Off Like A Herd Of Turtles

???????????????Sea turtles are fascinating to me. Gentle, giant and paradoxically graceful. I got to meet one in the wild while night diving in St Thomas. Some might dismiss it as a one night delight, and though our encounter was brief, it was deeply emotional and personal to me. I was thrilled beyond measure when my night light fell across his face — beauty and grace, heart in my throat, and he was gone, swallowed by the dark sea. My heart was singing, and I was in love. Since then, I’ve read about volunteer vacations where you can help do research on endangered sea turtles, watched documentaries and donated to Wildlife and Marine Research organizations. My husband and I will do one soon.

In the meantime, we found ourselves kid-less on the 4th. And in a fit of spontaneity, just like the good ol’ days, we decided to drive to Corpus Christi to visit my dad, and catch a Kemp Ridley Sea Turtle Release on Malaquite Beach at the National Seashore. I’ve wanted to do it for so long, and have been following along on the Facebook page with every nest discovered! But, our lives are busy and we’d lost some of our spur of the moment get up and go as our kids grew and became more involved in sports and life. We packed up the fur-kids and headed down.

That 4 a.m. alarm came too early after a sleepless night in a bed not ours. We dragged ourselves up and heard my dad call out to be sure we were up. Away we all went for our hour drive to the Padre Island National Park. I was excited, but worried about the crowds because it was a 3 day weekend after all. We met some friends when we got there and stood in a crowd of several hundred people. We listened to the ranger speak, and got some amazing facts about the Kemp Ridley, and, of course,  the rules. They then let us down the boardwalk and onto the beach.

Boardwalk Rush

Boardwalk Rush

Volunteers had the area roped off. They stood with poles and flags to keep the sea gulls at bay. People were racing to snag a spot on the front row. Trying to keep my enthusiasm in check, I was careful not to trip the running kids, or tackle the obnoxious adults hurrying past me, but I wanted to!

beachvolunteerscThe release was 75 baby Kemp Ridley turtles tiny enough to sit in the palm of your hand,  freshly hatched while we had tried to sleep just hours before. They started their awkward trek toward the surf a few seconds after they were laid gently on the sand.

And They're Off!

And They’re Off!

They imprint with the beach on their way, and will return year after year to lay their eggs along this shore. Though, the volunteers made sure that they made it safely to the sea, very few will live to return to this beach, as nature and predators and the cycle of life begins.

Swim Sweet Baby! Your Life Depends On It!

Swim Sweet Baby! Your Life Depends On It!

Even so, the whole thing made me extremely happy. Conservation fills me up. I celebrated the day with the love of my life, my dad, friends, knowing that my sweet mom would have loved this as much as I. She was in my happy heart and it left me melancholy, but joyful. Hope and faith refreshed my spirit.

Love, Faith and Turtles

Love, Faith and Turtles

 

Cedar Sucks

Mountain Cedar Pollen Explodes in Austin Image credit: KXAN.COM

Cedar pollen sucks. Eyes run like faucets, noses drain per(freaking)petually straight out of your face, while violent sneezes launch copious amounts of mucus farther than an Olympic Triple Jump. It’s hard to breathe and it’s even more difficult not to tear your crying eyes out of their insanely itchy sockets. Central Texans drip, itch, wheeze, sneeze and snot their way through life, hating it, from December till mid-February. “Cedar Fever” my ass. You wish you had a fever! And this happens every year, yes, and we relive this nightmare and bitch and moan like we didn’t know it was coming. But this year, this year is the Big One. We’ve had record levels of pollen, more than we’ve measured in our air in over 16 years. Those years between did not prepare us for the mother of cedar hell.

I’m a miserable, soft and goopy mess. I’ve lost enough bodily fluids through my nose and eyes that I alone may end this drought. Well, I might if I didn’t need 3 to 4 showers a day to wash the pollen out of my hair, and off my skin. I’ve mastered the “quick change” art and the cold nasal flush. Who knew that squirting cold salt water into your raw nostrils and through your sinuses could make you moan with pleasure?

The sane thing to do, and the recommended-by-meteorologists method is to stay INSIDE in the filtered air confines of home. Wash the dogs, wash the linens, vacuum the couch and stay in arm’s reach of the Neti-Pot. For god’s sake, do not go outside! The problem with that insane logic is that the weather is stunning; sunny, beautiful, fairly temperate by the afternoon and glorious. Who, in this hill country mecca of all things outdoors, could possibly resist that level of meteorological perfection?

So, we don’t. We stuff our pockets full of tissue and wear clothes with soft sleeves. We hike among the exploding junipers. We play tennis on dusted courts. We suffer like the damned. We mouth breathe. We snot rocket, but we go outside where nature speaks. We listen, but we cannot hear (or smell, or see) the voice of reason when Mother Nature calls to tell us to go back inside.

And just for fun, Austin’s own Kinky Friedman singing about Mucus.