Leave Gentle Giants Alone

manatee in Wakulla Springs near TallahasseeBy P.C. Zick

manatee in Wakulla Springs near Tallahassee
By P.C. Zick

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Florida manatees flock together in the winter as they head to warmer waters. As the temperatures dip in the ocean and river mouths, some water remains at a constant temperature. Power plants with their warm water discharges are an attractive gathering place for the sea cows, which can cause some confusion when boats need to come in and out of those areas. Manatees swimming near the rivers that lead to freshwater springs head to the 72 degree constant temperature of the water flowing up out of the Floridan aquifer.

It becomes life threatening when the large mammals don’t get to the warm waters in time. Cold-stress syndrome may cause the manatees respiratory problems as well as confusion.

Manatees are gentle creatures and unfortunately show little fear when around humans. But the biggest threat to the endangered species is man and his boats. Also, add humans who insist on touching, playing, and filming interactions with manatees.

One man found out recently that the cost of taking pictures of him hugging a young manatee and his children sitting on the calf’s back is quite high. Ryan William Waterman took his daughters to Taylor Creek in St. Lucie County, located on the east coast between Daytona and West Palm Beach. A young manatee, somehow separated from its mother, swam up to them. The young man took pictures of his children and him playing with the manatee. Then he posted the photos on Facebook.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) found the pictures and arrested Mr. Waterman in February.

When my husband saw the photos, he said, “The manatee doesn’t seem to mind.”

Maybe. But the biologists with the FWC fear the manatee may have been separated from its mother too soon. Also, the calf exhibited signs of suffering from cold-stress syndrome. The manatee may not have minded or been afraid of the seemingly harmless play by humans, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it’s harmful in the long term, and as Mr. Waterman found out, it’s illegal.

The FWC issued a statement via a new release about the arrest, which states, “An interaction that may seem harmless and innocent may ultimately have serious consequences for manatees and other wildlife.”

In the case of manatees, the act of playing with the sea cow falls under the Florida Sanctuary Act making it illegal “to injure, harm, harass, capture, or attempt to capture” a Florida manatee. Violation of the Act is a second-degree misdemeanor with charges up sixty days in jail and a $500 fine.

The allure of the manatee and other animals of the wild is tempting, especially when we see them in controlled environments in zoos, theme parks, and aquariums.

But when wild animals lose their fear of humans, we become their enemy, not their friend.

Communication is an Endangered Species

Key deer - just one of many endangered species

Key deer – just one of many endangered species

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Last night, we watched the movie Terms of Endearment. The movie still provides some sentimental waterfalls, but there are some things that seemed so modern in 1983 when the movie was made that are nearly archaic now thirty years later. Phones were push button but still in the old rotary style with the coiled cord and receiver. The movie shows a scene where a large rectangular portable phone presents itself poolside. How “modern” this cordless box appeared that even the character played by Debra Winger pulls it away from her ear to give it a smirk.

How far we’ve come in these thirty years – for better and for worse. The four of us watching the film began talking about the advent of the cell phone into our lives and how it changed communication skills once that tiny little piece of technology made its way into mainstream life. My friend recounted his experience working in a restaurant where communication among employees was open and made for the smooth running of the establishment for his first four or five years in his job as cook. But then slowly over the course of a year, cell phones began appearing in the hands of the waiters, cooks, dishwashers, and managers. Instead of talking with one another, communication occurred over the plastic encased wires, making face-to-face talking less and less. Efficiency  among the staff deteriorated as did the quality of service.

It’s even worse today with the introduction of texting into our lives. I’ll admit it’s convenient to text someone a quick note, but now instead of living lives, paying attention while shopping, walking, or driving, folks text their messages to their phone. We’re going to lose our ability to appreciate our surroundings. I understand the allure. I finally came into the modern world this month when I was upgraded to an iphone with my cell phone company. It’s addicting to follow my career and personal life on this little square screen that fits in my pocket and alerts me whenever Carmelitta Carson tweets or Joseph Jackson posts his status on Facebook or when Monster Mart sends me an email letting me know that kitchen sinks are now on sale. Meanwhile, my husband is telling me – in person – about his schedule for the next week. I didn’t hear him with all the other distractions occurring worlds away from my present. I put the phone away and turned off the beeps and buzzes informing me of nonsense nonessential to living my life.

Last week I wrote a post (Becoming a Non-Person) about becoming a non-person in a wheelchair. I mentioned my friend whose brother faces the challenges of multiple sclerosis that has left him bed- and wheel-chair bound. This past weekend his nurse, who comes every morning to shower and care for him while my friend goes to work, was fired. This nurse was a God-send because she treated my friend’s brother as a worthwhile human being bringing him smiles and laughter. My friend was devastated and waited an entire day before telling her brother. When she finally told him yesterday, he calmly took the news and asked for the phone. He called the boss of the agency that fired the nurse, and he became his old self – confident and strong – and within thirty minutes brought the boss to tears as he convinced her the nurse should be rehired because they were fortunate to have her, and whatever issues occurred to cause her firing should be addressed and used as a way to help this valuable employee and human being.

My friend wrote me this morning to tell me the nurse was rehired, and she could hear her brother and the nurse conversing in the next room.

Those of us on our fancy new forms of communications are the ones in danger of becoming non-persons, not the wonder in the wheelchair who still knows the importance of communicating with confidence, clarity, and compassion. Let’s not make him an endangered species.

Becoming a Non-Person

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

I ceased to exist for a few hours to those around me recently.

The occasion occurred in the corridors of a hospital when I sat in a wheelchair. My husband pushed me down long hallways from the doctor’s office to the lab to the pharmacy. I’d been suffering from a viral virus that made my legs weak. I was unable to walk long distances. I’m getting around much better now, but for a short time, my mobility took a hit.

So during my excursion to a doctor’s appointment at the hospital, I decided to make life easier by using the chair positioned near the exit doors to the parking garage.

When I sat down, everything changed. I ceased to exist as a functioning, live person. I consider myself a friendly sort of gal. I smile and say “Hi” when I pass people in public places. But when I became wheelchair-bound, no one looked at me; they either looked away or looked at my husband who was pushing me around. At the elevator, people rushed in before us, instead of waiting until my husband pushed me into the small space. Perhaps I noticed it more on this particular day. I felt lousy and vulnerable and needed a smile or kind word thrown my way. No one offered even a glance.

My disability was temporary, but it forced me to examine my own behavior. I hope I don’t discount those not able to do tasks the rest of us take for granted. I try to open doors for people. I help others get things down from grocery store shelves when I see them struggling. I certainly want to believe I smile at folks in wheelchairs, but now I question if I really do.

I shared my experience with a good friend who takes care of her brother suffering from multiple sclerosis. He’s unable to walk or do tasks for himself. I almost cried when she told me what happens when she takes her brother out in public.

“You can’t believe the sadness I feel when we go out, and he’s in his wheelchair,” she said. “This larger-than-life man who was a hero to so many, an inspiration to anyone he met, is now a non-person. At a restaurant, the host overlooks him to ask me how many in our party. They don’t know he has asked ME out to dinner, and he’s paying. At the ballpark, people stand in front of him, so we constantly move around. And while the doctors are getting better and directing questions to him, they still look at me to discuss his health.”

Heartbreaking to hear; devastating to live through it.

If I treated anyone challenged with a disability as less than human, I’m sorry. But now I’m conscious. I’m fortunate. I’m grateful. I’m humbled.

And I vow to look everyone in the eye, even if it means I have to lean down to do it.

A former coworker of mine kept a little sign in her office that said, “Never look down on someone unless you’re reaching down to help them up.”

In the Raw: The Present Moment Cafe

The Present Moment CafeSt. Augustine, FL

The Present Moment Cafe
St. Augustine, FL

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

I wasn’t sure what to expect when my daughter Anna told me she would be a “cook” at an all-raw restaurant.

With fourteen years as a cook in a variety of restaurants, Anna knows her way around a kitchen. When she began working at The Present Moment Cafe in St. Augustine, Florida, she received a jolt.

“It was as if I’d never been a cook before,” she said. “I had to learn a whole new way to prepare food.”

Since nothing is cooked, there are no ovens, no stove tops, no deep fryers, and no microwaves. I assumed this meant the restaurant only served salads with lots of sprouts and raw nuts. I learned a few things when I visited The Present Moment Cafe a few months ago, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Anna ordered for us. We started with a Caesar salad with a dressing made from celery, dates, and other raw seasonings. Then we enjoyed hummus made from ground cashews.

HummusPhoto by Golden Pixels

Photo by Golden Pixels

Both were delicious. Anna ordered the lunch variety platter for us. We chose burritos, sushi, and pesto pasta. Unbelievable would be how to describe each of these raw, vegetarian, vegan delights. In fact, even with three of us eating from the platter, we had difficulty eating all the selections.

SushiPhoto by Heather Blanton

Photo by Heather Blanton

The Present Moment Cafe published a book this past year with beautiful photos of their offerings and recipes. Handmade in the Present Moment is available on Create Space. Owner Yvette Schindler also provides the story of how the cafe made its way into the present moment.

When she opened the restaurant in 2006, only a few existed in northeast Florida, but now there are a sprinkling of raw restaurants sprinkled throughout Florida. To find out if there’s a raw restaurant near you, visit the Directory of Raw Food establishments. They list restaurants in all fifty states and around the world.

The philosophy behind the movement is based on the belief that when food is raised above a temperature of 118 degrees Fahrenheit, it causes chemical changes that create acidic toxins. Visit www.rawfoodlife.com for more information and many links to resource and reference materials.

Am I going to change my diet to only eating raw foods? Not in the present moment, but I don’t rule out the benefits of incorporating the philosophy inherent in the practice to some extent in my diet.

I’m always in awe of the pioneers, and Yvette Schindler and her crew of supporters and staffers certainly qualify in that category. I’m happy my daughter works in a place where thoughtful consideration is taken with each dish. The restaurant itself is a testament to the peaceful attitude of staff and customers.???????????????????????????????

And as always, I support any effort to live a lighter life on this earth we inherited.

Do you have any experience with eating or preparing raw foods?