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And What About Oscar?

Monday, January 25, 2021


Just a little escape to a warm, sunny's right before Christmas, 2019, and Liam and I have flown to see Phoebe and Oscar at their home on La Gomera, Canary Islands. I'm so fascinated with this bit of basalt out in the middle of the Atlantic. Who lives there? What grows there? 

Well, the dry, rocky red soil is covered in Euphorbias, those relatives of poinsettias and crown of thorns, with their milky sap and interesting growth forms. There are some, like Euphorbia bravoana, which are endemic to the Canary Island chain.

And there's another that's more delicate-looking, more gracile, with thinner leaves, called Euphorbia berthelotii, that's endemic to La Gomera itself. It grows in the succulent shrub zones of La Gomera and nowhere else. 

I was captivated by the treelike forms of these chest-high shrubs. They were just so rubbery-cool! And they looked like stately shade trees, but were shorter than me. What a growth habit!

We saw some growing along the trail on the most beautiful hike high above the sea. 

Some were dropping seeds.

The views anywhere you go on La Gomera are spectacular. Roads wind like serpents high along the mountainsides, and the ocean is all around, the sun hitting off the water and the rocks.

But the most beautiful thing, aside from the views, was seeing Phoebe at home with her love, Oscar. She had left briefly to meet us in Madrid and have a mainland adventure, then escort Liam and me through the many hoops and hops and planes that it takes to get from Madrid to La Gomera. It's not trivial; it takes a whole darn day!

But oh, was it worth it. Our time there, right at Christmas, was such a dream. We walked and hiked and drove around the island, and we got to spend time with Oscar and his family, too. 

Needless to say, Phoebe and Oscar were inseparable. He has been her rock through all the hard times. His sweet, gentle spirit casts the steadiest of lights.

March 13, 2019. Oscar's first trip to America--and out of the Canary Islands-- was to meet Bill, Liam, Curtis and me--and to hold Phoebe together. He accomplished both goals, though he almost froze solid.

Hanging out with Oscar on this tiny island is like walking into Cheers with Norm.
Everyone seems to know him and like him.  When he rides his bike through town, he's constantly whistling and waving. It's so sweet. 

We went out to eat! What a thing that was. 

We hiked the beautiful laurel forest, where two species of endemic fruit pigeons live. We saw them both! Not well, but we saw them. Oh, Liam. I know how you feel...

We watched the sunset every night. 

And we got ice cream a lot. Sigh. I miss it all so much. I miss Oscar! Not even half as much as Phoebe does, but still. 

We ate our cones and looked at the colorful dinghies pulled up in the harbor.

It was so nice to bask in the reflected glow of the sea, and their love. Phoebe seemed completely at home on this tiny island, and she was, because she was with Oscar. 


From high on a cliff face, a tiny seed traveled

to Ohio, where a year later it is going for a meter tall. It's a bona fide Euphorbia berthelotii, but we know it simply as Oscar. 

Waist high, and only a year old! Ack! 

Time to branch out, Oscar!

Oscar nestles amidst the kalanchoes, both domestic and exotic, grabbing what little sun he can in a dreary Ohio winter

and dreaming of life on the island.

Needless to say, Phoebe and Oscar miss each other deeply, and the cruel pandemic rages on. We have no idea when he'll be able to come for a good long visit, but we're hoping it can be when it's warm. The two will have been separated for a year in March. Facetime saves them, but it can only go so far--it's time these two were reunited! Come ON, vaccines. Come ON.

November, 2018--a Facetime screenshot when they were living on La Gomera. 

Fast forwarding...

The latest from Oscar is that someone brought him a weak, starved baby rock pigeon  a couple of days ago. Phoebe refers to Oscar as "the Julie Zickefoose of La Gomera" and there's some truth to that; Oscar will do anything to help the helpless; home the homeless creatures. Because he had helped Phoebe raise an orphaned Eurasian collared-dove last year, he knew just what to do; he even had the right powdered hand-rearing formula in the refrigerator! After only a day in Oscar's care, the baby pigeon, who had been too weak to raise its head, had a new lease on life. 


And here they are last evening. He's soothing the pigeon to sleep. 


Sorry, I can't write any more. I've melted. And that's the deal on Oscar, the tree and the man.

Here's a tickler (if Oscar with a baby pigeon isn't enough)...

ZICK ALERT: I have just taped a VERY cool interview from the Birding and Lettuce Tower in Whipple with my new BFF,  the fabulous Kristi Dranginis, as a speaker for a brand new virtual festival! My segment airs Friday, Jan. 29, but the festival lineup throughout is jaw-dropping and so fresh! (Like Kristi herself!)  You can check it out and register here--it's only $12 for the whole event!

                                                        For the Love of Birds Festival


It's so nice to read this Oscar update. Love crosses the miles and endures through these times.

Hang in there, sweet lovebirds!


Saw your session on For love of Birds. Kristi did such a great job picking terrific guests. I totally loved your section, and now feel obliged to take more photos of the Jays at my feeder. I, like many you mention, never realized how varied their plumage could be. I always wondered how you could tell male from female. Perhaps I will begin to learn as I study them.
I blog about trails in southern NH and now that I am unemployed am branching out to learn more than just where to hike. Tracking has always been a love of mine, and listening to and watching my little feathered friends. Their communication is amazing. I look forward to keeping up with your blog.
And, as an aside, a couple of years ago I lost my heart dog, a Cavalier King Charles, what is it about those little guys? I now have two who replace him on my bed, but not totally in my heart.

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