Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Our Adventures on Tybee Island

I like to take my son somewhere new for spring break every year. Last year, it was Milledgeville, Flannery O'Connor's house, and the Okeefenokee Swamp. This year, it was the beach. He liked last year's vacation as well as this one; after all, he is my child.

He wanted to get up early and watch the sun rise. If you have never seen the sun rise over the ocean, I recommend it. The water glowed pink reflecting the sky and there were little shore birds running to and fro, as well as the usual seagulls.

I found a stick and drew a labyrinth in the sand, a seven-circuit labyrinth. Then I walked it. This is one of my personal things; not that other people don't do it, but I have written about labyrinths and in the year after my mother died I walked all the labyrinths I could find. So I drew my labyrinth in the sand, walked it, and faced the rising sun, which showed fiercely orange-red through the clouds on the horizon.

Then my son flung up his hands and sang, "Nants ingonyama bagithi baba! Sithi uhhmm ingonyama! Nants ingonyama bagithi baba! Sithi uhhmm ingonyama! Ingonyama!" Which is, of course, the opening lines to the theme for The Lion King.

Later, we went wandering about. There are many, many cats on Tybee. Every place we went has cats: the lighthouse, Captain Mike's, the Crab Shack. They all seem pretty well-fed and sassy.

We walked past a car, and Raven remarked, "That guy looks very stern and angry. He looks like...who was that guy who was Vice President under Bush?"

"Dick Cheney."

"He looks Dick Cheney angry."

So, then, we went to go on a dolphin tour. While we were waiting for the boat, we discussed the number of pelicans in view. "You said four, now you say three."

"One flew away."

"Right, so long as we are clear on the number of pelicans. It's vitally important."

"Darn right it is!" says my son. "We have to keep up with the number of pelicans. The Marsh Pelican Naturalist Society will be very disappointed if we don't. There's a grant. Pelican population survey grant. The participation of the ordinary man, such as myself, and the ordinary Mom, such as yourself, is crucial."

"You are totally making that up."

"Yes, it's a gift. I inherited it from my Dad. You may have noticed how he tells elaborate lies on short notice with a straight face."


"Anyway, all I have to do is turn in my four to five page scientific report on these pelicans, and we're all set."

"How are you going to get five pages out of three pelicans?"

"There were four."

"Nonetheless. 'There were four pelicans sleeping on poles. One flew away. The end.' That's it. That's not even one page. You can't base a report on that."

"I'll make some stuff up. Height, weight, age...you know."

"That," I said severely, "is not science."

"It's scientific guessing."

"Guessing is not science. Knowledge is science. Facts! Here, listen, kid. This is what science is: If you observe the pelican's behavior carefully for days, and write down whenever it eats, poops, or interacts with another pelican, that's zoology. If you take note of the pelican's diet and habitat and its interactions with other species, that's ecology. If you weigh the pelican and measure its windspeed, that's physics. If you kill the pelican and dissect it, that's biology. And if you interview the pelican, that's social science."

My son died laughing at this juncture, though he recovered in time to see dolphins.

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