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Down to Naples

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Friday, January 19 was a big day. After my bittersweet morning taking the ecological temperature at Sanibel with my new friends Dan and Judy Davis, I met my old friend Jerry Jackson at noon at Florida Gulf Coast University, where he teaches biology. We hadn't laid eyes on each other since the late 80's. My God. I told him I liked him in gray. He told me I hadn't changed a bit. Men. I laughed and told him he was a liar.As well as teaching ornithology and now herpetology, Jerry does a daily radio spot about nature in the Fort Myers area on WGCU, the NPR affiliate on the campus where he teaches. I met several local birders who told me they get up early just to hear it. Imagine coming up with a script and recording a spot to air each day. Kind of like blogging! (You can hear his segments on WGCU's website, Jerry's a much-admired teacher and naturalist. He knows there's no end to inspiration in nature, and he loves sharing it with others. Ben and Judy are taking his ornithology course, which they describe as like a big ice cream sundae with chocolate on top. I'd call that high praise. He thought that while I was in the area, we might as well do a little interview and record a commentary to help plug the Southwest Florida Birding and Nature Festival to be held at the Rookery Bay Environmental Education Center January 19 and 20. And so. with the help of producer Valerie Valker, we did. Photo by Jerome Jackson
I read a chapter from Letters from Eden called "Twice Bitten," about my adventure with a copperhead. Really fun. I love radio, love getting all the way through a three-minute piece without choking, stumbling or gagging on my words. It's a challenge! The piece aired at 5:30 that afternoon.

Then I had to take my reluctant leave. Jerry's been so kind to me, asking me to illustrate ivory-billed woodpeckers for various publications, buying my paintings, occasionally bouncing ideas off me, and ready to help whenever I have a question about log-gods. I treasure our connection. I walked out into the parking lot of the campus radio station where Jerry was recording his pieces, and a pileated woodpecker came yakking out of the palmetto scrub and landed on a palm tree near my car, brilliant crimson crest blazing. Well, hello to you, too! Had to be a sign, of what I don't know, but a good one. I wished I had had time to hang with Jerry, but he runs like a long-tailed cat in a room full of fiddlers, and so do I. I raced over to Naples to check into my hotel, and to get an early dinner with Rookery Bay director Randy McCormick and staff biologist Renee. Lobster ravioli, yummmm. Wonderful company. I hurriedly grabbed a shower and dumped my gear in my luxury room at Olde Marco Island Inn. Thanks, Houghton Mifflin! I feel pretty, oh so pretty! Zow. Being here without BOTB: what a waste of a sexy suite. I especially liked the hot coral walls and giant plastic palms and orchids, and the balcony surrounded by waving palm fronds. There was a cage full of peach-faced lovebirds squeaking right underneath my balcony all night. Better that than idling diesel trucks, which BOTB reports he's enjoying in his Florida hotel tonight.

At 6 pm, it was time to sign books. Guess who showed up? Susan Merchant, of Lake Life! She and Sherm had come to my talk at Ding Darling the afternoon before. I can't imagine wanting to hear the same reading twice, but they did. And we both chose lime green. Susan is terrific, and so is Sherm. We felt like old pals. She reminds me so much of my sister Nancy!Randy had helped me set up the laptop before the book signing, so it was ready to rock. We made a lot of comments to each other about our blood pressure going down 100 points once we got the equipment working. I got a sweet, soulful introduction from Randy, stood up, went to hit the Play button...Wait! There was no Play button. Something was wrong. There was my Keynote program on the computer screen, but I couldn't find any way to make it play. The friendly toolbar had vanished for reasons unknown. Anybody have a Mac in the audience? Murmurs, blank looks. May I call a lifeline? Dialed Bill on my cell phone, and stood for 10 agonizing minutes at the podium, 60 people staring at me and shifting in their seats, trying this and that and that and this and sweating bullets and freaking quietly out and whimpering into my cellphone. Bill launched Keynote on his laptop, held my hand with his smooth voice, and finally figured out what must have gone wrong. "Go up to View and pull down to Play Slideshow! "Bam! My program started. "That's got it!" I hung up unceremoniously on my sweet husband and got on with it. The show must go on. It was alarming, after the silken-smooth program I'd given at Ding Darling, to find out just how close to the edge I have been dancing with my relatively green Keynote skills. We've all been in the audience when the speaker is futzing with his or her laptop, unable to get the show on the road. It's painful, but know that it's way worse for the speaker. Technology is terrific when it works! and terrifying when it doesn't. The talk went fine thereafter.

That ended my responsibilities for the trip, and I was greatly looking forward to tasting some of the natural wonders of Marco Island before dashing to the Fort Meyers airport for a 2 pm. flight home Saturday. I was determined to squeeze the last drop of orange juice out of my too-short trip to Florida. I decided to join a morning field trip to observe burrowing owls. There, I would meet the Star of Marco Island. More anon!


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