Flying Carpet

Lifer

By Lisa Boice

Animal Encounter Gold Winner in the Fifteenth Annual Solas Awards

“The life list of a birdwatcher is of a different order. It’s not what you cross off that counts, but what you add.” —Terry Tempest Williams

The black sky was like a drop cloth over the prairie grass and the only thing we could see were the bugs darting in and out of the light from our car’s headlights. We were only 60 miles west from Houston in Eagle Lake, Texas, but the big city felt a lifetime away. I turned my neck to see behind us and the brightness of the headlight beams from another car made me wince. My husband, Steve, yawned, which made me yawn. It was early and we hoped we weren’t too late.

We were in a hurry to get in line at the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge to witness the Attwater's Prairie-Chicken’s courting ritual. During March and April, the males go out to a lek, an area where animals—or in this case, birds—assemble to engage in courtship behavior. In the human world our leks have evolved from parties and bars to smartphone apps where singles attempt to impress and be impressed. But at this lek all the hope that male Prairie-Chickens can muster is on display in the middle of an expansive field as they perform an elaborate dance just after sunrise, which is why we were up early in the black of night. [Read More]

Lifer2021-04-12T18:01:54-07:00

Why I Love Baboons

By Lynn Brindell

Adventure Travel Gold Winner in the Fifteenth Annual Solas Awards

I think Beatus did it because he felt guilty. Or because he thought we’d give him a bigger tip. He’d gently rustled our tent flap that morning, the bright slit of light slicing through dark green shadows.

“Good morning!” he softly called. “Game drive now!”

We, The Newlyweds, usually slept in. But on our last day in Africa we left camp early, bundled against the mist and chill, our jeep the first to growl out and bounce along the rutted, mud way that passed for a road.

I leaned into Rob, cold air rushing against my cheeks. We weren’t supposed to be in an open-air jeep, without windows or ceiling to protect us from the sudden onslaught of a storm or an animal’s pounce. But I think Beatus wanted to deliver, finally serving up that signature moment, an exotic and extraordinary miracle of nature, witnessed in the bush. [Read more]

Why I Love Baboons2021-04-07T14:51:49-07:00

Laura: Lady of the Mexican Nights

By Edward Stanton

Grand Prize Bronze Winner (tie) in the Fifteenth Annual Solas Awards

You wanted to get farther away from home, beyond the border and Baja California, deeper into the country. The city of Saltillo lay on a slope of the Sierra Madre Oriental, just north of the central plateau, about 5,000 feet high. There you found a boardinghouse with a courtyard on Calle Xicoténcatl of sacred memory.

Your room opened onto the light-filled patio with a gurgling well, shade trees, cracked flower pots, a colossal zaguán or foyer with a carved wooden door. The courtyard was the hub of life for everyone in the house: the landlords Don Alfonso and Doña Hortensia; their daughter, her husband and their children; Panchita, a plump Indian woman who did most of the shopping, cooking and cleaning; a bachelor who taught Latin and Greek at several schools to make ends meet; uncountable dogs, cats and birds in cages. And then there was the woman who scandalized our whole house and neighborhood. Laura. [Read more]

Laura: Lady of the Mexican Nights2021-03-19T12:17:32-07:00

Marriage, Dubois Style

By Colette O’Connor

Grand Prize Bronze Winner (tie) in the Fifteenth Annual Solas Awards

"Just add three letters to Paris and you have paradise." —Jules Renard

The family Dubois of Avenue Foch are French. That is to say, the family Dubois are different. In an age when nearly half of American marriages collapse, often in smoking heaps of anger, bitterness, pain, I often wondered, what does it take? Really, what does it take – to keep it together, if not forever, at least through thick and thin? So when I met the family Dubois of Paris’s Avenue Foch, I thought, Ah! A chance to understand how it’s done. I thought, Oh! If Tolstoy’s “happy families are all alike” idea was working out for the family Dubois, as it certainly seemed to be, given how they appeared so rich and thin and cheerful at lunches I shared with them, or quick aperitifs, then here was a family to study. So observe them, I did, like an explorer a continent foreign, with fascination. Here is what I found:
Marriage, Dubois Style2021-03-12T16:14:00-08:00

The House Within

By Jacob Kemp

Grand Prize Silver Winner in the Fifteenth Annual Solas Awards

When I turned twenty-one, I spent the better part of a year in an attic, hiding from Nazis.

The calendar read 2011. I had just graduated from college. I was offered a role in The Diary of Anne Frank, to play Peter Van Daan. So I packed a suitcase, a carry-on, my winter coat, and left New York only weeks after I arrived—for Amsterdam, 1942. The actress playing Anne was a rising star in Chicago theater. A year later she’d be in a superhero movie, a blockbuster based on a comic-book. Onstage, she was a marvel. Scenes together, despite the long run of the show, the work and the sweat and the reaction of our energies each night, had that flinty and rare combination of absolute safety and vulpine unpredictability. We were well-matched. I awaited her articulation, her transformation into Anne, with the zeal of a tennis player anticipating a worthy opponent’s next serve. But in addition to being a formidable talent, she smoked.
The House Within2021-03-17T12:49:00-07:00