I'm almost intimidated to write about Protection Island because most of the time it seems like it never happened. Last summer, I spent two months by myself on this tiny island with no electricity, no potable water, and very little human interaction. I have mixed feelings about the solitude and isolation of the island. Sometimes I miss it because I felt like a wild animal there. A dear friend of mine and one of my favorite contemporary poets (Felicia Zamora) calls it "being a thing." And if I stay among the land of man-made everything for too long, I do start to feel like I'm losing my "thing-ness."
I also miss the comfortable numbness that living in waist-high grass full of tiny creatures brings. I stayed in a sort of cabin--more like a small, weathered old house--that hadn't been shown much sympathy by the salty winds that blow across the island. There were many windows and two sliding glass doors that I never fully shut and it looked as if nobody else had bothered shutting them either. The carpet and linoleum were as clean as one can expect from being trampled by the muddy feet of scientists and years of vulnerability to the wilds outside. Oftentimes, I found myself in the company of various bugs; beautiful green beetles on my sleeping bag in the morning, ground wasps that had wandered away from their dusty tunnels, and a family of Black Widow spiders that lived directly above the shower head in the bathroom. Recall that I had to take showers in the relative darkness so I was somewhat subdued by my complete unawareness of their location. Which brings me back to the numbness with which nature intoxicates a person. My vision seemed more vivid, my bones more agile, the air in my lungs more expansive and yet, all the usual anxiety about sharp rocks and cliff faces and bugs that bite, snakes that bite, darkness that bites were covered with the whip and snap of fresh sheets falling over a mattress.
Other times my experience was very Walden-esque. Hours of looking into the abyss of oneself has a specific posture. Mine came in the form of sitting cross-legged on the open floor of a US Fish & Wildlife Service boat watching guillemots feed their nestlings every morning. And looking across the marina at no certain object. It's funny to me that I remember less of my time doing research--recharging batteries with solar power, readying my recorders for each night of recording, and reading bioacoustic literature--and much more of my time sitting and looking and waiting.
But ultimately it comes down to the birds. And it always does for me. I like to call it my "almond extract feeling" because it reminds me of the overwhelming nirvana that would expand in my chest during my childhood summers. I would pick cherries barefooted, off of our tree out back, one bowl after another. Inside my mother would bake all day to the conclusion of opening an oven and flooding the still dry air of our Colorado home with the scent of almond extract. Birds give me this feeling. That's what you came here for anyway, isn't it? I shall be happy to talk about the birds of Protection Island in my following blogs because they are the topic of my M.Sc. and because they are some of the most incredible feathered dinosaurs that you will find. Stay tuned.