Birds of the Sea
It came from far away, the jet black bird that landed and subsequently died in Parque Andino Juncal, near an altitude of 3,000 meters or around 9,000 feet.
This little bird was different than the other birds in Juncal.
It was streamlined, not colorful, round or compact like the birds that nibbled on bugs and seeds and crumbs of passing hikers or the torrent ducks who made their life in the whitewater of the rushing Juncal River, or the small flocks of green parakeets that fluttered, chattering, along the dusty dirt ledges that led down into that river.
According to an ornithologist who later examined it, the bird was a sea-going species that had become disoriented, maybe in a storm, or in a stream of high-altitude, fast-moving air that had deposited it, exhausted and starving, near a dusty rock in the Central Andes Mountains. It later died.
I hadn’t thought much more of it. My connections to Juncal had waned over the years as a reporter in the industrial and human-centered environment of Newark, New Jersey. And my emotional connections to the 30,000 acre private conservation initiative had become stale as my physical relationship to it had become a thing of my past life in Chile.
And then I quit my job, and I got on a the Amistad tall ship and ended up deep on the Atlantic Ocean, going through and beyond the locations vaguely present in the popular understanding of the sea, Georges Bank, the Hudson Canyon, the Bermuda Triangle, the Gulf Stream.
At night the air became fragrant and fecund, blowing gently across our cheeks as we ambled along towards Bermuda and then Puerto Rico.
It smelled like Juncal. There at the refuge called Los Hornitos, the place where the dusty road ends and visitors spend their first nights, some in a tent, or in the open air, or inside one of the two stone and mud structures, the smell becomes rich like the earth.
More often than not, in the morning, a dry wind blows hard from the border with Argentina and the glaciers along the border rushing into the Aconcagua Valley. In the afternoon the direction is reversed.
In the evening the air is quiet. And then, if one stays up particularly late, or wakes up during a dream, gets outside their tent or wherever they are sleeping, they will find that a humid, rich and temperate air has settled there.
Often late night air needs to braced against. This air is inviting and warm. This air was just like in the north Atlantic Ocean in August.
Maybe it was this air this bird was brought to.