Sometimes we discover love in the most unexpected places. And so it was on that scorching April day along a dusty trail on North Seymour Island, Galapagos.
It was not my first visit to the Galapagos, and it surely will not be my last. I love the untamed ancient beauty of the islands. On this particular outing I had joined a group to hike and primarily bird watch. There was also other wildlife to enjoy, such as majestic giant sea lions basking in the sun on the giant shore rocks. Sea lion pups nestled in nearby crevices and I was able to get within several feet of them. The amazing thing about the birds and animals on the Galapagos Islands is that they have no fear of man. Close encounters with the wildlife are very usual. I was in my heaven that April day.
It was mating season on North Seymour and love was definitely in the air. Magnificent male frigate birds crouched in barren bushes, with red breasts puffed out to attract the females. Several times I saw females approach the males, and a somewhat awkward tango with gangly flailing limbs would ensue atop the low lying shrubbery.
The other avian species profuse on the island were the quirky blue-footed boobies. The booby males exhibited their elaborate courting dance, lifting one bright blue webbed foot then the other while strutting around their potential mates. Their distinctive whistling enhanced the exuberant posturing. The guide pointed out that the brighter blue the male’s feet, the more desirable he is to the duller females. Brightness is apparently an attractive sign of youthful male virility.
Boobies breed and nest only when conditions are right, and they scout out several nesting sites to choose the one most perfect just before the eggs are laid. In other words, boobies are not at all careless where they put their progeny. Some of the females had already laid eggs in nests under bushes along the edge of the trail, and crouching birds watched us carefully as we passed by.
As we curved around the far side of the island, I became somewhat separated from the group. I lingered near one large nesting area, as I found the bird population to be extremely colorful and interesting. I had just circled back to take a few last photographs when I heard a little grunt from the ground near my feet. I looked down and to my surprise discovered that I had almost tripped over a booby right in my path. I was focused on taking photos, and, she was squatting in a most unusual open area.
As startled as she likely was, she did not budge an inch from her spot. I crouched down right in front of her and spoke softly, “I did not see you there little one. I’m sorry if I scared you.”
She calmly looked me in the eye and then slowly stood up. Looking down at the ground between her feet, she revealed to me a large beautiful egg. There was no nest built around her or her treasure. It was as though she’d been walking along the path and got caught by surprise, much as human ladies sometimes have babies in improbable places. What are you going to do? Babies wait for no one once they decide.
The blue-footed booby moved her gaze from her prized egg back to my face for an instant. Then she looked back down and a second time back at me, transmitting great pride. The moment was frozen in time.
She clearly was saying, “Look at the lovely thing I have made. Isn’t it wonderful?”
I exclaimed over the beauty of her egg, and told her soon she would have a cute little chick to protect. It took me back to a long ago day when my daughter was born.
I was awestruck in this simple encounter, so pure in its innocent love it was. In that moment two females of very different species acknowledged between them the magic of all creation. I was acutely aware of the web of love that connects all of life here on Earth.
Sometimes the infiniteness of the ocean can be seen in a single drop of water. The encounter between the blue-footed booby and I was one brief small exchange, and yet it had immense depth.
As unpredictable as love between humans may sometimes feel, in actual fact it is a universal law as constant as gravity. They are one and the same. This invisible, powerful force draws us magically and inexorably together into the One. We are bound and challenged by it. And ultimately that is why we came here…
To learn and get better at Love.
“A Little Love Story” © Susan L Hart 2016-2021. All rights reserved.
First published August 2016 in Friends in Foreign Places: An Expat Anthology.