writer, teacher, traveler, and lazy gardener

Category: Outdoors

The Mourning Dove Whisperer

My mother, Barbara, is known for being skilled at many things. To name a few … she’s an incredible cook (her flan is perfection), an expert gardener (we affectionately call her the Garden-ator) and a fierce tennis player and bowler. Now we can add bird whisperer to the list. Here’s a guest post from my father about another of her impressive skills.

The Mourning Dove Whisperer by Paulino Lim Jr.

For five years now in Spring, Barbara has been running an Airbnb for doves. The bnb is a brown plastic pot filled with leaves and twigs, hanging from the west beam of the pergola. The dove “guests” come in pairs, the smaller dove about to lay eggs. Barbara watches them through the sliding glass doors while working on the computer on the desk facing the garden.

The doves flit about in the garden, the water fountain, and other hanging plants before trying on the nest. They may be called birth tourists, like pregnant foreigners giving birth to babies to gain U.S. citizenship. Each season the Airbnb averages three births, with twins each birth. In five years there have been only two failures: one with both babies dying because the male pigeon disappeared, and the other with only one egg hatching. The offspring become citizens of the garden.

Backyard oasis and a peaceful getaway.

Barbara would open the door and greet the doves in a falsetto voice, “Good morning. How are you?” She talks to them, and they no longer fly away from her. As soon as the doves vacate the nest, she removes the detritus and prepares it for the next pair. She recognizes some as returnees. This season two sets of doves had hatchlings; a couple more pairs might show up before Spring ends.

Something unusual happened this year. The backyard pot was occupied so resourceful doves made a home for themselves in the front hanging pot.

Clearly, the “guests” give Barbara’s accommodations five-star reviews. No wonder they are so eager to come stay.


Away We Go: Travel Necessities

I’ve got a trip to the Philippines coming up and I’ve started to think about what to pack. The Philippines has basically two seasons: dry (March to May) and rainy (June to November). There’s ostensibly a “cold season” (December to February), but temps are well into the 80s-90s and humidity is around 70%, so who are we kidding?

For me there is only one season that matters the most: bug season. And it’s all year round! Mosquitoes, black flies, no-see ums, devour me. If I’m in a room of 50 people and there’s one mosquito, it will find me like a heat seeking missile. During one trip years ago, my leg was so chewed up the bites had merged into one gigantic itchy welt. I recall whimpering, a lot.

Besides the usual passport, money and camera, insect repellant is my tropical must-have. Many swear by Deet-based sprays. After some of the toxic liquid spilled in my backpack and melted the inner plastic liner, I swore off the stuff. Imagine what it does to your flesh! I now use only citronella oil-based sprays and my secret anti-bite weapon: coverage. I wear long, lightweight pants and no shorts. The less juicy, exposed flesh, the less temptation for those wretched bugs.

Throughout my years of going to faraway places, I’ve picked up some tips. Here are a few that will help make your journey easier:

Forgo checked luggage and take carry-on whenever you can

Bringing only a carry-on bag forces you to travel light. I follow designer Diane von Furstenberg’s packing rule: if you don’t plan on wearing an item more than three times, leave it at home. With just a carry-on, you can waltz off the plane and avoid the slog at the baggage carousel. And you never have to worry about the airline losing your stuff.

Learn your hellos, please and thank you’s

Knowing these few phrases in the language of your destination will go a long way. Before a trip to Korea, I watched YouTube videos to learn them. Proper Korean pronunciation is super hard, so I had to practice a lot.

Speaking these phrases, shows your hosts and people you interact with that you respect their culture and made the effort to learn about it. In turn, you get positive interactions and better service. This is especially true in France. Entering a shop without saying hello to the owner or sales associate will peg YOU as rude, and not worthy of civility in return.

Alert your bank

Let your credit card company and bank, if you plan on using your ATM card to withdraw money, know when and where you’ll be traveling. Being unable to withdraw money is heart stopping, so contact them before you go. Otherwise you might get stuck without cash.

Bring a copy of your passport

If it’s lost or stolen—mine was, long story—a copy will come in handy at the U.S. Embassy. I usually keep the passport in a safe place where I’m staying and roam about with the copy.

Enjoy the moment

After all the preparation—I admittedly do a lot of research: what to do, where to go, what to eat—let the now unfurl. It’s the unexpected moments that make traveling such an excellent adventure.

Do you have some travel essentials? Please share!

Agony and Ecstasy in the Desert

“Don’t touch the cactus.” The woman’s cautious tone bounced off the granite walls of Wonderland of Rocks. “Don’t touch the cactus!” she said, this time louder for she was quickly drowned out by the sound of high-pitched children’s laughter and babbling.

Four of us were sitting high up on a boulder contemplating the geological formations surrounding us as the group of three adults and several small children—ages 4 to 8—came into view. We had just finished our hike and had paused to take in the sunshine and marvel at the geological “miracle” at play.

Located in Joshua Tree National Monument, Wonderland of Rocks is an incredible network of jumbled granite formations. It’s a destination for avid hikers, rock climbers and geology enthusiasts. I had always thought of myself as more of an ocean person rather than a desert person. I grew up near it, love water activities and the ocean’s restorative properties. But when I spend any time in the desert I take to it instantly. There’s something so calming about the arid landscape. Yet it also has this weirdly sinister vibe that I find intoxicating and scary. No doubt because the desert can easily kill you.

The lively family rounded a bend and disappeared. We heard their chatter continue. It sounded like they’d found a place to stop and picnic for the adults gave instructions to the kids to help spread out a blanket.

“Don’t touch the cactus!” the woman, presumably one of the mothers, repeated. There was a brief moment of silence. Then suddenly, a shriek followed by agonized crying. My group shared a chuckle. That’s the thing about the desert, sometimes … you just have to touch the cactus.

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