Every Work of Art has a Story.

Every Story is an Inspiration.

Entries in Puffins (2)


Roughing it with Puffins

Today I dropped this puffin painting off at it's new forever home with Miss Chelsea. She was so excited to know it was coming that she met me at the door before I had even knocked. Before I had driven the fifteen minute drive back to my house, she was already posting pictures of hanging it on her wall in a prominant spot over her bed. This made my entire week, that something I painted could already bring such joy to a friend who also happens to suffer from a dibilitating disease. So for the next story behind the painting, I thought it fitting that I tell the story of Chelsea's puffins. I hope you enjoy it as much as she did.


 Life at Sea

Puffins spend the majority of their lives at sea, only coming to land with their bond mate to dig a burrow into sheer rock cliffs, and breed. They lay and incubate their eggs on the cold rocks, and rear one to two voracious chicks. Even on land, they return to the sea continually, diving to depths of more than one hundred feet, in search of fish to feed themselves and their young.  When the chicks fledge the nest, they do so by literally jumping off a cliff and plunging into the sea. In fact, they spend the first five years of their lives at sea while they learn to dive and hunt the dark waters for themselves. When I think my life is tough, I think of the puffins and take comfort. 

This painting was commissioned by Chelsea Larigey, who suffers from a horribly debilitating disease known as ME or myalgic encephalomyelitis. 100% of the proceeds went to fund research for finding a cure and defining better treatments for ME. For more information on how to help those who suffer from ME/CFS visit solvecfs.org.

If you are interested in more about puffins, or you just want to spy on live ones for a bit, check out Audobon's new spy cam and their alerts from the Atlantic Puffins breeding grounds.



Diving at the Zoo

I recently posted chapter one of La Playa Blanca, a novella about two professional SCUBA divers. The idea came to me one day while I was remembering some of my own adventures. I realized that a good majority of them are thanks to my zoo career.

One of the best things about working at the zoo was the specialized skills I learned, like diving. These have allowed me to see some amazing wild places. Why would a zookeeper need to dive? Well, in my case, it was to clean the pools of the Rocky Coast Alaskan sealife exhibits. Here I am in the fifty-five degree water of the puffin pool. My face was aching.

I found out the hard way it's not fun diving in cold water. But, for the chance to learn, I spent several years doing the job. We wore wet suits, not dry suits, because we were working underwater and dry suits tear too easily. Mostly, I remember ice cream headaches when we first dove in, and for the rest of the day, no matter how hot my shower or the temps outside, I could not get warm again.

On the up side, the puffins were great fun. They have so much personality. The Puffin pictured here was named Forest Gump. He was hatched at the zoo, and he was afraid of water. One day my boss put a baby pool out, and she was trying to coax him in saying, "Swim, Forest, Swim!" The name stuck. The photo is from his younger days before he grew into his adult plumage.  

Diving eventually turned into a perk of the job, because I have experienced diving in some amazing places like Hawaii and the Caribbean. Now, I choose to dive in tropical waters. My mother didn't raise a fool. I prefer places where the ocean is teeming with color and coral. Sadly, I don't own a decent waterproof camera. So, the best I can do is provide you with a couple of photos from my dive trip in The Grand Caymans, where I got to meet Dotty the stingray up close and a little too personal. The last two photos appear courtesy of Luana at Happy Snaps.