Yellow-crowned Night Heron

During one morning, I stopped by a marshy area along Bayou St. John. I was planning on running over the levee just across the bayou. The sun was already out, displaying its devilish games. The grass was wet and dewy; in some parts mushy—remnants from Sunday’s storm that flooded some neighborhoods. I cut through the grass, checking what spots to avoid so my sneakers wouldn’t get soaked. “Ahh too wet.” The shaded spots were still wet, and the sunnier ones had dry yellow, green grass. I walked up a steep concrete incline to the top, overlooking a marshland tied along to Bayou St. John, which was close to the Robert E. Lee Blvd. overpass.


After my run, I went back to the car to check for my camera, and realized I forgot to charge my battery. At least I had binoculars in case of any bird sightings. My camera was obsolete at this point, and I was mad at myself. I suspected, I would not see too many birds, since it was past sunrise and it was hot outside. All the birds were probably hiding. From the top of the levee, I saw a bird with curvy neck observing the water. Some type of heron, I thought. It was a lot smaller than a Great Blue Heron, but it had a similar gray hue. I walked down the levee, toward the bird, keeping a good distance away, where I could see it better. Its head was black, minus the thick white patch across its face. I looked at it for a while before I walked closer. When it noticed me, it walked away to the left side near some over grown wild grass. It stood there wondering my next move, listening for any steps I might take. I walked closer, then once it noticed I was taking photos, it decided it had enough and flew away, making its way to a wide circular lookout. “Ha you can’t get me here,” it probably thought. I pointed my binoculars toward the heron, noticing its plumage, the curve of its neck, the odd white patch, its yellow eyes, and a tiny black pupil in the middle.

Most of the time, I only see birds up close through drawings or videos, and it’s always beautifully strange seeing them in the real world. I wish I could draw it, exactly as I saw the bird, with its smooth gray plumage, the superiority of its bill, but with my drawing skills, I couldn’t possibly capture exactly as it looked.

I noticed it was making a strange gesture with its wings, so I chose to walk away. It was turning aggressive even though I was far away. Its wings were folded on the side and its chest was pushed out, as if saying, “I’ll fight you.” “I think it hates me. It’s doing something weird,” I thought, and I playfully hid my face thinking the bird was pissed. Then it began cleaning the lower parts of its wings. Eventually, it forgot about me.

I also saw a Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron, standing by the overpass, but it soon flew away, seeing as no one was paying attention to it. It flew to a large tree behind the bayou.


Yellow-crowned Night Herons forage at all hours of the day and night, eating crustaceans near wetlands and wet fields, usually searching for crabs and crayfish. They slowly stalk prey near shallow water, plunge with their bills, impale, shake apart or swallow whole crustaceans. They also feed on earthworms and leeches, frogs, and young birds. They tend to be several feet away from the water’s edge, never too close to others—at least 15 feet from other individuals. These herons live along coastal marches, barrier islands, and mangroves. They have stocky bodies, short legs, and thick necks.

For nest building, they make use of dead, brittle twigs, breaking them if they have to, sometimes stealing from other nests. These nests can measure up to 4 feet. Both females and males work together in the building of the nests, and the process can take up to 10 days. Nests are sometimes re-used, filled with more twigs, often lasting 20 years. Herons tend to nest close or over water in trees such as pine and oak—as high as 60 feet or more off the ground—or on lower vegetation such as mulberry, myrtle, hackberry, and mangrove.

When it comes to looking for a mate, herons perform display flights and males will stretch their necks by slowly raising then quickly retracting its head while fanning his long shoulder plumes, to which the females will sometimes reciprocate. Pairing is socially monogamous, as they maintain their bonds year to year, nesting close together. Both adults and young defend their site from intruders, by lunging and thrusting with their bills while squawking.

Incoming Fall

Fall never arrives all at once, but suddenly you notice the trees swaying and leaves shivering. Still, it’s too hot to go out during the early afternoons. We’ll have to wait until October or November to actually call it Fall. The other day I went out around four, usually still peak time for sun’s trickery. But by the time I arrived to Washington Park, the sun had simmered down and there was the softest breeze to remind me of the first weeks when I moved to New Orleans. It was breezy and rainy then and I was wearing my raincoat everyday.

Solar Eclipse at the NWS

During the solar eclipse we all realized that the universe was bigger than our egos. It took a moon covering the sun for everyone to calm down, and actually listen to scientists. People won’t listen to them on matters regarding climate change, global warming or water pollution, but they will readily follow their advice on where and when to watch the solar eclipse, making sure to buy solar glasses so they don’t burn their eyes. The solar eclipse of 2017 gave people a chance to come together despite whatever else was going on in the world.

I waited until noon or so when the moon would begin covering the sun. “It’s going to be slow,” a friend said, adding that the clouds would obscure it. I was anxious for the eclipse to start and end already, so I ate candies and wrote to pass the time. It was like waiting out a long sentence in the National Weather Service, though it was interesting to see meteorologist in action. The room was filled with computers, three to four per desk, per person. Some displayed forecast maps, numbers others data that seemed hard to decipher. I also saw cool gifs of the solar eclipse’s path on a map of the U.S. I wondered how people kept focus staring at all those screens and images, but realistically they probably only ever used one or two. There were several phones on every desk, too many to count, each with it’s own purpose; they were not simply intended for calls. Eerily enough, there would be a change in temperature during the eclipse, but slightly.


My low-quality Iphone photo of the solar eclipse. The sun is 92.96 million miles from earth.


I kept checking a big digital clock with bold red numbers at the center of the back wall. It was next to a medium-size T.V., broadcasting CNN. As expected they had ongoing coverage of the eclipse. When we first went out, the moon had only begun covering the sun. It was merely a tiny spot on the right side of the sun, as if a bird had bitten it off. The clouds moved slowly in front, and I could feel myself becoming disappointed, so I went back inside. Later on, I went back outside a couple more times. Eventually, the moon reached the half point. Still sometimes the sun and the moon were visible and other times, the clouds fully covered them. “Go away clouds,” I found myself saying.

Finally around 1:30 p.m., everyone was outside waiting for what we expected would be 88 percent totality. I peered through the solar glasses, taking breaks when the sun became too intense. I tried to take a photo with my Iphone behind my solar glasses, and captured not the most ideal images, but I wasn’t about to point my nice camera at the sun without a filter. Not before long, the sun was finally in a crescent shape. I helped someone from the office take photos since at first, since she couldn’t figure it. Some people pointed at the strange umbrella shapes on the ground created by the shadows of the moon. It had seemed like an eternity, but it was finally over. The moon had obliterated the sun, but just for a short while.

In the parking lot, a random lady who was driving around in an uber car decided to stop and show me her photos and ask me what I thought. She then made a reference to a strange photo she had taken. “I wonder what that is,” she said, passing me her phone. “It’s probably a glare or reflection.” I told her. She had been staring at the eclipse through the tinted back window in her car, so that’s probably what caused the multiple diagonal shapes of the moon and sun. It did look like the solar eclipse of another planet, perhaps Jupiter. I let her borrow my solar glasses and helped her take a photo with the Iphone right behind it. I’m not sure how long we stood there, but I was ready to drive away. “I think you’ve got quiet a lot of photos,” I said.

Observing the life of a Peacock

​I found a peacock last year, as I walked around Hacienda Collpa near Cajamarca, Peru. He was wandering around the garden outside a small chapel, which seemed mostly for decoration. The tour guide, who walked us around the Hacienda or ranch the entire afternoon, eventually let us roam free after leading us to a chapel. There were two rows of manicured lawns with cactus, small statues and plants bordering the edges as if to restrict them from anyone ruining the garden.

We were surrounded by mountains, forested areas, and an artificial lake decorated by small bridges and tiny houses.

At the ranch they mostly raised cows for the production of milk, cheese, condescend milk and other derivatives. They are also famous for its named cows that are able to answer to their names. (There was a demonstration where the ranchers were calling the cows by name, one by one, as they walked to their stables, but I was sad to see that if they did not respond they were whipped.) There was one named Esperanza who was my sister’s favorite. It looked the saddest out of the bunch. “She is much older and has seen a lot,” my sister said. I was angered that one of the ranchers was wearing a “Red Skin” jacket. He himself was indigenous, which I found paradoxical. It’s possible that no one told him that Red Skin is considered a racial slur often used to show contempt for Native Americans.

People always get excited about old churches and chapels, but that day I decided not to peek inside. There was a clock a top the door, which seemed painted on, but upon close inspection, I realized it was a real clock with numbers, though it appeared not to be telling the time, since the hands weren’t moving. Below there was an inscription: “ORA ET LABORA,” which is Latin for “pray and work.” The tour guide had mentioned that many of the workers were Christians. By now, I could hear comments from people exiting the chapel about what they had seen inside.

On the side of the chapel there was a shaggy, neglected area near a dry fountain where a peacock pranced around without much direction until I saw it. He seemed to be ignoring the commotion around until he realized he was being watched. He became anxious and walked a little quicker. It didn’t help that some lady said, “It’s a pavo real,” meaning peacock.

I was waiting for the peacock’s tail to spring up, but it never did. I figured with no peahens or females around he wouldn’t want to. The tail wasn’t lengthy enough to drag on the floor, so I assumed it was hidden under the outer wings. It’s normal for younger peacocks not to have fully developed ornamental tails. It’s elongated neck was a vibrant blue, fading into a sea green, whereas the females have neutral, subtle colors, and don’t have the ornamental feathers that spreads out like a fan.

Peacocks don’t have to be killed for their feathers. They shed them regularly and they can be used to make earrings.

Indian Peafowl, which this peacock closely resembled, are native to South Asia, but over the centuries humans have introduced these birds to different parts of the world, including South American where it seems they can easily adjust to the conditions of the Peruvian countryside. While peafowl exist in the wild, it’s an old custom to keep peacocks in gardens as ornaments, as it was usually done in castles and large estates.

I always wonder how peacocks manage to survive. Carrying a giant tail makes them an easy target for larger predators, but I also think it’s unlikely anyone is tempted to eat a bird mostly made up of 60% feathers. Peahens on the other hand can easily become pray. But it helps that they hang out in groups more frequently than the males who are loners; there’s usually one male with a harem of peahens.

Surprisingly, peahens and peacocks can fly to the safety of low branches. They may not be able to fly far, but at least they can escape. They also mostly eat ground animals and some crops. In older societies peacocks sometimes served the functional purpose of keeping gardens free of snakes.

Peacocks evolved in such a way that males use their ornate trains in courtship display, raising the feathers into a fan and making them quiver to catch a female’s attention. A well maintained tail is an indicator of a suitable body condition, which points to mating success. Scientists argue that this trait can be accurately explained through natural selection and not simply sexual selection, since females don’t just select males based on their plumage. The selection may also be influenced by other factors. The peacock’s feisty behavior, loud call and its ornamental train have been formed by natural selection. Its plumage serves as a warning coloration to intimidate predators and rivals. This characteristic is often seen in frogs and snakes.

There is a magic quality to peacocks with their vibrant plumage and ornamental fan display, like rare gems with emerald greens, dark blues and shimmery browns. It’s no surprise peacocks are symbolic to many cultures. As the national bird of India, it has been depicted in art, poetry, mythology, and folk music. It’s also a symbol of royalty, often found in throne engravings. The Buddha Amitabha, the Buddha of Infinite Light has peacocks adorning his throne. Peacocks have also been used in early Christian paintings and mosaics. In Buddhism the peacock represents wisdom, and the feathers are used in many rituals and ornamentations. When I was little, I remember hearing that peacocks drank poison so others wouldn’t have to get sick, and as a result had such magical and vibrant plumage.

Observations: caught in the sun


Today, I went back to the garden after a long time, and a butterfly ( a Painted Lady or an American Lady) stopped near me.  I don’t like coming out because it’s a mess now that it’s summer and no one bothers cleaning up the garden, but I went out to fix my compost. I also saw a black beetle right outside the back door. It  gave me the scares. I tip-toed around it but it was dead. 

I walked through the cvs parking lot then up one side street and the heat was so evil, falling on my arms. I had a hat to protect my face, but nonetheless it surrounded me. I closed my eyes, smelled the heat, and told myself to remember this the next time I was freezing cold.

It’s quieter up here with the row of comic books, and youth novels behind me. I don’t know why but I found the adult section brimming with heaviness. The light downstairs was also a cheap yellow, compared to the clear, translucent white up here, and the fat letter balloons that say “read.” On the side there are three wonder woman books which caught my eye, and further down a curtain of origami swans. It’s lighter here.

Walking past the bridge with no shade in sight, I thought about what a relief it would be to take a cold shower. The coldest shower this summer. Sundown felt far away, as if the sun was stretching out the hours.

Black Creek Trail

On the last full day in the woods, we hiked back to the beginning of the trail, knowing we would have to find a spot to sleep before dark, something preferably a half-hour before sundown, since we needed time to set up our tent. We passed wide paths, sprinkled with fallen or crooked trees on the sides, staying alert for a chance to see birds; we could hear them, but we couldn’t see them. The trail blended in with the wide forest and the undulating hills, at times going upward or downward. I wondered if sundown would be upon us soon, too lazy to check my phone, which was buried in my backpack.

The tree trunk bridge.

I grew bored watching the trail, which had turned narrow again with lengthy trees on both sides, producing a type of tunnel vision. Sometimes one of us would trip on a cleverly hidden hole, covered by dry twigs. What followed were steep hills (though not so steep in retrospect), and since I had two sticks, I didn’t tumble down like a fat rock, considering I was carrying a heavy backpack, weighing 30 pounds. The walking sticks I found were surprisingly the right size, and sturdy enough for my weight. We walked quickly, set on finding a camping spot. We passed a decent area, but since we still have enough time, we decided to hike a little more. If we made up the distance there would be less walking the next day, which I was hoping for. Back at the tree trunk bridge I saw a flat, elevated spot just next to a small creek. The first time I walked over the tree trunk sitting above a creek with mostly pointy rocks, I thought how dangerous that people had to cross a makeshift bridge, though firmly in place, it did not give much confidence, since there was only a rope to hold onto. We settled our stuff and set up our tent on a flat area was surrounded by tall trees that didn’t overcrowd us, so we could still walk around and we had enough open space to peek at the sky. Further down there was a sandy spot, closer to the creek.

One of the casualties of this hike was a lost sock.

It was building up to be a cold night under the stars. Not even the canister’s fire kept us warm. There was a fire ban in De Soto National Forest because of the recent wildfires in nearby states so we couldn’t build a campfire. After much preparation my lentil soup was warm enough to eat. I could finally hide inside my sleeping bag. After dinner we walked through twigs, ducking under the trees, using our flashlights to illuminate the way. Finally we arrived at a spot where a tree trunk lay across the ground, allowing us to sit down and stare at the dark blue sky. I felt cold despite my gloves and sweater. I had lost all my winter resilience thanks to the warm days in New Orleans.

The sky was dotted with an unending number of stars. I tried to connect the dots in my mind to imagine a constellation of my own. I thought about the Pleiades or Seven Sister star cluster I had learned about recently. To the Incan and Andean people of Peru, the rising of the star cluster signaled the beginning of the Incan Year, but also the dimness of the stars hinted at the amount of rainfall in the next months following the month of June, which would let farmers know when to plant crops. When the thickness of the clouds obscured the Pleiades, it informed the farmers a dry season would follow, forcing them to wait. Scientists have correlated the weather pattern to El Niño. I wondered where Pleiades was now, during our fall season. Somehow with these observations of nature and Astronomy, I felt more grounded and lucid. Something as simple as sleeping in the woods under a tent allowed for a feeling of meaning and place.

The smallest place.

In all its isolation, Boulder

I’m sitting out on the balcony with the view of the surrounding mountains. The air is fresh and the skies are endless. Yesterday, the land stretched out to me for the first time when I was on a bus heading to Boulder, Colorado.

Outside the bus, the undulating hills gave way to a row of mountains under a misty blue sky. It made me think about the Adirondacks or Peru, my home country with its soft but sometimes jagged peaks. The houses often had a subdued western style, but in other areas, modern buildings blended with the fall colors. The roads were flat and endless, and the trees small. Black cows grazed the dry beige grass. It was almost like someone had painted them on the neutral landscape. They seemed small from where I was, and I didn’t see a barn nearby, so perhaps the cows were wandering freely.


Image: Cynthia Via


From the balcony of the apartment, I noticed a squirrel on a tree, standing there with its fluffy tail, eating a morsel of food. The cool breeze moved through wide spaces then whirled around my hair. It was strange to be in a progressive city, blooming with marijuana establishments, environmentally conscious city planning and sport activities, despite the consensus of less than half the country, saying this wasn’t working. I kept telling myself this kind of place does exist, so why can’t it exist elsewhere, but it’s possible we were ignoring the rest of this country’s inability to move forward.

In all its isolation, Boulder seemingly untouched by the results of the election, while the rest of the country seemed to be in ruins (according to twitter)—at least in the NYC and California, where people were protesting as they should. I saw a protest on Pearl St. a few days later, but not like the ones being shown on T.V. No one was rioting or burning things here, but a lot of young and older folks showed up with signs and drums.



The next day at the start of the Mt. Sanitas Trail, the altitude suddenly hit me, and I slowed down, realizing it was going to take some time getting to the top. I kept stopping every now and then doubting myself. But I had enough water and chapstick; my lips kept turning dry and parched. The air was thin and cool, but the sun was still out, falling on my face, and making it too hot to keep a sweater on. I told myself I had to work through it, through the rocks, the broken ground, the steep climbs and twisting paths that sometimes weren’t clear. I said hello to some folks walking down. I asked them how far away the top was. Many of them downplayed their estimations, but there were smiling me on, so I kept going. I had briefly talked to a guy at the beginning of the trail, but I stayed behind, feeling quite content to take my time. I never did understand why people wanted to race to the top and then race back down. I guess for some this was common place, to hike up this trail as a workout. But I wanted to enjoy the sights, and take in  every twisting corner and dusty path, because who knows when I would return.

In a way, the trail helped the anger and disappointment of the election fade away, slowly taking away its stubborn hold on my thoughts, and the “What ifs?” or “What is wrong with people?” Why had this election felt like the biggest devastation? It was clearly out of my control. The only important matter was  the steps in front of me and the surrounding pine trees. From the top I saw Boulder and its tiny homes; the red, orange trees, the layers of sky. I rested for a while, contemplating the landscape, knowing that this feeling was eternal, being close to mountain and sky.



bottom of the glass

Glühwein to calm the nerves.


What is there left to say about this election? With every piece of news we all become a little more worried, a little more stressed. I’m at the point where I want to ignore social media and not read one more piece of news, not one more video telling us who’s the next apprentice or the number of hate crimes appearing, or how Native Americans are being kicked off their land once again, or the continued ignorance on global warming, the list goes on. But we must stay vigilant. There’s a way to approach these dire times by settling into our thoughts and remaining intellectually active in this post-truth world, where few value history or science.

Sometimes we’ll be lucky to get some facts on social media, other times we have to search through the speculations about tweets of the day brought to you by the orange man. Despite everything, somehow we have to land on what’s important, finding out what’s actually happening in government, and not controversial tweets meant to arise anger and confusion. Rise above the anger, the meanness, the hate, and live. Try to talk to people who are not part of your circle, people who might not share the same political ideology. Right now it’s two sides screaming at each other, unwilling to listen to one another.

Still, it’s becoming frustrating  that even with facts some people continue to believe fake stories, despite being presented with a mountain of evidence. How did a man who lies so much become president? A sexist one at that. It’s the greatest downfall for America. I think Trevor Noah said it best: it’s because people try to throw facts at him, but it doesn’t stick.

Eddie Huang, writer and food personality, has a show on vice where he travels around the world, trying food and exploring different cultures. He interviewed a girl during the election, who didn’t know her facts from her conspiracy tales. Watch his reasonable approach to an onslaught of conspiracy theories. He isn’t condescending or overly dismissive. As the great Gwen Ifill once said, there’s a difference between skepticism and cynicism.

People voted for a salesman who will say anything depending on the crowd, but what matters is the kind of legislative action he’s planning to take, and from his rhetoric we clearly recognize a pattern. He’s the president of twitter trolls. Someone who probably never read the qualification section of a job, and is making up stuff on a whim.

Like many of my friends, that first night, I was speechless, sitting in a bar, in some western town, as the votes came in. “It’s turning red—don’t even look,” I told my friend, who had accompanied me that night. I turned around and I could see the gloom painted on everyone’s face. Some chose to leave abruptly not wanting to see the final moments on the screen. I still had fries left, and my Glühwein, a German drink, was still half full and warm. I wanted to lose myself at the bottom of the glass when it appeared that no one was saving the day, especially after Pennsylvania was gone. “Ugh man, did that just happen?” A girl near us had her hands over her face, in disbelief, covering her nose and mouth; I imagine wanting to scream. I finished my drink, and we stepped outside. My friend was finishing his cigarette, when I saw two guys stepping out of the bar. “Why does this feel like a match? And my team just lost,” one of them said. When did our democratic election turn into a match? This was a farce, evident months ago when Bernie Sanders lost. The only one, who stuck to the issues and had a responsible plan to fix them.

Some people are hoping the Electoral College will save us, or by some miracle Hill will have more votes after the recount in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Perhaps it’s a waste of time, but at least people are speaking out, protesting, calling their representatives, remaining active. I wrote a poem to the Electoral College to express my views on why they should vote against their state, and vote for Hill instead. You can write electors a letter through The count is almost at 100,000 letters last time I checked. Maybe it’s naive or silly to send a poem, but one founding father, if not all, would agree going against the votes in those states is probably the best way to avoid legislative casualties that will weaken our environment and the economy.



a moral choice

the trees
the trees
sitting on the grass and not seeing an oil rig
or birds swimming in oily mud

what is most valuable in our society?

our dignity, our sense of well-being, the future of our kids.

the 45th president is….do you imagine saying that name?

“take back our country”
from what? from who?
from our founders?

you know those jobs are not coming back
why contaminate our lands
when you can have
clean energy, furtive lands, tech innovations
that will be around for generations
and will allow people to move back to small towns
where our families don’t get sick from dirty water

he’s a con artist, a celebrity,
who has never read a book
once asked what he thought about his life
he said: I don’t like to reflect.

drain the swamp
he’s bringing the swamp with him
people who are not qualified
it’s for this reason the founders
thought it was important to have a group of
to make a moral choice