Tag Archives: encounters

Encounters #6 Swallows – Andorinhas

“True hope is swift, and flies with swallow’s wings.” – William Shakespeare

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If it’s true that one swallow does not make a spring, as Aristotle already knew, does it then mean that many swallows do make summer?

That should mean that wherever I go in Portugal, there’s eternal summer, for the swallows are everywhere. Blue and red, yellow or black. In one iconic shape but all sizes. On electrical wires, walls and fridges.

For a long time I just accepted their existence, saw them, liked them, felt that their presence made me happy. Until, only recently I found out that there’s more to their existence, here in the land of fado and saudades, of big waves, green wines and explorers of the worlds gone by.

According to local legend, swallows – or andorinhas, as they are called here –  are symbols for family and home; the place for which they always have saudades, to which they always return. Also, very romantically, they find a single partner for life and thus have become symbols for love, loyalty and faithfulness.

In the 1890s, the Portuguese artist Rafael Bordallo Pinheiro, one of the most influential people of his time, started to design and produce little colorful swallows in his ceramics factory in Caldas da Rainhas in Central Portugal. Quickly, his handcrafted beautiful birds gained popularity, and the exchange of swallows, not only between lovers, has become a token for harmony, happiness and prosperity in the home.

And, of course, seeing them in real life, they are simply, magically beautiful, and, after all, they do bring the summer.

Thank you, swallows! – Obrigada andorinhas!

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Encounters #4 Gary Grasshopper

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Gary Grasshopper or Luke the Locust?

May I introduce you to Gary Grasshopper. This elegant individual belongs to the Acrididae, and there are 356 different species. Some of them are winged and others wingless, but all feed on grass and leaves and are active during the day.

Gary’s antennae have less than thirty segments and are thus relatively short; he belongs to the short-horned grasshoppers, which tend to live solitary lives.

A very close relative of Gary’s is Luke Locust: apparently specific types of short-horned grasshoppers can undergo a personality change and turn into locusts under certain environmental conditions. When population density gets too high and food sources have become scarce, these grasshoppers can experience an increased release of Serotonin in their brain, which causes them to change colour, shape and behaviour. In other words, Gary turns into Luke; grasshopper becomes locust. Suddenly they eat much more, breed more abundantly and instead of each going their separate way, they fall into line and start moving as one.

Locusts are gregarious and often millions of the same species gather together to form threatening, ravenous, often destructive swarms, feared since antiquity. Apparently, a single locust swarm can consist of up to 80 Million individuals, and each one of those can eat its own body weight in plant matter each and every day. They can cover vast distances, cross oceans and deserts, and one particular swarm has been able to reach Great Britain from Northwest Africa in 1954, while another flew from West Africa to the Caribbean. But locusts don’t only eat, they are also eaten; in many cultures they have served as food throughout history and are valued as a protein-rich snack.

After our encounter gorgeous Gary went on wandering his own solitary path. Could he one day turn into Luke Locust?

 

 

 

 

 

Giraffes …

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‘Mr Eschenburg? It looks like both tendons are torn,’ the specialist remarked. ‘You should have come earlier… How did you manage to do this anyway?’
‘I was running through the veld after a giraffe and I stepped into a hole.’
The doctor laughed politely. ‘No, I actually need to know what really happened.’
‘Ja, well, giraffes are dangerous animals,’ Walter grinned. ‘How long, Doc, before I can use this blerry foot again?’
‘At least three months.’ The doctor shook his head. He’d had stubborn patients before.

Three months! But there was no other option. However, it would take more than a foot in plaster to stop Walter from tending to his business – and more giraffes…

Encounters

“I didn’t really lead an exceptional life. I mean, I didn’t invent the light bulb, nor was I ever an explorer and discovered exciting new places, nothing like that – which is what people normally write about.

But maybe there is a theme to my life. My love for nature. I suppose that’s a recurring theme that goes right through, from the early days at Juchow until today. Yes, I suppose you could write about that…”

Walter Eschenburg, May 2009, while recording his memories for “Healing Rhinos and Other Souls”

Perhaps a manifestations of this love for nature was, that Walter enjoyed taking pictures of “All Creatures Great and Small” (Thank you, James Herriot!) he encountered while doing his daily rounds.

For some reason, this habit resonated with me, and stuck. More and more often I find myself taking pictures of ‘encounters’ along the road…

like this leopard tortoise a few days ago

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