brief moment in the late summer of 1990 on a boat as I crossed Lago Atitlán in Guatemala. I saw a vision that included a sea turtle and I have had a powerful connection with turtles ever since. And before you roll your eyes at my vision, know I never much believed in them until I had one.

But this is not the story of that vision I had twenty-six years ago. This is the story of loggerhead turtles emerging from their nests, in what is called an eruption, on Edisto Island in South Carolina.

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I was there with my sister and her family for about eight days. As soon as I knew I was coming I contacted the island’s turtle project. The day after I arrived my sister and I went to a turtle presentation held at a local coffeehouse.

http://www.townofedistobeach.com/loggerhead-sea-turtles   (Sorry, the link wouldn’t attach correctly. Copy and paste if you’d like to take a look.)

There I met Pat and Susan, two turtle volunteers. The crowd at the coffeehouse learned that due to beach erosion, a climate change problem, turtles often have to lay their eggs too close to the shore and can wash away in a storm or be filled with seawater during high tide. If that happens, the babies will drown because the eggshells are permeable. So far this year about 90% of the nests on Edisto have had to be relocated to higher ground.

 

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You can see the erosion in this photo of a turtle “runway”

To locate a nest, Turtle Patrol volunteers walk the beach each dawn during nesting season, May through early August. Volunteers look for mama turtle tracks to and from a nesting site. Then they use a probe, shown below, to find the nest. They start away from the nest to get a feel for the density of the sand and move closer. When the density changes and becomes less dense, they know they’ve found the nest.

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Two turtle volunteers with a probe

When a nest is found, volunteers rope it off, moving it first if necessary, then date it and number it. That way they know when the eggs in each location will be ready to hatch.

Weather helps determine how long it takes the eggs to hatch, which is anywhere from about fifty-eight to sixty-three days. Both weather and placement in the nest help determine the babies’ sex. More males hatch in cooler weather, more females in warmer weather. More males are located at the bottom of the nest where it’s cooler and more females are at the top.

Sixty days or so after the eggs are laid, the turtle babies begin to hatch and their movement causes the nest to sink. When patrol members see the sinking, they create a sort of runway for the babies and put black plastic along the back and sides of the nest to force the babies toward the sea. Two to three days after the nest begins to sink, the turtles begin to emerge.

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Crowd waits by the runway

An eruption.

Next blog post will be about the eruption and the babies!

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I Coulda Been on the Ocean

I coulda been on the ocean.

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Yeah, this is the end of the story, but I just gotta tell it now. Then I’ll get back to posting about the Island.

I spent eight days on Edisto Island in South Carolina with my sister and her family. A few days before my departure, my sis suggested I change my flight, stay a little longer. They’d be there several more days after I left. I could have stayed.

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My partner encouraged me to do so even though I’d miss his birthday. But I declined the offer and encouragement. I had a few things scheduled at home. I wanted to celebrate his birthday with him, I had some work to do, and it seemed easier to just head on out rather than stay.

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Oh, what a mistake. What. A. Mistake.

I got to the Charlotte airport in plenty of time and sailed through security with a pre board pass: no scans, no pat-downs, no shoes off.

When I got to my gate, things still looked good. But about forty-five minutes before departure, they still had anther destination posted at boarding at my gate. And it wasn’t boarding.

I approached the counter and found there were THREE planes to board at that gate before mine. Somehow, they eventually shuffled things around and got us all out of there, albeit over an hour late.

I texted my sister who got online and found my connecting flight in Chicago, Midway Airport, was also delayed. Whew! I might make the connection.

Then we landed and the runways were all backed up. A few more texts to my sister and I learned my flight had been cancelled. She told me to get to a Southwest station ASAP so I could reschedule.

But as soon as I got off the plane I could tell it was, in the words of Stephen Colbert, a clusterf#@k.

Lengthy lines snaked through the airport. Rebooking lines. I took my place at the end of one and eventually heard the story.

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The Southwest computer system had totally crashed. All Southwest flights across the country were affected. I later heard this had made national news.

With no computers, there was no way to communicate with ticketing agents or boarding gates, no way to reschedule flights, nothing. They could not even tell where planes were or what plane might be landing.

A clusterf#@k, for sure.

I stood in line a little over four hours before I got to a reticketing station. Well, that is not quite true. I didn’t stand the whole time.

About two hours in, I noticed a line of wheelchairs. I grabbed one. Then I grabbed one for a woman who was struggling to both hold her cranky four-year-old and drag her bags along. The wheelchairs made it so-o-o much easier! A short time later other folks my age and other single moms had scarfed up all the wheelchairs. We all shared them around over the next few hours.

A few of us laughingly talked about renting a car. Looking back, not a bad idea.

While we waited:

Two pre-teen girls practiced their dribbling and tossing skills with a basketball. They both tried spinning the ball on their finger.

A group of early twenty-somethings laughed it up and sang a few songs.

An eight-year-old turned cartwheels.

People lay on the floor.

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Southwest employees passed out peanuts and water. (It should have been steak and wine.)

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We heard a huge cheer and soon watched a plane board. Then forty-five minute later the same plane deboarded. It seems the pilot had already worked nearly a full day and was therefore not allowed to fly for three more hours.

Makes perfect sense. I wouldn’t want to be on a plane with an overworked, sleepy pilot. But why in the world couldn’t someone have figured that out before they loaded all those people onto the plane? Well, no way to communicate. The passengers were livid when they were herded back into the airport and told to reschedule.

Frankly, I was livid, too. Someone should have been there to simply reschedule all of them onto a whole new flight.

Eventually it was my turn at the ticketing desk. Four hours and fifteen minutes in line. The woman gave me the bad news that I would not get out until 10:15 that night. It was 2:45 a.m., so I asked for a motel. More bad news: Motel rooms had not been authorized.

I stumbled away, new boarding pass in hand, and found someone to ask about my baggage. I had no idea if I was supposed to pick it up and check it in again or if it would be done for me. I should have figured it out, but I’d been up for nearly twenty-two hours and was punch drunk. I was sent down to baggage, out of the security area, to find out. Yes, it would be done for me. I asked about motels and was told all the motels Southwest worked with were totally booked. The woman also told me all the cots were full.

Cots? There were COTS???

I staggered back upstairs and through security where the water Southwest had given me was promptly confiscated. I told the woman, who apologize while taking it, that I was about to have a meltdown. I had been awake 23-1/2 hours and had been dealing with airport madness for over five hours. She told me where to go to try to find a cot. I love her.

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I struggled through the airport to the cot area then wandered down the aisle searching for an empty one. I found one with a woman sitting in a wheelchair beside it. I asked if it were available and she told me no, that she might want to put her feet up on it. I refrained from choking her.

Finally I saw a woman getting up and reaching for her bags. I asked if the cot were available and she said yes. I told her that was the best news I’d heard in twenty-four hours.

I stashed my bag and purse underneath the cot, grabbed my little pillow and lay down. Just as I snuggled in and closed my eyes, I heard a loud voice: “Four a.m. wakeup call! Everyone has to get up.”

No, I thought. This simply cannot be happening. It can not.

I looked through bloodshot eyes at the woman and gave her the sixty-second version of my last twenty-four hours. She said she knew a place I could lie down. I love this woman, too.

She took me to a basement room. It was warm and comfy and had cots with blankets and pillows all waiting. Few cots were in use.

Finally. At 4:15 a.m., I settled in, pulled up my blanket and drifted off to a not-very-comfortable sleep.

We were awakened before eight. The area had to be cleared. The good news was there was another area set aside for those of us who had a full day to spend. The bad news was the room was on the ground floor, full of windows and light, and was quite chilly. But I got a new cot, a new pillow, and a new blanket.

I had to take my things if I left the room, but I could come back. All day long!

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I left once and put a note on the cot saying it was occupied. I was starved, having not eaten for about twenty hours, so I dashed out for a bite to eat. But I came back a short time later to find my blanket and pillow gone, along with the note. Thankfully there were a few more blankets and pillows still left.

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So here I stay, not comfortable with leaving the chilly room because if I leave and my blanket is taken, there are no more blankets. But for now, this is my place, my home away from home for the next ten hours. And it feels okay until I remember: I coulda been on the ocean.

Addendum:

My flight that night at 10:15 was cancelled and many more were postponed. We found this out after waiting for hours at the boarding gate. I knew I didn’t have it in me to stand in line another few hours, so I hightailed it back to the room full of cots.

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Thankfully, there were a few unoccupied cots, and I settled down for another few hours of sleep. And there were little kits of necessities. All but a comb or brush, and mine was in my suitcase.

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By this time, though, nerves were frayed. People were beginning to holler at others. One woman was in tears because she would miss her son’s wedding. I wondered how many others were missing important family gatherings: weddings, funerals, memorials, reunions.

At four a.m. I got up and stood in line again until I had secured a standby position that would be good all day on any Tucson-bound flight with space available.

I managed to get on the first flight. I was the last passenger on, and although it was delayed a few hours, it actually took off.

Thirty-seven hours in the airport, up for fifty-seven hours with only three hours sleep when I coulda been, you know, on the ocean.

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To Edisto Island!

On Monday morning I was up before three a.m. InTucson to pack a few last minute items and get out the door before four.

It is odd getting to the airport in the dark, but it was so worth it to head out on this wonderful trip to South Carolina.

I had to change planes in Chicago at Midway Airport – not quite a direct line to South Carolina, but so much more pleasant than having to change planes in somewhere like Dallas or Atlanta. I pretty much hate big airports!

We got off the ground on time and went straight into the clouds so I couldn’t see a thing even though I had a window seat.

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Soon we were in total cloud.

Part of the family was there to meet me in Charlotte, then off we went down two-lane roads to Edisto Island where the family had rented a house on the beach.

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When I first read of this place, I pronounced it in my head as it would be pronounced in Spanish: eh- DED-stow. Wrong. It’s ED-iss-toe.

Most of the beach houses are big and likely very pricey.

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We have a smaller, older place that though it is a bit worn, is just perfect for us.

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Complete with a simple outdoor shower.

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I had my choice of places to sleep: I could have shared a room with four females ages five to thirty-three, or I could have the old porch, totally enclosed by windows, with a view of the beach. Hard choice, right?

Here’s my view.

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And here’s our path to the beach.

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The beach is a nice, gentle slope into deliciously warmish water.

Tomorrow, if the weather holds, we’re off to Savannah, Georgia, to wander that beautiful city for a while. But based on the clouds you can see over our neighbors’ houses, I am not counting on it.

Either way, I’ll be back with more photos soon.

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Bisbee Pride 2016

Bisbee’s Gay Pride weekend was just this last weekend, June 17-19. Once again, the town was full of men and women of all ages and persuasions. For me, the highlight is always the parade. 

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to walk this year, but my partner and I did get a great spot along the route to watch. I lost more than a few shots when he waved just as I clicked the shutter, but I still got some decent ones.
Thankfully, the parade was held at 7PM to avoid the day’s heat. Due to the shade, though, some of the colors’ vibrancy is missing.

The first in the parade were some of the ever-growing group that call themselves The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. You’ll see some of them in later photos and recognize them by their costuming and white faces.

Then came some of the B.R.A.T.S. – the Bisbee Rolling Arts Transport Society. They sponsor a wonderful art coaster parade each year and some join in the Pride parade.


They were followed by a few art cars, then the Mule Mountain Democrats and St. Josh’s Episcopal Church, both groups always there to remind us of their support for diversity.

The one below is the Bisbee for Bernie car.


 There were also several tributes to the shooting victims in Orlando.

Then came a person with a lovely tiara. I don’t know if this was a cross-dressing man, a woman, or a transgender person. But the effect is great.


More Sisters led and carried the Tucson AIDS Ribbon. It has names of all who have died of AIDS and is way, way too long.


The parade was over in about forty minutes. Many headed into the local bars, but my partner and I headed home to the quietude of Naco and life on the border.

Álamos

Álamos has a lovely plaza. In most large cities and even smaller ones, the church is along one side of the plaza, and the municipal building, the palacio municipal, is across from the church on the other side.

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Plaza and the church

Not so in Álamos. The church sits proudly on the south side of the plaza, sprawling an entire square block, but the palacio municipal sits a block down the street from the church. A gracious hotel sits to the west, offices to the east, and on the north there is a long low building with a portico across the entire front, graceful arches and all. In fact, Álamos is knows as La Ciudad de los Portales, the City of the Arched Walkways.

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Shops are behind those arches, but take a look at the alternative transportation!

The plaza has the requisite bandshell along with palm trees, bougainvillea of many colors, and numerous green benches. On cool sunny mornings, old men sit in the sun, talking and smoking. On warm afternoons, mothers, small children, and grandmothers fill the benches. Evenings find people of all ages throughout the plaza.

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This is a true Mexican town. A number of gringos have moved in, but they represent only about five percent of the 13,000 people who live here. Therefore, when in Álamos, you are in real México. It is nothing like visiting a typical Mexican tourist area – except there are tourists because Álamos is close to the US and is so very beautiful.

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The alleyway is for walking, but some streets aren’t much wider than this.

There are fine hotels and restaurants, a great café or two, wonderful street food, and even an old mercado downtown.

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Mercado entrance

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Carneceria, or meat market, in the mercado

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Fresh veggies in the mercado

A true mercado is getting harder and harder to find in México with the rush to building Walmarts, mega grocery stores, and mini malls, but Álamos has lovingly held onto its old market. It helps the town hold her history, her character. I love heading there for groceries or other supplies, to get some fresh tortillas – they will even sell me just one – or to grab a meal at one of the little restaurantes.

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I’m waiting for my ceviche, a seafood cocktail.

Álamos is a designated pueblo mágico, a magic town. The Mexican government began designating towns as magic in 2001. To receive the designation, the town or city must be historically or culturally significant and offer natural beauty. Álamos wins on all three counts. It was established in 1685, it has a rich culture, and its setting is beautiful.

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View from the hills to the east

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Today there are one hundred eleven pueblos mágicos throughout México.

Wham!

I headed down to Bahia Kino on November second, Día de los Muertos in Mexico. Day of the Dead.

I went that day because my dear friend Roberto’s daughter, Lupita, had recently died, and I wanted to be there to go to the cemetery with him and his family.

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I made it, settled in quickly, and barely noticed the kiss. The kiss of a mosquito.

I’d planned to spend a few relaxing weeks because October had been rough. While walking my dog, she lunged and managed to launch me right off my feet. I’d landed face down in the middle of the street. Bruised and sore, I’d limped home with her and eventually discovered nerve damage in my knee. Unfortunately it still remains.

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She looks guilty, doesn’t she?

The following week my partner of two-and-a-half years and I split up (we remain friends). It was time.

So it was I went to Kino to walk, to reflect. To attempt to strengthen my knee and stimulate the nerve so it would relax and quit bothering me. To consider what my life was going to be now that I was single.

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I spent the first week settling in, cleaning, repairing electrical problems and dealing with a few other issues. This, after my evening in the cemetery with Roberto and family.

The following Monday I felt a bit off. Within a few hours I feared I had the flu. But I never get the flu, at least not since about 1977 or 1978. That night I knew it was worse than flu, and blood tests eventually proved me right: dengue fever. That mosquito kiss the afternoon I’d arrived.

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The Aedes aegypti mosquito – unfortunately it’s in the States, too.

I have never been so sick, so sick I briefly thought I was going to die. Fever, and I have no idea how high, but sweat ran off my body as though I were in the shower. Headache and pain behind my eyes that was unimaginable. Dizziness. Unable to do a thing.

I eventually left Kino when the fever broke and I could once again stand without fear of falling over. I took the longer, flatter way home. That route has a wide lane I could pull off on should the dizziness return. Better and safer than the twisty, narrow mountain road I usually take.

When I spoke to my trailer partners after I got home, both indicated they would like to sell the trailer and I agreed. It wasn’t so much due to the dengue, though of course that factored in. There were many reasons. Again, it was time.

So. Wham! Falling on my face, leaving me with nerve damage. Wham! My partner and I breaking up. Wham! Dengue. And then wham! Deciding to sell the trailer, the place that has been a second home for me for several years, in Kino, which was my second home for years before that.

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Then wham-wham! Someone bought the trailer almost immediately!

I feel not like doors are opening and closing but as though I am in a revolving door that keeps revolving into new and different places, different challenges. A continual door, but each time I go around, everything changes.

So I returned to Kino. The cold weather had killed the mosquitos, though I am now immune to dengue. That kind, anyway (there are three other kinds). Note: I recently found out the immunity is only for about four months.

I was packing up. Settling up. Moving out.

But I took the opportunity to walk the beach many times, attempting to slowly build up some of the energy and endurance and muscle tone I had lost in the last two months. I only hope I can manage to do so. I took my walking stick for the beach. For walking in town, the cane I had to buy when the dizziness was so awful I feared falling without it.

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Yep. My cane’s purple.

It is incredibly hard to leave this place, to leave this trailer, to leave Roberto and his family who have thoroughly adopted me. To leave Virginia and Bucho, another Mexican family that adopted me. To leave my friends here in the park. Leave the sea.

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And the estuary.

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And the turtle tagging expeditions.

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But again, it is time.

Now that we will no longer have the trailer, I am more free to do other things. For years I have always gone to Kino (five or six times each winter for up to three weeks at a time) because I figure I’m paying for it so ought to use it. Now I can go elsewhere. Where? I don’t know yet. But go I will.

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Dawn, from inside the trailer.

It was countdown to departure. I hopped in my car to drive over and visit with Roberto, and wham! A physical wham. Someone backed into my car, destroying the front left side, destroying the headlighs, ripping out the tank for window washer fluid.

In short, my car was not drivable.

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Thankfully, the man immediately acknowledged his culpability and he even knew the man who had the body shop – he’d just had the back end of his car pained two days previously.

He held the loose parts of my car so I could get it out of the park driveway (yep, hadn’t made it more than 100 feet from my trailer). Then he and a friend went to get Denver, the auto body man.

Denver shook his head when he saw the mess. But the perp, as I’ll call him, had plenty of cash, thankfully, and Denver has repaired the car. The good news, I guess, is I was stuck in Kino for a few extra days. I am leaving in a beautiful car.

But now it’s time for goodbyes.

Goodbye good knee, I will miss you. Goodbye partner, I will miss you too. Goodbye Kino. I will miss so very much. Dengue aftermath? Good riddance!