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The Macaw Save of Cold Cave

***The Scarlet Macaw shares freedom's flight

By Zel HarrisonPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 15 min read
The Macaw Save of Cold Cave
Photo by Agto Nugroho on Unsplash

The Macaw Save at Cold Cave

The Scarlet Macaw shares freedom's flight

Dr. Meera Mukul, was standing on her balcony of the Humanisi hotel, in Stann Creek Belize, and made an announcement to the invisible.

Tonight is for celebration

Her intentions were to spend quiet moments watching the blinking stars before her work began in the following days with her special bees that she brought to Belize for release. As an Entomologist, she is fascinated with their survival and relationship to the fragile balance of all living creatures in the rainforests. She had been working on strengthening a species that would be a prolific pollinator of the rare vanilla bean orchids that grow around the caves of Toledo, close to the mountains of the ancestors. Her love of nature was inspired by her parents who were both scientists, and built a Permaculture farm before she was born. Their lesson was that humankind was the visitor, and nature came first. They fought against the poaching of the Scarlet Macaw parrot, and the abuse of their habitat. They followed the lethargic bee populations trying to find ways to make them happy again.

For a very long time, people have had to self-pollinate vanilla beans because the bee population continued to diminish. Over the years, working with scientists throughout the world, she taught bee colonies to suck oxygen from the growing algae near the caves which stimulates their “buzzing” instinct. They would become just short of euphoric on their hunt for flowers, but were driven to get the job done.

The colony was like her kids, and she had become very protective of them. They were quietly waiting for her in protected pods in a small village in the mountains two hours from Stann. She and several scientists would release them and guide them to open nesting near felled trees. They would also be encouraged to move in to man-made hives that were made out of plastic. The hives were made to look like sculptural trees with cavernous open trunks. The experiment would be successful when the bees began to seek pollen from vanilla orchids in the region, and flourish in their new hives.

By Cool Calm Design Lab on Unsplash

Dr. Meera, thought deeply about her humbling experience with her work, and admired a dramatic sunset that became a cape of velvet colors.

She held her hands up to a darkening sky to welcome the evening, as the fading light and horizon broadened to surround the mountains. She untwisted her long black shiny braids, and shook loose her thick wavy hair to feel the wind through her whole body. Her graceful fingers traced the words in the sky:

By Anne Nygård on Unsplash

I. Am. Here.

At that unexpected moment, flood lights went on in the sprawling Spanish style courtyard beneath her, and a clamoring group of at least one hundred people appeared as though on stage. Many of them were wearing T-shirts

that read:

Save the Scarlet

By Sigmund on Unsplash

Unknown to Meera, the group was attending a countrywide fundraiser with a new approach to raise money. The Belizians know how to throw an attention getting fabulous gathering.

Lights. Action. Sound

In the style of multi-sensory staging, speakers were turned up full blast in every corner of the resort, and vocal sounds of the Scarlet Macaw parrot could be heard just like in the jungle.

A team of Mimic dancers, who are members of a Belize folk dance group, began to perform a very beautiful and seductive dance, with dancers encircling each other.

painting in Paradise by Selb

The male dressed dancers were wearing large costumes with handmade wings in reds, yellows and the most incredible deep blue. They were obviously painted by artists with love, and broad paint strokes. Slowly, as the line of male birds, approached the female dancers they spread their great wings, and lured the females into and under their enormous spread.

There were intermittent squawks, circling, weaving and adept dance movements until there was a blur of action and music. The dance offered the preening ritual, and the excitement of meeting in courtship. As the dance became more exaggerated, Dugu drums, flutes,

By Lee Pigott on Unsplash

Ocarinas, whistles, and bells chimed in and were played by the locals. Then the battle of handmade drums began and was presented and shared by indigenous tribes. The entire group was overtaken by the night. Meera, could not stand it any longer, and glided down a flight of stairs with her red, blue and yellow caftan. Her night dress blended with the Scarlet Macaw theme and she began dancing, and winding through the crowd, then lifted her arms like she was flying.

Somehow she was singled out, as though she was a rare bird in the flock and was lifted high above all of the dancers.

The passion somehow airlifted her back in time to her birth place at her parent's small Permaculture Village. From little on, Meera’s teacher was the natural world, and the elders who adopted her. They became her grandparents in the community and were always there to feed, nurture, teach and offer advice.

Dad’s heritage was Mayan, and his explanations always started with a story and became family tradition. As Dr. Zilka held little Meera in her arms, she told her a story about why she had a large strawberry birthmark on her cheek in the shape of a parrot. “Your father says, the parrots met you in the rainforest, when you were just born. They had the most beautiful colors in their beaks from a mixture of berries, herbs, and plants they had collected. They decided to share with you by painting your spirit angel. She continued by telling little Meera, that she would meet her spirit guides one day, and they would guide her about how she must continue her path. Meera was a very happy baby and learned to squawk before she talked. She was told that learning how to squawk loudly could help her call for help one day. It was what the tribes taught their children.

With a jolt, Meera woke up with this memory. It was as though she was charged by a magnetic prod, and sat straight up in a lounge chair very early in the morning. Nobody was there. The dancers, drummers, and the t-shirt people were not anywhere in the vicinity. Had she dreamed all of this? A little groggy, she walked over to the bar to get something to bring her sugar levels up. Behind the bar a lanky man with black eyes and a wry smile, greeted Meera with the phrase Aarait then? Meera knew the greeting, and responded back, “I am alright, friend, but a little woozy from an experience last night. Tell me, was there an event here?” “Oh yes, Augustin replied, and you became the star of the show”. “I think you must have lifted off some place, on a vision quest and then went to sleep”.

Meera asked Augustin if he could make her a drink with guava, coconut, jack fruit, and mint. She had to restore her energy to prepare and organize her trip for the bee expedition today. The other scientists had to be notified so that they could meet at the exact coordinates at the Toledo settlement, and then it would take an afternoon to introduce the bees to their new habitat. She put in a call to both colleagues, who said they were waiting for her at the outpost, and provided her with a weather update, which sounded encouraging for travel, but they warned her of possible surge storms.

Meera’s drink was just like how her aunties in the village used to make it with added dried coconut. The glass was tall enough for two people, and it perked her up. When she got off the bar stool to leave, she thanked Augustin for keeping an eye out for her, and then she heard loud squawking and thought that the hotel had scheduled another event. Instead, a large Macaw parrot landed on the black counter top of the Tikki bar, and walked over to Meera as though he wanted her attention. Bird and person sat very quietly staring at each other eye to eye. Instead of loud squawks, he very clearly said:

Cold Cave

Meera was unnerved, and remembered her vision. She asked Augustin if this bird had ever come to the hotel before. Augustin told her that some of the birds in the area where comfortable interacting with people, and visited the hotel infrequently. He told her that there was an unusual cave in Toledo which was affectionately called “cold cave” because at different times during the day cold air blew from the inner part of the cave due to deep underground springs and rivers.

“If you are visiting the area, it might be worth seeing this place. “The growth inside of the cave lights up like a neon sign.”

Meera mused, that if the algae was bioluminescent, there were nutrients that should be studied. She left the hotel, with the intention of finding Cold Cave if it were within a short distance of the outpost. With one suitcase and her overnight backpack, which included all of the accoutrements for emergencies and overnight camping including a blowup pillow, a sleep mat, a flashlight, bug spray, several water bottles, a flare, bee pollen, seaweed, a battery operated phone charger, and collection viles.

It had been a long time since Dr. Meera was in Belize. Winding around the Southern Highway, was breathtaking. She enjoyed seeing the small roadside vendors that sold corn tortillas made with chicken or beef. She remembered the homemade coconut oil called Cohunes that her family messaged into her hair every night. Then suddenly the highway took a dramatic turn and her bus was suddenly hugging mountain curves that looked straight up to waterfalls near the Maya Mountain Range. As though they were guiding the way, a family of Scarlet Macaws kept up with her bus. They darted and flew overhead like waving kites, pulling with the wind.

By Meritt Thomas on Unsplash

Based on her map coordinates, she asked the bus driver where Cold Cave was, and as it turned out was just over the ridge, a short walking distance from the Permaculture village. This is where she would find the cave and then walk to her destination.

The excitement was building because Dr. Makul was at the last stretch of her journey. One mile off the highway and down an unchartered rough road she saw limestone formations, and water trickling down from the higher mountains suggesting there were caves in the area. These caves were part of the network that she would depend on to encourage bee feeding.

The most profound first image that she would never forget was the sight of violet colored vanilla orchids, growing on almost every tree. The orchid farmers would be encouraged to know that they would not have to hand pollinate every orchid, and that strong bees would be thriving in the eco system very soon.

By Han Chenxu on Unsplash

Meera set up her camp, called her scientist partners, and set off for an afternoon of investigation. Once she got to the cave, she put her hand through the large aperture, and as predicted a blast of cold air came through. What lured her into the cave, was the glowing blinking lights that hung from draping algae. Meera was able to navigate, collect samples and walk deep into the cave. She noted unusual albino bugs that seemed to be thriving on the cave food. The algae was lush, and she was fascinated by the possibility that phosphorus may be an important nutrient link associated with growth hormones, and pollination.

Late into the afternoon Meera found herself a little less than three city blocks into the cave. She was able to see outward toward the entrance and was planning to walk back using the natural stepping stones that led out. Meera noticed that there was some unusually high winds that suddenly started, causing scrub trees and the epiphyte rubber plants to bend and break. The cave began to rumble, deep beneath the earth. Meera grabbed her phone thinking that she could get a local weather report, and contact the scientists but there was no service. Events happened quickly causing her to assume she was in an emergency event. She had never experienced a flash flood, but suddenly realized that this cave was on a sink hole that caused rare cave flooding. The cave began to fill up very quickly, and she knew it would not give her enough time to evacuate without the water rising at breast level. She didn’t know how to swim. As the cave filled with water, she saw continued high winds, and flooding rain outside of the entrance. Her life in danger, she was frozen with fear. Pushing through, Meera worked very quickly to blow up an inflatable pillow which would give her some biding time as she floated. She was able to keep her head above water as the current kept pulling her back. At that very moment she called out with the most primitive call to life, and imitated her parrot calls she learned as a child. As if by miracle, after a few never ending minutes, a beautiful wet straggly looking Scarlet Macaw, came into the cave and answered her back. His colors were so vivid that he overtook the darkness of the cave, powerful and perfect. The giant male, landed oh so gently on her floating pillow and stood for a moment to get his bearings. Time went into slow motion. She could hear the echoes of water dripping in the cave, the violent winds and the calming talk squawks from the bird.

Meera was in good company. Macaw’s navigation skills enabled them to find the highest branches and hone in on directional signals of the other birds and animals for survival. Macaws have weathered drastic storms and have offered unique location skills for pending danger. The Macaw seemed to take over by flapping his wings, which became the sails for escape. The pillow was guided in one direction or another against the current. Meera and the parrot were moving closer to the edge of the cave. It seemed like an eternity, for many moments of her survival. Meera prayed that the bees, the villagers, and her scientist friends would be safe. “Allow me this life, she said, so that the bees may thrive”. She promised the parrot, that she would save someone else’s life if she made it out alive. When they came to the entrance Meera gently put the parrot under her jacket and knew where the village was that she had to reach. The torrential rains had caused the grounds to be very slippery and she could only move arm over arm, crossing her steps, holding branch to branch as though walking down a flight of steps. The winds were furious, but she knew she had to get to the bee pods, and check on the other scientist’s safety. With the bird against her breast, she slid down a hill, and landed in a village right next to the town of her birth. A few of the thatched roof homes, had lost their roofs. Meera’s thought was to see if people were safe. She used her bird call, and a fragile voice answered back. When she walked in a woman she called Aunt Tia pulled her into her arms, and told her that her friends were sheltered in the closet. Meera was so thankful Aunt Tia was safe, and recognized her as a horticulture assistant on the farm, who kept everybody organized. The rainforest birds often visited her for fruit treats from the tended orchards, and would have long vocal conversations with her about their lives in the rain forest. She was treated like one of the birds in the neighborhood.

Now was the time for immediate action. Since the storm was still raging, Dr. Makul made a decision in the moment to get everyone over to the bee pods which where only five hundred yards away. She was the only one that had the keys to the hive pods. She stood on Aunt Tia’s porch in the whipping rain, and could see that the bee pods, looked secure as they were dug several feet under the ground with concrete footings. An aeration and continued drip system for the bees was in place and she knew they would be safe for at least a week. She decided to get her crew into the hive pod, as the structure could weather the severe high winds and house at least five people.

When Meera, Tia, and the scientists got securely into the bee pods, Meera finally felt safe. She could see in a glance that the bees were thriving and calm. And she knew a gentle squawking under her jacket reminded her that she had another member of the crew to release. When she unzipped her jacket, the Scarlet Macaw stepped out onto the floor where everyone was bolted down and covered with blankets. Suddenly Tia started laughing and crying realizing that Herme was a family friend for about thirty five years. One look at him, and she said to Meera, “Do you remember darling, Herme, was the big guy, that came to visit you with his family when you were a baby… he fed you berries into your mouth, and taught you how to squawk.” Meera, was riveted to the bone. "Herme saved me in the rising water of a cave today…I called out, with the family bird call, and he came to save me”.

Tia told many stories to the group as they endured the storm, and reminded them, that the parrots of the rainforests, never forget. “We are here in their sanctuary to be of assistance… they must be free”.

When the storm subsided, the pod doors were open wide for fresh air, and everyone thanked Herme for saving Dr. Meera. “I owe you my friend, I will work in your behalf to protect the forest”.

There was much rebuilding to do, and Meera’s work, was about to begin, including a new thatched roof for Aunt Tia, the release of the bees, and continuing programs to protect the Scarlet Macaw.

This story is a purely a fictional account. Any names of programs, or places have been included for entertainment purposes only.


About the Creator

Zel Harrison

I travel with a nap sack on my back to gather stories and sit in the circle of humanity.

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