It's been a crazy time for the past few weeks - time that you never believe you'd endure, for reasons you never thought would come true. In the end, you carry on and do what must be done, but each day can be a struggle. To that end, a planned vacation was fraught with unplanned stress and will be long remembered as one of the worst getaways, but for reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with the getaway itself.
Yet birds always seem to be there to remind me that life, and lifers, go on.
I don't remember much about the getaway, save the official details of where, when, how. A few snatches of delicious meals, of rambling walks, of beautiful water, but nothing more - except for one splash of bright yellow wing patches, a shaggy black crest and a long tail with yellow outer feathers. Standing on the Lido deck of the Carnival Miracle, I noticed those distinctive markings from a few birds mixed in with a grackle flock as we were docked in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and because they were so distinctive, the investigative birder in me just had to puzzle it out.
Study the field guide, peer through the binoculars. Study some more. Another tree, another glimpse. Ooops, there's one flying for a moment, yup, look at those wings. Come on, baby, come into the sunlight - thank you, there's that pale bill. Oh, yes, stretch those wings and show me that yellow rump, you sexy lifer you! Turn your head - note the shaggy, thin crest. Check the field guide again, compare range maps - yup, only one bird it could be.
With that dedicated Lido deck study (I'd have left the ship to get closer to the adjacent trees where the birds were gathering at sunset, but we were due to depart and passengers were no longer allowed to disembark), I added the yellow-winged cacique to my life list; an unexpected and pleasant surprise for a cruise I've done before, when I wasn't expecting any lifers at all. With all that overshadowed that vacation, this one bird still remains a bright, clear point of the trip, and a reminder that amid all the turmoil life can throw at us, and even as the sun sets on one part of life, there is still reason to spread our wings, to take flight, to fly.
I hope, one day soon, I can leave the ground again.