Memories, Mulberries, and More

Memories

There are just so many things going on right now that I want to tell you about, none of which warrants an entire blog post of its own though.  Not only that, but everything is just so beautiful, bountiful, lush and green right now that I have way too many photos to share, and it might be akin to sitting at your friend’s house back in the sixties watching slide shows of their summer vacation to the Grand Canyon.

But I can’t help myself.  I just have to do it.  I have to torture you with the little tidbits of life that happen around me that I find so amazing, which keep me pushing forward.  I won’t throw them all at you today–just a few.

Memories, Mulberries, and More

Do you remember this man, for instance?  He was featured in a post about alligator hunting way back in September 2008, a post I wrote while escaping two major hurricanes.  We call him Mr. Godfrey, and I’ve had the great fortune of visiting with him and his wife a couple times recently.  Most recently was with Stephanie and her photog while they did a follow-up interview to their 2008 filming of his gator hunt.

And what do you think we found out during that interview?  He told us that 2008 was the last ever alligator trapping season of his career.  He had gotten gypped that year by the buyer and lost a lot of money.  That’s when he decided his gator hunting career was over–too much hard work for very little return, which has become the story of many an old-time wetlander’s trapping career.  What are the chances that Stephanie captured footage of his last season ever for all posterity?  That was no accident, my friend.  Fate was at work those two days.

Even at the great age of 83, his mind is like a steel trap.  He told us the year he started trapping, the year he moved back from the marsh to the place he is now, the year he worked seismograph for the oil field, and on and on.  We sat and visited in the house in which he has lived for 65 years.  Can you imagine?  If you can, then I think you are one of the fortunate ones. He shared some wonderful stories with us about his growing up years, and all the jobs he had since he took over his father’s fur trapping business at the age of 13.  Married 57 years, he and his wife, Enola, raised 9 children in the little 100-year-old house that still sits on the fringes of St. Michel Plantation, where he worked many, many years.*

Their story is a tribute to bayou people and a legacy to be passed down to their descendants. And it will be, because some of the grand children interviewed him on video and made a copy for everyone in the family a couple years ago.  What an everlasting gift.

Mulberries

While the documentary interview was going on, Mrs. Enola and I picked mulberries.  Ever heard of them?

Memories, Mulberries, and More

The red mulberry is a native tree, and the berries have a mild sweet flavor all their own–not like a blackberry or raspberry, either.  Mrs. Enola explained how someone had given her the tree (now as tall as the house) in a little pot.  She sat it out in the yard, and it grew through the pot and is still bearing fruit some 20 years later.  Oh, to have such a green thumb. (I suspect reader Cammy and her mother are botanically gifted like this!)

Memories, Mulberries, and More

I had acquired two red mulberry trees in pots back in 2004 after I learned while birding on Grand Isle that the migratory birds love the berries, which ripen about the same time the birds come through.  That was my first birding trip to Grand Isle, and I can still hear old Mr. Santiny’s raspy voice telling me that the same birds would stop in my yard along their journey if I offer them the same amenities.  But after getting the mulberry trees established in my yard, along came the saltwater flood of Hurricane Rita in 2005, killing them both.  Snapping me back from my memories, Mrs. Enola then pointed out a flower pot sitting on an old table underneath the mulberry tree, and in it was a little mulberry tree seedling.  “You want it?” she asked. Well, of course I did, but as I told her, this time I would keep it in a big pot so I could save it from saltwater.  And I will go back another day and get it so I have a reason to visit again!

More

When we head into the cypress swamp portion of my wetland tour, I honestly never know what wonderful sights nature will provide for us that day.  Sometimes it’s my little Belted Kingfisher, flying from tree to tree overhanging the swamp, zig-zagging from one side of the narrow waterway to the other, as though inviting us in and guiding us along his path.

Sometimes, it’s Mr. Green Heron, sitting at his post as Sentinel of the Swamp.  Other times, it’s Miss Little Blue Heron, who also flies from one side of the waterway to the other, leading us deeper into the Spanish moss laden trees.  One April, it was a fallen log covered in snakes, warming their cold-blooded skins in the warm sun.  Often it’s just the song of the Northern Parula taunting me from the upper tree branches.  At a mere three inches in height, they are very difficult to spy without binoculars, and while on tour, I’m not inclined to have a pair of those up to my face.  But while on standby with Stephanie up in the Mandalay last week, I pulled out my binoculars and began talking sweetly to the tiny brightly-colored warblers that were trilling all around us.  I asked over and over, “Please come closer.  Please show yourselves.  I won’t hurt you.  I only want to gaze upon your beauty.”  And with Stephanie as my witness, one by one, they flew into the lower branches of the willow trees, and not only did I see one, I saw four at one time!

Now, if you’re a birder, you know what an exciting occurrence this is.  It truly was as though they wanted to show off their magnificence and were just waiting to be asked.  I’m sorry I don’t have a photo, so a link will have to suffice.  They are very difficult to photograph, because they don’t sit in one spot very long, and I just don’t think my lens would have done them justice.

Also back down in my swamp, we occasionally hear what we call the Swamp Canary.  It’s true name is the Prothonotary Warbler.  A sweeter song might never be heard in the swamp, and certainly a brighter yellow is not displayed.  I stopped the boat after seeing a streak of bright yellow flit across in front of the boat.  And when I heard it singing, I tied up to a little camp, because I had a feeling if we were just patient, we would be rewarded.  And we were, as the little song bird landed just above us on a willow branch and sang his heart out for us.

Memories, Mulberries, and More

I know you’ll probably think I’m crazy, but I talk to the birds.  Just about anyone who has been on my tour can attest to that.  I don’t know when it started or why, but talking to them now is just as natural as talking to a pet.  And I believe they have come to know me and trust me, and I consider them my friends.  I hope they consider me theirs.  And if you think I’m crazy or delusional, or both, you might just want to keep that to yourself or chat about that among yourselves, because you will never, ever convince me that I am either!

Memories, Mulberries, and More

So there you have a just a few things that have occurred in the past two weeks that I wanted to share with you.  Even if you don’t have an escape as wondrous as my wetlands, just putting out a bird feeder and sitting on the porch or looking out the window to see what nature provides for you could do wonders for your overall disposition.  Maybe you could buy a new flowering plant for the porch or patio–one you’ve always wanted but never dared splurge on.  Go ahead, do it.  I give you permission!  Or take a Sunday drive outside the city limits and see what’s in bloom.  Surely there is something you can do to take advantage of Nature’s slide show this spring.  Then come back and tell us what you discovered!

Happy Resurrection Sunday,

BW

*Mr. Godfrey and my father would be about the same age, and listening to him reminded me so much of my father’s own story of going to work at the age of 13, selling magazines door-to-door, to help with the family income, because his own father had passed away at a young age.

 

Mandalay

Mandalay Swamp

For the past four days, I’ve been working with a good friend on her documentary, and it’s been a great experience.  She first found me in 2008 when doing research for her award-winning short documentary, “Tide of Tears”, about the collapse of the Cajun Coast. That was the first time I had ever taken out … Continue reading

Spring-time Wetland Education

Spring time in the wetlands

With all the new folks following the blog, I think it might be time for a little recap of Wetland Education 101.   My involvement in wetland education began long before it culminated in writing a children’s picture book about coastal Louisiana’s wetland loss, acquiring my U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license, and starting educational wetland … Continue reading