Free as a Bird in Paradise

Retire and move to an island after your children are raised – sounds like a woman’s dream come true, right? Of course you will miss your kids, of course you will worry about them, but you have done your job, they have “flown the nest”. You are now free to live your life and parent from afar. It was this course of logic that convinced me I could sell my home and move to an island.

*click for image credit

As a mother of six, I have learned that although they are grown, you will always be their mother and therefore, you will forever be “infected”. Every mother on Earth is aware of this illness of which I speak; it’s a little affliction we all know called, “motherly instinct”. Symptoms: You worry about stupid shit. You lose sleep needlessly. You check for texts and emails constantly. Your brain runs itself on a constant loop of worrying: Are they safe? Are they eating well? Are they wearing their seat belts? Are they wearing condoms? (I’m already up to 8 grandchildren, so obviously not!) One assumes that once the kids leave home, symptoms will improve. When that didn’t work for me, I made the decision to move to an island, thinking that perhaps that might just be the cure. Note to self (and to all infected mothers who might be wondering): There is no cure! An encounter with a little island visitor really drove that point home for me recently…

I arrived back to Belize after an extended visit with my six children in the states. I felt comfortable and at peace knowing they are all well and busy with their own lives. Now it was time for me to get excited about my new island adventure! Coming back to my rock, I always look forward to early morning yoga on the deck, eating healthy food, reading good books, watching the sunrise from my bed, and most of all, riding my bike. On this island, your bike is your lifeline, and I sure love my lifeline. I have a little wire basket on the front to carry fresh produce, and I ride my bike to shop, do errands, exercise, and simply to relax.

Pulling in to my condo, my eyes immediately searched for my bike. Yay! There it was, securely locked to the front patio as I’d left it. But… what’s all this mess? As I walked closer, I noticed there was something in the basket. What first looked like debris turned out to be the most gorgeous bird’s nest. And right there in the middle of that nest that was tucked inside my bike basket was a tiny pastel blue egg. Breathtaking. This is Belize, and oh how I love birds!

Belize bike_WWLOR

But wait – Oh no… Oh no no no! The realization of what this meant for me hit. Some bird built her nest in my basket. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. My eyes darted across the trees surrounding the patio, now wanting to scold this bird mother for her carelessness. Didn’t she understand how long I have worked to get to this point to be able to enjoy this island and my bike?! I raised my children and you better believe I didn’t deliver them on someone else’s front door, let alone the front seat of their mode of transportation! Then, I breathed, realizing I was clearly losing it, and there was no logic in arguing over the motives of a mother bird.

I made a plan. There was only one egg and no sign of a mother bird. I decided to leave it until morning, feeling certain the egg must be old, figuring she must have abandoned it. I’ll just dispose of it, clean the basket, and move on to enjoying my first day back on the island.

Morning came and the last thing I expected to see happens.

Sometime during the night, it hatched. Yup. It was now a living, breathing creature. So much for my “disposing of it” plan. Now what was I supposed to do? This nest was nearly blocking my front door! Where the hell is your mother, baby bird? How long before you can fly and get out of my basket?! 

Belize hatchling_WWLOR

It had to be one of the most horrendous little things I have ever seen. A face only a mother could love. I was definitely not its mother but there it was, my dreaded disease kicking in… my “motherly instinct” was back with a vengeance.

Suddenly, my mind was racing, worrying as though this little hatchling was one of my own. Is it safe? What will it eat? What about the iguana that comes up on the patio? Won’t he eat this tiny thing? Oh shit, don’t get too close or the mother bird might abandon the nest. How close is too close?!

The following weeks were exhausting, to say the least. Being tossed back into motherhood worrying, tiptoeing in and out of my front door so as not to disturb the nest or scare the baby, and dealing with the crankiness of being bike-less. Mama bird constantly stalked me from a nearby tree while I made every effort not to piss her off. Oh yes, I know you are watching mother bird, just remember, I’m a mother too. I wanted to protect the baby, but I also wanted it to get the hell out of here. My love/hate relationship with the bird’s presence teetered from side to side on the daily.

Belize hatchling 2_WWLOR

Then, exactly fourteen days after the ugly little blob appeared, it had become a beautiful little bird, and I watched it perching on the edge of the basket. Now’s your time, baby – fly away! And one morning, it did. While I wasn’t watching, it finally spread its wings and vacated the nest.

Surprising myself, I felt the loss when I didn’t see it there in the basket. Crap… was I really going to miss this thing?…

Nah! My bike is free! 

This mama has an empty nest yet again and a ticket to ride her bicycle all over the island – for as much as she damn well pleases. Just give me a break for a bit, Motherly Instinct. I could use some tropical freedom.

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Pepper Carpenter

About Pepper Carpenter

After 35 years of raising children (and nearly killing a couple ex-husbands), Pepper can now start to live her life as she's always dreamed - however the hell she wants! Although at 55, she's not certain the path is clear, but is certain it's somewhere near a beach. She wants to fill her days with bike rides through the village, walks on the beach, sunsets with a glass of wine while yes, wearing one of those flowing "moo-moo" dresses she swore she would never wear. Since 2013, that beach has been on the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize. After falling in love with the area while on vacation, she returned shortly after to house hunt.

Finding a lovely spot to "test" this island life, she decided it was definitely a good decision. Spending the majority of her time in Belize and being able to return to the US to visit kids and grandkids seems to be the perfect combination. Her new motto is, "I'm the captain now!" A couple of days visiting, and she must return to the island!

One small problem: the world is finding this island! Ambergris Caye has grown tremendously in the past couple of years. For investment purposes, this is great, for her grown children who love to visit, this is great - party central! But for this introverted, book-loving, hammock-laying recluse - the island was just getting too busy.

Recently expanding her search to the peninsula of Placencia, Belize, she has found a new home. Although currently hectic with the process of relocating, she is looking forward to the calm of the sea, the kindness of the Belizean people, and those fruity little umbrella drinks that remind her daily that this was a damn good idea! The only remaining issue is whether to tell the children where she moved! (The jury is still out on that one.) You can follow more of her adventures over on her personal blog,

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9 thoughts on “Free as a Bird in Paradise

    • The biggest delight I had when I jumped ship and was now on my own was the realization that things remained where I put them! It revealed itself one day when I opened the fridge to get a beer and lo and behold, there they were, all six, right where I put them!

  1. Thanks !! We are loving Belize, both Placencia and Ambergris, but definitely have lots of places on my “bucket list”. Feeling blessed and loving my 50’s…and now just have to stay healthy to enjoy it another 20 years! We are feeling so much better since moving down her, we eat healthy, we ride bikes…life is good!

  2. We loved Ambergris Caye but were worried about health careand infrastructure ( we are older than you) so finally ended up in Cozumel, where we are blissfully happy. Hope you didn’t get hit to hard by hurricane Earl as we consider you neighbors and worry.

  3. What A Beautiful Story! Love your writing! My kids consist of coop full of rowdy chickens, a dashingly handsome hummingbird addicted to my feeder, a fat grumpy old curly tail that will come at tap on my office window for dog food, and a revolving door of rescued potcake pups.. the thought of hurricane is enough to drive my worry meter thru the roof! Hope all was good with you are your feathered family after Earl!

    • There was considerable damage here in Ambergris, but the majority of it was to the docks on the beach. Thankfully, there were no deaths or injuries. We were in Placencia when it hit and had very little damage there in the southern tip of Belize. It is nice to see how fast they are bouncing back and rebuilding the docks.

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