I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Sunday, October 27, 2013


One of the many finches that kept me company while I sat on the beach. The sand was so fine that even the birds looked as though they'd been dipped in sugar.

I picked up a seashell I happened to notice when I was shaking the sand off my feet, pearly white, no larger than the tip of my little finger. It was beautiful, and tiny, and perfect. And I put it back where I found it, and only realized afterwards that I'd done that automatically. It's illegal to take anything, including shells, from the Galapagos park, and I tend to be someone who follows the rules, but I was completely alone, no naturalist around, and it was extremely unlikely that I would have been caught.

I just didn't want to take the shell, although it was exactly the sort of thing I like to collect from beaches.  It's impossible not to be aware of how lucky I am to be able to visit this unique place, and what trust the park management and the people of Ecuador place in their visitors when they allow us to come here. Human visitors are going to damage these islands, no matter how careful we are, and yet preserving them would be impossible without the money from tourism. So we decontaminate as best we can -- hosing our feet and our shoes off when we go back to the ship, closing our stateroom curtains at night so insects don't try to follow us to a different island -- and we stay on the paths, and we leave the pretty shells on the beach where we found them.

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