I went south for a solid week: the 17th parallel in Central America, on the Caribbean Sea. When I returned to the 40th parallel, I was surprised to see winter unbudged. If a truck does not have a snowplow on it now, it is because it is a car. For the first time in our suburban history, there is a snow-handling for every landscaping company worth its salt.I was, and am always, after birds. Routine travels from here to Sag Harbor or the swamp are embarked on with binoculars. But while I may be a constant birder, I am not a professional one. I am satisfied with a lively backyard.
And so some of the best birding I did in Belize was in the rented backyard. I have bug bites to prove how long I sat on the porch or stood under a blooming tree. I am not exaggerating—I am certain the aroma was sublime, for in its shade there fell a force field of sweetness to hold you in. The tree was decorated with warblers and frequented by a large, emerald green hummingbird. His body is bending and flashing as he moves forward and away from the blossoms; his forked black tail fans as he floats. His motion is more like a fish, graceful about the reef, than a bird flapping its wings to maneuver.
I saw birds I’d never hoped to see, and birds I might never see again. As always, there were plenty I didn’t see. High in mangrove trees and concealed by jungle structure came the loud songs of oriels and call notes of the tanager.
The more I read of history, the more I am convinced taking respite in a different, more favorable environment is very good medicine. Winter was making me brittle, and I felt very fortunate to go so far away.
It is possible to have a perfect vacation, but travel is never so blithe. The route away from home is the start of a tour of disparity. Latitudes converge in airports and their cities. From here on out, a traveler comes in steady contact with his own good fate.