If you don’t jump, you’ll get “the look”. The, “I seriously doubt your connection to the natural world” look.
A few years before Ani was born in a time we now refer to as W.W.H.T.A. (When We Had Time Alone), Ren and I embarked on our first trip through the Caribbean. When we hit the Bahamas one of the first things we noticed as distinctly Caribbean besides the clear water, the coral reefs, the sudden upending of our role as the white majority was the call of the smooth billed ani.
Ren’s Dad is a trained ornithologist. Because of this Ren grew up with a healthy obsession of birds. He knows all the birds and wants you to as well. He probably doesn’t know all the birds but he sure knows more than I do (and probably you). Ren has no hesitations pointing out a bird and having you rush out of whatever precarious situation you might be in to check it out. He definitely expects you to shake it off, pants around your ankles, toilet paper in hand just to catch a glimpse of the 1,000th bald eagle of the day. If you don’t jump, you’ll get “the look”. The, “I seriously doubt your connection to the natural world” look. You’ll get this look despite over 20,000 miles of sailing, 8 years freediving and spearfishing together, and over 11 years of everything else. One mis-step, just one time ignoring his frantic emergency calls, deciding to wipe before pouncing up the companionway stairs and you blew it! All evidence that you don’t actually HATE bald eagles is out the door. You’re back to square one with the guy and just exposed your flag (although unknowingly) as a maniacal bald eagle murderer just waiting for your chance to pick them off one by one with the gun you don’t even own.
Now I need to address all of you who are in solidarity with Ren, the Nature Boy. You know who you are because you are probably harassing your own family somewhere over a sea gull or two. Bald eagles are not that rare. And guess what else? They’ve had white heads and white tails EVERY time I’ve been commanded to look at them. I say, unless the eagle lands on Jade and starts reciting poetry, just let me regard him at my own pace. But I digress…
Because of Ren’s relentless bird education fetish the unique call of the smooth billed ani was immediately apparent to me. I, for once, pointed the bird out to Ren (who had already discovered and researched the bird during a previous trip to the Bahamas I was not there for). When he told me the name of the new bird it was exciting. Since the ani is not found back home the modest black bird’s song was a symbol that we had arrived! Years of planning were over and our liberation had begun. Ani, we decided, would be an awesome name for a kid if we ever decided to have one. Turns out, it’s the best!