Thursday, February 06, 2014

Hidden wells

Imagine a bird that builds a nest the size of a bottle cap and therein lays its eggs. A bird no bigger than a bumble bee. The smallest bird in the world.

Imagine a snake the size of a few matchsticks laid end to end. As thin as a string. Could curl up on a penny.

A Lilliputian fauna.

The first is the bee hummingbird, a native of Cuba. As far as I know, they are not resident in the Bahamas. I saw one here, on my second visit to the island, at least I'm pretty sure I saw one. We're not so far from Cuba, so perhaps it was a blow-in, although it's hard to imagine that such a tiny energy-gulper could manage such a crossing, even with a furious tailwind. Anyway, I claim to have seen one. Just once.

And the blind worm snake. It’s a Bahamian resident, but I've only seen one. By the path to the beach. At first, in my ignorance, I thought it was an earthworm. A big surprise when I recognized a snake. Probably driven out of the ground by the rain. That was 19 years ago.

Here and rare. Seen once and never since. But not forgotten. Something to look for. As enticing a goal as once was the green flash, that ray of emerald light that sometimes blazes from the top limb of the Sun as it rises or sets over a flat horizon. If you've read my books you will know that I looked for it for decades, all around the world, unsuccessfully. Wrote about my fruitless search it in the Globe. People sent me photographs, tauntingly. And now, since coming to this sweet place with an unobstructed morning horizon, I've seen it dozens of times.

I need a new Holy Grail. Everyone needs a Holy Grail. So I've got my eye out for another vagrant bee hummingbird. Or another worm snake. What was it the Little Prince told his Pilot? "What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well."