Nature Baby

The Wee Baby Abel at 8 months old. This was one of his first big beach days.

Before I had my little one, I had visions of how lovely it would be for him to grow up here on island, especially when it comes to having access to nature. I love to walk, hike, swim, or just float; and I pictured the little one tagging along on all these activities. I even hoped — ok still hope! — that as he grows up we’d even learn some new outdoorsy skills together.

I’m not sure if he managed to absorb these daydreams in utero, but this kid really loves to be outside. I’ve been loving the calm seas we’ve had for most of this summer in part because it’s meant plenty of time in the water for us both. For now, the baby normally sits in a floating seat, which keeps him entertained. He splashes us both for stretches far longer than I usually expect from a single activity given his miniature attention span.

He’s just as rapt by the outdoors on land. Let’s just say, for example, that I’m carrying him from a building to a vehicle. If there’s a tree or bush nearby, he must reach out a chubby little hand to try to touch it. If I then run into someone I know, he will squirm to be put down and out both hands go in search of leaves and rocks to inspect and feel. Maybe you’ve seen viral videos of kids who hate the feel of grass on their skin. When my kid gets near grass that’s even sort of green, he strokes it like it’s a favorite pet.

He also really likes animals. He will watch dogs, cats, and larger lizards as though they are putting on a show for him. Probably because they make noise, he especially loves birds. After a while, he will babble at the animals in a friendly way, like he is conversing with them. My favorite is when he extends a hand and holds it out toward the animal. Does he think he can Jedi Mind Trick animals into coming closer to him? I laugh every time.

His special favorite creatures at the moment, to my embarrassment, are chickens. He doesn’t understand that feral chickens are pests that only tourists find endearing. To him, they are exciting friends to shriek at and to follow around. I’m very curious what he plans to do if he should ever get close to one, but my guess is the chicken would get the classic baby pat-pat move that our cat at home has become very accustomed to.

This column first appeared in the Sept. 27 edition of the Limin Times.

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Connecting to Nature

It’s no secret: We in the BVI are blessed to live in one of the most naturally beautiful places on earth. Since it’s Environment Week, I’m thinking about all my favorite ways to connect to nature here in Nature’s Little Secrets.

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At the top of Beef Island

Top of the list, for me anyway, has got to be hiking. Call me a glutton for punishment, but I actually love spending a few hours hauling myself up the side of a mountain. You can take your time and check out all the odd flowers and bugs you’d never see on the flats in town, plus when you get to the top you get to take a sweet selfie with a view. Something about the view from over 1,000 feet gives me a better perspective of the shape of the place I live, and really does let me feel more connected to the nature and geography of these islands. Another perk of hiking? By the time you get back to the bottom, you might be exhausted and sore, but you can also justify the biggest, baddest brunch imaginable afterward.

A close second is a solo beach trip. As nice as it is to catch up with friends in the sand near the sea, I find it much more meditative to go on my own to the most isolated beach I can get to. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should just try it. Go early in the morning or on a weekday (summer in the BVI is great for these trips because with way fewer tourists we lucky residents have the beaches to ourselves). Sit in the sand. Smell the water. Listen to the waves. Watch the ants, chickens or other critters that are sharing the beach with you. No kidding, it’s downright magical.

My other favorite isn’t for everybody: a leisurely float in the sea. I don’t want to brag too much here, but I’m an excellent floater. In the right mood, I can stay on the surface so steadily and easily you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between me and a buoy. The feeling of being out on the water and watching the seabirds overhead, the fish underneath and even feeling the occasional bit of kelp brush along past me is so relaxing I can almost feel my worries escaping into the ocean around me. Maybe those not blessed with natural buoyancy could achieve the effect with a sturdy life jacket?

I’d love to hear how others make their own connections to nature wherever they are.

(This post first appeared in the Limin Times Island Life column June 8.)

On and off the trail at Gorda Peak

The view back toward Spanish Town through the bush

The view back toward Spanish Town through the bush

I had one of those really great field assignments yesterday that reminds me why I love my job. Not only did I get to do a great hike, I also got a behind-the-scenes look at Gorda Peak National Park, including getting the chance to see some rare native plants. Have a look at some of the other stuff I saw along the way.

"crazy bug"

 

pitch apple

Dancing lady orchid

purple pair on a vine

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