Being Busy

Every time I believe I have reached the absolute peak of busyness, that if I have one more thing to do I will simply collapse, I get busier.  I remember when I thought I was incredibly busy 20 years ago.  I had a job that required me to work a lot of extra hours maybe one week every other month.  What was a long day then is just a normal day now.

I played softball in the summer, volleyball in the winter, and even tried the corporate bowling league one season.  I had the highest handicap ever achieved by any participant–at our first match, my highest score (out of 300 possible) was 37.  My handicap was largely responsible for my partner and I taking the league championship that year–I decided to retire from bowling after that.

I went on ski trips, played cards once a week, socialized regularly with friends.  I guess I was busy, but I spent a larger percentage of each day doing things that were just for fun.

These days, the constant incoming stream of information, multiple mailboxes continually filling, Google beckoning whenever I don’t know the answer to a question, Facebook friends posting interesting articles and stories keeps all of us jumping from one subject to the next nearly continuously.  Newsletters, informative articles, and don’t even get me started on YouTube.  It’s not a tube; it’s a black hole–no one really knows if or where you come out if you dare to enter.

Almost every person I know describes themselves as having ADD.  I’m not clear on the medical diagnosis of ADD, but I’m reasonably certain that it’s statistically improbable that every person I know (mostly adults) actually has ADD.

Yet, that doesn’t stop me from wondering about myself.  I walked into the kitchen 3x the other day, forgetting what I needed as soon as my foot crossed the threshold. I never did figure out why I thought I need something from there.  Is being so distracted all the time combined with the overwhelming amount of information streaming through our lives that makes us so scatterbrained?

And what about those moments when you sit down to do something that you really ought to spend time concentrating on only to have your brain start pinging you, wanting to know when the next interruption is coming?  I have to believe that our brains are becoming more and more trained to look for any distraction to avoid concentration and deep thought.

And is that what ultimately leads us to jam pack our calendars for every minute of every day?  Our secret desire to constantly hop to something new?

I don’t know.  All I know is that if I don’t shutdown now, I will be writing in my sleep.

Advertisements

Eskimo Kisses

Theo shows off his impressive wing span

Theo shows off his impressive wing span

Each of the birds at Wings to Soar has a distinct personality.  Yet, all of them seem to have a special bond with Dale.  I don’t know exactly how to describe what a bond looks like when it comes to these mighty hunters, but there’s a level of trust and calm that the birds have with Dale.

Using his ridiculously long wings, Theo looks like he could glide forever

Using his ridiculously long wings, Theo looks like he could glide forever

I suspect the birds would be far more agitated being handled by me if Dale weren’t nearby.

Whatever the effect Dale has on the birds and vise versa, there are times when I’ve noticed her expressing what can only be described as a motherly affection for the birds.  For example, once during an educational program in an open field, a train came through blowing its whistle and scaring the bejesus out of Theo.  Theo was flying with a light line hooked to his jesses to prevent him from flying far, but he did take off and fly as far towards the trees as possible.

Theo with arced wings mid-flap

Theo with arced wings mid-flap

Dale had to go retrieve him from the middle of the field.  I swung the camera around and followed Dale for a bit.  When she retrieved Theo, the two of them bent their heads towards one another in some form of secret greeting.  It was like they were reconnecting after a fright.  Theo immediately appeared to relax.

Theo reaching for the glove

Theo reaching for the glove

On Saturday, when it was Theo’s turn to fly, that affection came through loud and clear.  Theo didn’t seem particularly motivated to fly.  After flying to me a couple of times, he wasn’t into modeling for my camera, probably because he had a full belly.

Theo making a mid-flight adjustment in response to Dale moving

Theo making a mid-flight adjustment in response to Dale moving

To coax him into flying, Dale stood close to his perch and then backed away so Theo would get a longer flight in.  This didn’t work so well the first attempt–Theo was obviously confused as to why Dale was running away and tried to land on her glove at her side.  The only thing to do when a raptor is trying to land on you is to give them the glove–you sure don’t want them to land anywhere else!

Theo gets lined up with the glove an come in for the approach

Theo gets lined up with the glove an come in for the approach

The second time Dale tried this approach, she started running away sooner and ran faster.  As she approached the distance Theo normally flies, she turned back towards Theo, but kept backing away.  Theo performed some impressive maneuvers in his attempts to avoid colliding with Dale as she changed speed and direction.  I wish I’d been set on video–I swear I saw Theo fly backwards at least twice.

Theo looks like he's all set for a landing, but Dale is still in motion

Theo looks like he’s all set for a landing, but Dale is still in motion

In the end, they did a graceful mid-air eskimo kiss just before Theo readjusted one more time to land on Dale’s glove.  The amount of effort Theo made to get to Dale’s glove spoke volumes about what this owl feels about his momma.  The smile (just visible through the feathers of Theo’s wings) on Dale’s face as she nearly collides beak-to-beak with a Barn Owl speaks volumes about Dale’s own feelings.

Theo and Dale rub noses before Theo manages to back up and land safely on the glove

Theo and Dale rub noses before Theo manages to back up and land safely on the glove

It’s hard not to smile when you see Dale working with these magnificent birds.

Back home, Tisen hung out with Twiggy, making themselves comfortable on the couch

Back home, Tisen hung out with Twiggy, making themselves comfortable on the couch

Cayce Rocks the House

Cayce follows Dale around much like a faithful dog

Cayce follows Dale around much like a faithful dog

Cayce is my favorite vulture.  Is it normal to have a favorite vulture?

Normal or not, I suspect anyone who has ever met Cayce falls into the same camp–Cayce is their favorite vulture.  Of course, for most people, there’s a high probability that Cayce is the only vulture they’ve ever seen (or at least realized they’ve seen).

Cayce hops to my glove in exchange for a piece of beef

Cayce hops to my glove in exchange for a piece of beef

This reminds me of when Pat and I went on a tour of Taliesin West (Frank Lloyd Wright’s Arizona-based school of architecture) and the tour guide told us that on almost every tour someone says, “Frank Lloyd Wright is my favorite architect.”  He said he always has to stop himself from asking who their second-favorite architect is–he’s pretty sure most people who say this can’t name a second architect.

Sometimes Cayce prefers to hop from glove to ground, run, and then hop up to the next glove--it's pretty funny the way she hops

Sometimes Cayce prefers to hop from glove to ground, run, and then hop up to the next glove–it’s pretty funny the way she hops

Like Wright, Cayce has the advantage that vultures (and apparently architects) don’t usually become household names.  However, unlike the stories we heard about Wright, Cayce has an irresistible personality.

Dale spends a few minutes setting the stage by telling the audience about vultures, their role in preventing the spread of disease and their importance to the environment.  Then she explains how Cayce was erroneously rescued and became a human imprint.

The young lady celebrated her birthday holding a vulture

The young lady celebrated her birthday holding a vulture

When everyone is wondering what it’s going to be like to see a Black Vulture up close, Dale calls “Here’s Cayce!”  and I open Cayce’s travel crate.  Cayce comes charging out and starts looking around like she’s trying to get oriented.  I toss a small piece of beef towards the center of the circle formed by the audience and Cayce runs front and center.  Once she sees Dale, she is good to go.

Cayce heads back to my glove having just passed over the heads of the surprised audience

Cayce heads back to my glove having just passed over the heads of the surprised audience

As Dale continues to tell the small audience about Cayce, she walks along the circle of spectators with Cayce following at her heels.  It’s pretty clear that Cayce would follow Dale anywhere.

Usually, when the birds are going to fly during a program, they get their breakfast during the show, flying for their meal.  This both keeps them properly fed and motivated to fly.  However, on this day, Dale forgot and fed Cayce her full breakfast.  Often, a bird of prey won’t fly if it isn’t hungry–after all, their instinct is to expend energy flying purely for the purpose of seeking food.

Fortunately for us, Cayce loves to please a crowd.  In spite of her full stomach, she launched perfectly several times, buzzing the heads of the audience.  Everyone ducked as Cayce barely clearer their foreheads–her feathers brushed back the hair of one taller gentleman.  This is always a crowd pleaser.

The second time Cayce buzzes the audience, they are a little better prepared and start to duck early

The second time Cayce buzzes the audience, they are a little better prepared and start to duck early

One of the reasons an unreleasable vulture makes a great entertainer is because, unlike Cayce’s raptor relatives, vultures don’t have talons.  Their feet more closely resemble a large chicken’s, making close fly-by’s much safer.

Of course, we humans would be happier if Cayce could live out her life in the wild.  But I doubt Cayce agrees–after all, she returned to humans after being released several times.  I think she found her calling.

Cayce comes in for a surprisingly gentle landing

Cayce comes in for a surprisingly gentle landing

 

*Photography credit goes to Pat, my wonderful husband who took all shots of the birds of prey program.

Booth Babe

While sitting in a booth on a Saturday may not sound like fun to a lot of people, consider the following:

  1. I work from home.  The only “person” I see during the day is my dog.
  2. My knee is troubled.  Hang gliding really isn’t an option.
  3. 10AM-4PM makes for bad lighting for photography
  4. The only people I know in the area are all busy doing things
  5. My husband has been working weekends.

So, when the opportunity to set up a booth for S.O.A.R. at an Outdoor Expo in Coolidge Park presented itself, I was more than happy to set aside a day to do it.

John and Dale and their cast of characters were busy performing at Rock City Earth Dayz and couldn’t join me, so it was just me representing the organization.

The event was not just an Outdoor Expo, but also a Green Expo and an Adoptapalooza.    The Outdoor Expo part attracts groups related to fun things to do outside ranging from kayaking to simple picnic games.  The Green Expo focused on environmentallly friendly ways to live.  The Adoptapalooza was all about getting homeless animals adopted.

As it turned out, all three events fit into one section of Coolidge Park.  This meant dogs were wandering by the tent all day.  Since birds of prey are not fond of dogs, it was a good thing they were busy performing at Rock City.  Since I didn’t have any birds of prey with me in the booth, Tisen got to spend the day with me.

In spite of the bad lighting, I was hoping to get some interesting pictures of some of the characters in the park while I worked the booth.  Whenever I could, I would jump up and snap a few quick shots.  The booth next to me was an ongoing source of interesting subjects.  They were all dressed like their favorite Star Wars characters.  I didn’t quite get the connection between outdoors, going green, or pet adoption, so when Pat came to give me a break, I walked over and asked them what they do.  They explained that there are three separate clubs, one for the dark side, one for the good guys, and one, well, I lost track.  They are into professional costuming.  Quite honestly, I walked away still puzzled about what they do, but they clearly take it very seriously.

I also discovered there was a horse in the park.  At first, I thought they were referring to a very large great dane that had walked by earlier, but it turned out there really was a horse running around in the park, giving children rides.  How cool is that?

In the end, I got to talk to a lot of nice people about what S.O.A.R. does, I got a few photos that are, well, fun if nothing else, and I even collected enough donations to more than cover the cost of the booth.  Oh, and Tisen got to hang out with Mommy all day.

Audience Participation

While working on getting great pictures of birds of prey (as in, trying very hard, not necessarily achieving), I had the realization that the people are as fascinating as the birds.  Especially the children.

I’ve spent the better part of my life ignoring most children.  Not that I have anything against children; I just tend to gravitate towards people who are old enough that they would be insulted if you called them a child.  I blame this, in part, on my height.  I have a tendency not to notice much that’s shorter than about mid-thigh height unless it barks, meows, or flies.  I don’t know why this is, but I do know I have walked right into small children on more than one occasion because I just didn’t see them–they snuck into range under my radar.

But on Sunday, when I sat in the amphitheater at Rock City watching the birds interact with the audience, it was the children who were the standouts.  Perhaps they haven’t yet developed the stiff facial muscles of adults whose faces repeat the same patterns over and over again.  Perhaps they don’t change their facial expressions to reflect what they think someone else expects of them, so their expressions seem more genuine.

I’m not sure exactly what quality of children’s expressions makes them so much more . . . well, expressive, but I cannot help but swing the camera around to catch a child practicing hooting when John teaches the audience how to call a Barred Owl.  I cannot but wish for a second camera body so I could have a wide-angle lens ready to go to catch the reactions of the children as the birds soar over their heads.

After the first show, John stands on the stage with Atsa, the bald ealge, while Dale takes Buddy, the screech owl, down the sidewalk.  I stay with John and take pictures of the people stepping up to have their picture taken with Atsa.

I sneak in a shot before they pose for their camera.  There is a moment for most people when they look up at Atsa, this magnificent bird, and their face expresses their genuine amazement, joy, or nervousness.  That’s the moment I want to capture.  Once they face their camera, they paint on the smile they’ve been using since their kindergarten class picture and I am instantly bored.

After the second show, I follow John up the walkway with Buddy and try to stand back far enough to shoot without anyone noticing.  I find myself wishing I could push the people aside blocking my view of the wonderful children petting Buddy.  Their faces made my whole day.  In a matter of moments, I witnessed fear, nervousness, surprise, joy, curiosity, and a hundred more emotions I can’t name.  I don’t know how many of those I captured in these images, but I sure have fun looking at the photos and realizing that these people were fascinated, engaged, and enjoying learning about birds of prey.