My keen sense of smell lures me from a deep sleep into the kitchen where I watch her. Gracefully chopping, sautéing and belting out an old 80’s tune, a bit off key but a sure sign that my mom is happy. My salivary glands work overtime as I gaze up at her with big brown eyes, my slightly excessive waistline evidence that I’ve mastered the fine art of begging. Unable to resist, she grants my wish, her latest culinary creation satisfying my taste buds and her moment of undivided attention feeding my soul.
Sanibel Island: tropical flora and fauna create a lush backdrop for sea shells so abundant that one must bear witness in person to truly comprehend. Manatees frolic carefree in canals while alligators sunbath on the river’s edge. Miles of National Wildlife Refuge lined with bike trails occupied by both residents and visitors. Everyone giddy with excitement to observe the nightly performance by the sunset, painting the sky with a palette of breathtaking color. The nightlife on the beach made up of nesting sea turtles and later their hatchlings, content to swim millions of miles to return to this sanctuary island every year. A unique tourist destination and home to an eclectic group of islanders void of stop lights or high rise hotels.
It was dark when I stepped onto Lighthouse beach on Sanibel Island. I was excited to spend the morning with the wildlife on the beach, watching the sun peek over the horizon. I was photographing my favorite piece of driftwood in front of the lighthouse when something jumped into my shot, startling me. It was a young brown pelican. He jumped onto the driftwood and sat there, posing perfectly.
I didn’t think much of it at first, but when he continued to hang out near me on the beach, I knew something was wrong. I discovered that the little pelican had fishing line wrapped around his legs. He couldn’t swim well and couldn’t fly. He was vulnerable and asking me for help in the only way he knew how.