Migrating Birds, Butterflies and Babies

In Corpus Christi last weekend, whilst Mike and a friend of his were replacing a fence in the back yard, I drove across Bay Bridge and parked at a busy fishing pier called Indian Point, so-called because it marks a mass grave of Native Americans who died in the hurricane of 1919. From Indian Point I walked to Reef Road which immediately reminded me of an English lane except here the ‘hedgerows’ are a mix of small acacia trees and clumps of native ochre and bright yellow daisy-like shrubs. At the entrance to Reef Road was a historical marker which pointed out that it was used long ago by Indians as the shortest route at low tide across the bay to Corpus Christi where they would travel to sell their wares. As I walked on, I looked upwards and saw two formations of about 150 white pelicans in from the north, now forming a V shape, now moving apart. When the birds were just dots in the distance, I lowered my eyes again and was struck by a butterfly hanging onto the pale buttermilk ball of acacia blossom and saw that it was a Monarch. And then I noticed more Monarchs, in fact hundreds of them, feeding and resting on the trees and plants before they would continue their journey southwards to Mexico. And not only Monarchs but Queens, too, and large black butterflies with ultramarine tips on their wings and dark brown ones and dark lemon and then a fawn butterfly with beige spots and a few tiny lilac ones fluttering here and there… Talk about a feast for the eyes. And in the fifty feet of wetlands between the lane and the bay I saw roseate spoonbills, black-necked stilts, great white egrets and a tricolored heron and in the bay itself a silver fish plopping in and out of the water.

The next morning, Sunday, Mike, who had awoken earlier than me, said he’d never seen a sunrise like it: the sky was red at first and then there were layers of blue and pink clouds and in between the layers the sky shone golden. There was still a flush of pink in the clouds as I travelled the half-hour south to North Padre Island, a national park of many miles of pristine coastline. I parked just inside the entrance, took my bike from the back of my car and began cycling towards the sea, first turning off at a sign marked Bird Island Basin, which also had the word ‘Windsurfing’ on it although on this morning the water was so calm it looked like a sheet of glass. The mile long route to the basin was lined on both sides with coastal prairie laced with dewy cobwebs and small birds flittering and twittering; a caracara looking like a sentry perched motionless on a sandy mound. It was completely silent and empty of people. At one point I got off my bike and spent several minutes looking around me. I was surrounded by a sea of grasses in shades of maroon and pink, tan, green, burnt orange and mustard. And the sky was made up of all different types of cloud formation depending on whether I looked north, south, east or west, and of all different shades of blue ranging from the palest of blues to cut-outs of bright turquoise; even the small ponds shone an inky blue. As I got on my bike again and continued riding to the basin I could see a row of higgledy-piggledy humps of off-white sand dunes.

Back in San Antonio on Monday morning, I arrived at the Children’s Shelter where my first thought is always, I wonder who has gone this week? And immediately I could see that little eleven-month old Heaven, who had just learned to walk, had gone, so too baby Elias. Teresa, who is in charge of the nursery, announced that little Enrique would be going into foster care that Thursday; plans for him to go back to his family had evidently failed. ‘You’ll miss him terribly,’ I said to her and she nodded sadly. Enrique, now nine months, was the first baby I met in the nursery when I began volunteering in August and the only one left from that time. He is the sweetest of little ones with such a sunny, gentle temperament and as I stroked his little cheek I thought, what a long journey he had ahead of him.

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