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Tuesday, 24 Dec 2002
written by Teresa

I've woken this morning to grey skies and comparatively cool temperatures. People are walking round in light jackets and some are even sporting trousers. A flock of red winged blackbirds flash their primary patches as they travel enmasse around the campground, scavenging for breakfast and as usual the palm fronds are performing their mesmerising shimmy, brushed by the light breezes. The trunks rarely grow straight, but rather lean at a precarious angle, their thick bases only just keeping them vertical, locked in an evolutionary battle with gravity. The fronds sit atop giving the appearance of something pruned to within an inch of its life and only just a little less ridiculous than the beribboned curl of hair on a newborn babies head. Driftwood on Ohio Key However, initial impressions can be misleading and their true beauty is in the perpetual motion of the foliage. The spine of each frond arches up and away from the trunk in a perfect curve having the flexibility to bend and twist and sway in the wind. The leaf blades quiver in delight as they are caressed by each new breath of air, giving an impression of continual and exquisite pleasure.

Cycling is a strange business involving pleasure and pain in about equal measures. I set off across the Seven-Mile Bridge this afternoon in the misguided belief that it wasn't that windy. Needless to say I was sorely wrong. It is a part of the Overseas Highway that strings the Keys together and being a bridge, there is no protection from the elements. The wind was clearly intent on showing me who was boss from the minute I put shoe to pedal. I fought the whole way north fearing that I would never make it back, in spite of the short distance and finding little solace in any of my eighteen gears. The birds glided by, mocking me as I tried to find something resembling a rhythm. Distance takes on a new dimension in these circumstances and while I could see the other end of the bridge it succeeded in eluding me through some strange spatial anomaly for what seemed like an eternity. The return journey, on the other hand, was a thing of joy. The wind gave ample assistance, the bike felt oiled and tuned to near perfection and I sailed back with a grin rather than a grimace on my face, stunned by the varying shades of blues and greens in the surrounding water.

A handful of Hawksbill turtles Sterling came home from a business trip in Phoenix on Friday and that evening we were lucky enough to go with Jeanette to The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, where she volunteers. We had the opportunity to feed squid to some of the turtles and even hold a couple of seven-week-old Hawksbill turtles. Rangers, at Bahia Honda State Park, found them caught at the bottom of a recently emptied nest and brought them in. Many of the turtles in the hospital have injuries resulting from contact with humans, in the form of boat propellers, fish lines and swallowed rubbish. Some are so severely injured they will never be returned to the sea while the majority will be released after treatment and rehabilitation. Turtles are truly beautiful animals with intricate shell patterns and beaks strong enough to take a finger off the unwary. They have brains the size of a pea and for all that seem to manage admirably when left to their own devices, returning to the same beach where they were hatched as though blessed with a sophisticated GPS system.

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