“I need natural material shoes,” my daughter says, pacing nervously around the house as she packs for her first-ever helicopter trip. “I also need to wear all natural fiber clothes.”
She’s packing for a week in the trackless jungle on the rainy side of the volcano doing a biology internship with the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project, http://www.mauiforestbirds.org/. Their mission is to study and preserve the critically endangered Maui Parrotbill and the preserve is nearly inaccessible—but that’s what makes it safe for the birds, all 500 or so of them.
“You can have my old leather sneakers,” I say. “But why do you have to have natural fibers?”
“In case the helicopter goes up in flames and our clothes are seared onto our bodies,” she says matter-of-factly. “Natural fibers are easier to get off the skin.”
“Oh,” I say, my overly-vivid imagination providing hideous graphics featuring my beloved child engulfed in flames. I hate my brain sometimes. “Well, you’re going to wear a helmet, right?”
Yeah. That’s going to do a lot of good as they go down into the jungle on fire, a special effect I’ve watched and cheered a hundred times in movies, now suddenly rendered really unappealing.
“Helmet. Check.” She’s taken the last few days to get used to not having technomedia (computer, cell phone, ipod) and the recent robbery of the car helped with this (a stupid example of silver lining if you ask me.) She has a pile of books, changes of clothes and a container of baby wipes that will be her ‘shower’—and everything has been microwaved to neutralize any seeds or spores that might try to hitch a ride into the pristine, native jungle.
She stuffs it all into a “wet bag”- a giant rubberized duffle. All the belongings are put in a pile in a net and the helicopter carries the load in first, then comes back for the passengers. Just like the movies.
She’s excited but scared. I’m excited but scared for her. So far her internship has consisted of lab work—picking bug bits out of bird poo (“identifying invertebrate remains in scat samples”—she corrects me proudly.)
Stultifyingly boring, her verbal reports to me on how it’s going have consisted of snippets like, “I found a nice mandible today” and “one of the birds ate some plastic.” I look forward to something much more dramatic when she comes back from tracking, banding and population counting.
You may not know that Hawaii has the most endemic, most endangered species of any state. My husband got involved with conservation through his nature photography, and gradually we’ve all realized the danger our beloved islands’ native flora and fauna are in. Check out http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/hawaii/ The Nature Conservancy, which is doing amazing work, and Sierra Club http://www.sierraclubhawaii.com/ and make a contribution!
In the meantime, the helicopter takes off. I haven’t had a phone call, which means all is well. I’ll let you know in a week whether or not the natural fibers made a difference—I’m praying with my fingers crossed.