Just sent this to my grandmother, Dorothy Hollis, who is in lockdown in her 98th year of life.
As a member of the Women’s Army Corps, she travelled from Australia to Japan behind the McArthur party during WWII. At the age of 18, she saw and lived in devastated, bombed out areas ravaged by war. She doesn’t talk about it much and so I can only imagine what the experience must have been like at such a young age.
Grandy, who is mother to my beloved Daddio, was the one who introduced me to the wonders of traveling to other countries, taking me first to Africa when I was 15 after asking where in the world I wanted to go. I saw giraffe, elephants, rhinos, leopards, lions, ostridge, zebra..oh and the wildebeest migration, to name a few. That was in 1999..I’m not sure the experience would be the same in regard to species population and richness, now twenty years later.
But it opened my eyes to another world and I’ll never forget the momumentally humbling moment of stepping out into the streets of Nairobi as the only glaringly white person in sight. I got the tiniest glimpse of what life must be like for those who live that feeling on a regular basis as the “token black person”. Like I said, she opened my eyes.
For my high school graduation in 2002, she asked again and by then I knew I had to follow the biodiversity. We spent two weeks in Costa Rica and the image of my first toucan (chestnut-mandibled, as it will always be) is forever burned into my memory, I waited with breath bated seeing it only from behind on its perch across the river in Tortuguero National Park..when it turned its head and showed that marvelous beak I nearly dropped to the ground, my whole body was alight with exhileration. When we arrived back to the states and my parents greeted us at the airport I told them,
“I’m going to live down there one day.”
The tropics were calling me from the moment I arrived and I have all the love and gratitude for the incredible woman who opened me up to this magical world I now call home.