Joanie Meets Irma

Joanie Meets Irma

No – we’re not talking about Joanie “meeting” Hurricane Irma. We’re talking about Joanie meeting a hurricane casualty, a Cormorant named Irma.

The mighty winds of Hurricane Irma drove Cormorant Irma to our condo’s pool – with a concussion, disoriented, unable to fly. Slowly, Irma the Cormorant began to recover. Rick, an avid fisherman and one our residents, fed Irma by throwing a few of his catches into our pool, which quickly became Irma’s private domain and training ground.

It didn’t take long for Cormorant Irma to fit right in to our community. When I swim in the pool, Irma jumps in and swims with me. When folks gather poolside for conversation, Irma’s right there, one of the crowd. That’s where Joanie met Irma – poolside.

Irma’s one of us. Happy to be alive. Happy for our help. Happy to have us as her friend! And, you can tell from the smile on Joanie’s face, we’re happy too!

That’s what catastrophes like hurricanes can do for us – they bring out the essential good in people. Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma stories abound about people extending themselves for others, setting aside racism, elitism, religion, politics and polarized beliefs. When Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston, Republicans and Democrats found a way to quickly package hurricane relief, facilitated with a necessary increase in the federal debt limit – a contentious political thought threatening to bring our country down before Harvey’s devastation.

It’s amazing how catastrophes bring us together!

And that makes me wonder . . . Will it take a nuclear catastrophe, a war with North Korea or Iran, before the ravages of war will force us to bring together the political divides that separate us? Of course, our divides don’t stop there. There’s race, inequality, global warming, health care, taxation, and education to name but a few of the issues that divide us.

When I wrote Wonderlust, I introduced the lessons I learned from trekking the seven continents with the importance of our “dirty-hands wet-feet learning” in shaping our beliefs and thoughts. I introduced Wonderlust with this beginning:

“We’re born curious. We’re born to explore — to be outdoors — to dig in sand, peek under rocks, splash in rivers, find seashells on beaches, make mud pies, climb trees, play stick ball, feel wind in our hair, smells in our nostrils, be awed by stars in the night sky. We’re born to learn by play, by doing, by going there — dirty-hands wet-feet learning, with life’s lesson plans graciously endowed upon us by Mother Nature. That’s the child we start with, the child we’re born with, the child within us. The curious child that from dawn to dusk won’t slow down, won’t stop puzzling out those curious “whys.” “Whys” that morph into Wonderings, curiosities checked out during the Wanderings of our Child Within, uninhibited by the boundaries of adult-borne beliefs and dogmas.

“But some time and some place along the way, we get bogged down. Whether it’s the hard charge we take to earn a living, whether it’s settling down to life’s routine, whether it’s the rituals of our culture we grow to accept without question, or whether it’s our fear of the outdoors and the bad stuff going on out there, we lose touch with our Child Within.

“We retreat to a virtual world, an electronic world that sanitizes us, that becomes our safe, virtual reality. We’re soothed, comforted with minimal conflict or physical effort. After all, in cyberspace there are no too cold, too hot or too stormy days, nor hustling to eat or sleep, nor real bullets, nor illnesses, nor scars or hurts. No dead that stay dead. No wind in our hair. No trees climb. No smells in our nostrils. And there’s no dirty-hands wet-feet learning.” [emphasis added]

But, I confess, I underestimated the importance of dirty-hands, wet-feet learning. There is simply no other way to see the world from the other side. And seeing the world from the other side is essential to our understanding, our problem-solving.

The web, once championed as the tool we’d use to broaden our points of view has had the exact opposite effect, confining us to silo-thinking, as we huddle comfortably in echo-chambers with others who champion similar beliefs and values, as if ours was the only worldview that matters.

No, technology and its virtual reality won’t save humanity. Only dirty-hands, wet-feet learning – only understanding the needs and concerns and beliefs of people from the other side – will endow us with the vision and the wisdom we need to solve our growing problems. And that requires hands-on, face-to-face interaction, and thoughtful listening and consideration of points-of-views that won’t make the hit parade in our comfortable silos.

We set aside those sorts of differences when faced with a catastrophe like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Why can’t we set our differences aside to work together to solve our problems before they become catastrophes that can only be solved by setting our differences aside?

As you ponder these thoughts, take 18 minutes with Theo Wilson [It takes 2 clicks to get to the TED Talk]:

P. S. September 24th: Irma has recovered and now spends her time in the wild; however, I was pleased that she paid us a visit yesterday and we had a swim together before she flew off.

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I agree disasters can bring happiness and humanity. Joanie looks so happy!

What a great story – love the photo and Irma fit right in!


Great stuff… as always.

What a sweet story!
Thanks for sharing, Dick 🙂

We can now call Joan “The Bird Whisperer.”