Out in the World

 We went to Sighosora, Romania…

…and stayed in the Old Town.

In the passage to the courtyard we found a nest, with two baby birds huddled nearby.

There had been a fierce windstorm the previous night that must have blown the nest from its nook in the wall, our Romanian host told us when delivering the key to our flat.  My husband Thom replaced the nest, but when he tried to return the birds to the nest….

…he discovered two of their legs were tightly bound together by a long blond hair–nesting material gone terribly wrong.

We had a knife, our tiny blunt-nosed travel scissors, and a larger pair of scissors scrounged from the kitchen.  Thom and our son Eli hoped to separate the birds with a quick snip.  But the hair had been there for a long time, the legs were swollen around it, and every effort set the birds fluttering in a panic, which we feared would cause further damage.  Our host wished us good luck, and left for work.

We felt helpless.  We were there for only one night.  To whom could we hand off these birds? We could return them to the nest and let nature take its course–a slow and painful death by starvation and infection.  Or should we put them out of their misery?  The only other possible solution was harsh.  If we did nothing, both birds would surely die.  By amputating one leg, one bird would likely die, but the other might have a fighting chance.  One delicate leg was unresponsive to the touch, probably already broken.  Eli braced himself and severed the mangled leg, cutting through the hair.  Immediately both birds were free and fluttered off.

The one-legged bird landed on the ground nearby.

The stronger one fluttered all the way to the far side of the courtyard.

We heard a cackling overhead.  Even without the family resemblance, we recognized an anxious mother, calling to her babies from the rooftop.  We felt a glimmer of hope–their mother might yet take them back under her wing!

But our presence made her nervous, so we watched from inside, then left to explore the area.

By suppertime, the stronger bird had flown up to a perch in the courtyard…

…high enough to be safe from hungry cats.

The other remained quietly earthbound.  We wondered what the morning would bring.

The next day, the stronger of the two was gone, as was its mother.  The injured bird remained, probably abandoned as a lost cause by its family.  We checked back only moments later to discover the one-legged bird was now gone without a trace.  In a laundry room off the courtyard were two domestic workers.  Could they have removed the bird like a piece of litter?  Or perhaps a crow had carried it off to feed to its babies.

Out in the world, we often catch glimpses of a story, or a life.  Sometimes they are as sweet as a single drop of honey.

Others are stories of sorrow and want.

Too many will be lived out in the shadows in quiet desperation.

As with the baby birds, sometimes we are helpless to help, sometimes we can offer only a bandaid, and most times we will never know how the story ends.

What makes the difference between a happy ending and a tragedy?  Survival of the fittest?  An accident of birth?  An ill wind, perhaps.  But sometimes it falls into our power to make a difference.  When that happens, even for one tiny being, it can make all the difference in the world.

All images and words copyright 2015 Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Wind.

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It’s a Jungle Out There!

Forgive me, Blogger, it has been three weeks since my last post.   I’ve been wandering in the wilderness, sans laptop, with nary a scrap of wifi to leave a trail behind.  Let me tell you how it was.

Beyond the frozen Andes…

https://i0.wp.com/i1176.photobucket.com/albums/x334/nbaltuck/Amazon%20jungle/a6074a84-c875-414a-8745-e835cff0fe3b_zpsc66f4997.jpg

..a thick cloud cover gradually dissipated to reveal…

…mile upon mile of endless jungle.  

No roads.  Only the mighty Amazon River and its tributaries winding their way through the hot steamy rainforest like great brown snakes.

We landed in Iquitos, a jungle city accessible only by air or water.  Three-wheeled motocarros, motorized rickshaws, were the popular mode of conveyance.  Families of five squeezed onto motorbikes to go about their business.

We chose Amazonia Expeditions for its environmental work, and its support of the little villages along the Tahuayo River.  Our guide was Orlando.  He is the Eighth Natural Wonder of the World, and I will tell you more about that later.


Mario, Orlando’s sidekick, spoke no English, but always knew when an extra hand was needed, or how to make us laugh.

We traveled in this blue motorboat four and a half hours upriver on the Amazon and then the Tahuayo.

At Tahuayo Lodge we switched to a small motorboat…

….picked up supplies…


…and set out for the research center, another two hours away. The jungle was huge, the river was endless.  No breadcrumb trail to follow back to civilization; we just went deeper and deeper into the wilderness.

Travel on the Tahuayo River was a more quiet and intimate experience.

Wildlife was easier to view.

We stopped to watch Squirrel Monkeys playing in the trees.  Or maybe they stopped to watch us.

Here and there along the riverbank were villages consisting of about a dozen houses built around a village green.

 

For the Riberenos, the river people, the river was not only their only highway.  It was their laundry room…

Their bathhouse…

Their pantry and their lifeline.

At last we arrived at the research center.

My grown kids were in their element, as excited and carefree as I have ever seen them.  If you have followed my blog, you already know I am a confessed Travel Weenie.   But I am vulnerable to peer pressure (my children, actually), and I try to stretch myself out of my comfort zone.   Which is how I ended up in the Amazon Jungle.  Frankly, I wilt in the heat, and the thought of spending a week sweating and swatting mosquitoes carrying dengue fever, malaria, and yellow fever,  never mind typhus, was daunting.   I’m reminded of a Big Bang Theory episode in which Leonard reports on Sheldon’s condition: “He’s paranoid, and he’s established a nest.”

Well, here is my little nest.

And here is a little story–more like show and tell–that I will leave you with until next time.  There was a public shower and restroom that we accessed by walking down a long thatch-roofed walkway.


In the bathroom on our first morning at the station, Bea said, “Don’t touch that post, Mom.” “Why not?”I asked.   It was backlit, but even looking up close, I saw nothing alarming.

She said, “Take a flash photo.”  I ALWAYS have my camera with me, and so I took the shot, and looked at the viewer.  This is what I saw.  That post was four inches wide, so you can imagine how big that arachnid wallflower was.

Just thinking about this is making me sweat, so I’ll sign off now.  Next time, we’ll venture beyond the restroom, and into the jungle to see some of the wildlife–and further challenges–we encountered on our Amazon jungle hikes.

Thanks for stopping by.  It feels great to be back!

All words and images c2013NaomiBaltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Rivers

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Tempest in a Teapot

When my daughter Bea and I were in England, I took her to the picturesque little town of Rye.

 

Rye was a Cinque Port, charged in 1155 by Royal Charter to provide ships for the royal navy, and rewarded with tax-exempt status and other privileges.

Rye was situated on the coast until The Great Storm of 1287 silted the harbor, and transformed the coastal port into a river port, two miles inland.

The town’s history is colorful, with smuggling, and raids by and against the French, just across the Channel. It’s also said to be the most haunted town in England. There’s the ghost of the girl who fell in love with a smuggler and was murdered by him for her indiscretion.  Turkey Cock Lane is haunted by the ghost of the monk bricked up alive behind a wall for trying to elope with a local lass. The mysterious boy wrapped in a shroud, and a pair of duelers reenacting their last fatal sword fight are just a few of the ghosts who frequent The Mermaid Inn.   So many stories!

Every house has a story.   In Rye, as with everywhere else in England, they like to give their houses a name.  White Vine House was very pretty.

On a narrow cobbled lane called Mermaid Street stands The Mermaid Inn, which dates back to 1156.

 It was remodeled in anticipation of a visit from Queen Elizabeth I.  On a previous trip, I stayed at The Mermaid in a room with a plaque on the door boasting that the Queen Mum had once spent the night in that very room.  I think I can truthfully say I have slept in the same bed, looked out the same window and, at least for a little while, sat on the same throne as Queen Elizabeth II’s mum!

The Mermaid Inn was so famous that the house across the street was known simply as “The House Opposite.”

 

We discovered an unusual house, with two front doors.  The owners called it, “The House With Two Front Doors.”  (Well, of course, they did!)  They even had the name painted on it in shiny gold paint.

The neighbors who lived next to The House With Two Front Doors also had a house with one distinguishing feature, a bench built into one side of the porch.  Maybe they thought the neighbors were getting too high and mighty, with their spiffy gold-painted signs and their highfalutin name.  In what seems a clear case of one downmanship, they too gave their house a name, and put up their own sign to let passersby know they were looking at “The House With the Seat.”

I want to know all the stories–big ones like The Great Storm that changed the whole coast of England overnight, compelling but heartbreaking ones like the Mary Stanford Lifeboat Disaster, in which the entire heroic rescue crew was drowned in a storm, trying to save survivors of a shipwreck who had already been saved.  Some of my favorite tales are the Tempests in the Teapots.  Those you won’t find in tour guides or history books, but you might be fortunate enough to stumble upon one.  A local told us stories about watching the filming of Cold Comfort Farm in Rye.  Afterwards we took afternoon tea in the teahouse where one scene was filmed.

Stories live all around us. Some fall into our lap like ripened fruit from a tree.  Others are hiding in nooks and crannies, waiting to be ferreted out.  Often we are left to speculate over the missing details–not unlike trying to read tea leaves in the bottom of the tea cup.  Who hid in the priest hole over the fireplace at The Mermaid Inn?  Who was left to mourn the seventeen lads lost in the Mary Stanford disaster?  Do the occupants of The House With Two Front Doors and those of The House With the Seat ever sit down together for a cup of tea?

All images and words c2013 by Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Old-fashioned.