Ask and You Shall Receive

Published in "Feather Stories" by Maril Crabtree

On this particular day two Catholic nuns scheduled a tour with me. They were nature lovers. Their focus was birds and bottle-nose dolphin, and they were excited to have a day on the water, seeing close at hand what they had only seen in books. I wondered what they would think of my spiritual beliefs, which were more attuned to earth and nature than to any formal religion.

I have found that when I open myself to connect with nature, amazing things can happen. I feel a special connection to birds, and have fought for laws to protect them. My spiritual name is White Heron Woman. I've often asked for - and received - feather gifts from my winged friends, but on this day I felt especially gifted by what happened.

After we left port I took them to the first stop, a small island which is a roosting island for the magnificent frigate birds that frequent the area. The birds are a great opportunity for me to stop, because the island sits in the middle of a large basin where I can teach from every directions around me about the geology of the area, and it's very clear to people by the lay of the land how things formed.

The rookery is a roosting island for several dozen frigates. The frigate's name comes from the fact that they sail, like the frigate schooners. They seldom flap their wings except in low breezes. You may see them up high, riding the thermals, but you don't see them perched that often. They would be dead if they were in the water, because they have to have wind under their wings to take off. They soar into flight, so they have to be up in the air to begin with. They often sail right over the dolphins.

The dolphin chase fish to the surface and the fish actually bounce on their bellies and walk on their tails to get away from the dolphin. Along comes the frigate, who has a long beak, a long neck, and an unusual forked tail which helps them stay up and away from the water. The bird extends its long neck, arcs its wings, and grabs the fish. You'll see them behind shrimp boats, too, when they're culling the catch.

We approached the island. It was the height of the mating season. I took the boat above the current and upwind, then turned the engine off so that we could drift past the island in peace. I put on some beautiful music - Viennese waltzes, because these birds looked like they were waltzing in the air. The females, white-breasted with a black head, perched with their faces into the wind. The males, solid black except for a red-pouched throat which they inflated to attract the females, vied for positioning next to them. As they lifted off from their perch, they treated us to an intricate ballet.

The males stayed in flight right in front of the island, inches away from the females' faces, just hanging in the wind. Then they came slowly gliding right down the edges of the trees, dragging their wind tips along the females. Their courting behavior was sensual and erotic, something no human would see unless you were quiet and observed them for awhile.

Entranced, we watched the whole scene until I saw that we were drifting too close to the island. Reluctantly, I started the engine to pull the boat away. The noise started several frigates and they went into flight right over us.

I looked up and said, out loud, "If any of you has any extra feathers you don't need, could I please have one?" We all saw this one frigate reach down, pull out a large black feather, and drop it. We watched, mouths agape, as the feather twirled in the wind and dropped toward the boat. The nuns gasped in wonder.

I silently thanked the frigate for his gift. It felt like real magic was happening here. I wondered how the nuns would interpret it. It didn't take me long to find out.

"It was as if the Creator got your message through to him," one of them said. The other one nodded in agreement.

That sounded close enough to me.
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