Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Long, Wandering Post in which I Have an Adventure

If you are too cold, too hot, hungry, thirsty, lost, hurt, frightened, nervous, or in new territory, and you are not sure when things will improve, you are having an adventure. I say this to my kids when we're in the middle of something unpleasant like walking through a blizzard, and they usually roll their eyes, because when you are hungry and lost it sure doesn't feel like an adventure! To me, an adventure is an event that is no fun at the time, but teaches you something and makes a great story when you are safely home again. If you think about the adventures kids have in books like Treasure Island or Harry Potter, you'll see what I mean.

My latest adventure happened a few days ago when two game wardens knocked on my front door. I hadn't been expecting them, but I was pretty sure I knew why they were there. See, back in December I got an anonymous email. I had just opened a second etsy store to empty out my studio of all the collections that have been piling up, and one of the things I listed were the feathers I'd picked up on the beach over the years. Here is what I read:


Oh dear! Well, I followed the links and did some further reading and determined that there are indeed laws regulating the feathers of certain birds. The writer was obviously confusing the actual feathers that were for sale with the photos I sell. Most of my feathers were probably fine since seagulls (the common Herring Gull, that is) are not protected birds, but to be safe, I immediately removed my feather listings. The email left me feeling very uncomfortable: I really dislike anonymous communication. Why would someone hide their identity when sharing important information? Notice their faux email address even uses my own name. If you are reading this, my anonymous emailer, thank you for letting me know the law, and take note that I consider "anonymous" a synonym for "coward."

At any rate, when two tough-looking game wardens in very official uniforms arrived on my doorstep I was pretty sure my anonymous friend had been at work again. Sure enough, it turns out that around the same time I received that email, someone called the Fish and Wildlife Services' anonymous tip line, and reported me as a Game Thief! (A Game Thief kills game out of season or kills protected animals.) Now I am a little bit of a Goody-Two-Shoes and I get very flustered when I break the rules or am suspected of it. I got a detention once, and I've been caught speeding twice, all of which I found very traumatic, and that is the extent of my contact with The Law. So when the wardens told me why they had come, I'm pretty sure I turned pink or red or white or mostly likely an unattractive mottled combination. They were very very nice about the whole thing. They had already looked at my website and seen that I was a beachcomber selling photographs, and were pretty sure before they came that I was not killing birds. Once I got over the initial shock that some stranger felt so strongly against me, I brought them up to my studio to see for themselves, and we had a nice chat.

What I was left with was that most of the feathers I find are probably not affected by the law, but that it is hard to identify them so safer to assume that they are. It is illegal to possess protected feathers, but photographing them is fine. So is selling the photos.

I was very impressed by the wardens - they were super knowledgeable and helpful, but I also got the feeling they were pretty tough guys, and I'd sure hate to break a law that would put me on their bad side! (Well, I kind of don't like to break laws anyway, but you know what I mean.) They gave me a great source for feather identification which I haven't had a chance to look through yet, but next time I do find a feather I plan to look it up as well as photograph it. And then put it straight back on the beach!

I have to confess that I have very thin skin, and I'm feeling very self-conscious now that I've had a couple of unpleasant emails. You know how an barnacle yanks its feathery arms back into its shell when it feels threatened? That's my first reaction. My second is to storm around telling people what I think in very strong words (inside my head, that is.) Then, when I calm down a bit and realize that it is only another adventure, I write it all down for your amusement and edification.

12 comments:

  1. Sorry Jenn. What a crappy way to spend an afternoon.
    I got a mysterious text once and when I asked who was texting me, I was ignored. And I still have the text in case I run across someone who can tell me how to figure it out.
    I too admire and love feathers--all kinds. I hope your feather love still continues.

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    1. It really is disconcerting, isn't it?

      If you love feathers, you might like a book I got for Christmas (haven't started it yet, but it's the next one in my reading pile!) called Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle, by Thor Hansen. This link should take you there: http://amzn.com/0465028780

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  2. Oh my!
    I love the way you describe adventure. That is such a refreshing way to reframe adversity. In that case, I am having a very adventurous day! I am glad all turned out well.
    I've wondered about the buying and selling of feathers before...just the other day I saw feather pens for sale at a Civil War-type shop. How is that OK?
    By the way I love the Feather Atlas. Thanks for sharing that!

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    1. Hi Kelsi - Only a few birds species are protected. For example, pigeons, sparrows, and crows are not, so, as I understand this, it is fine to have their feathers. Most feather pens (I assume we're talking about quill pens) are goose feathers, and geese are definitely not a protected species. Now if they were selling eagle feathers there would be a problem :) Remember, though, I'm not a lawyer!

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  3. woah. so sorry. it makes my stomach hurt thinking about this.
    i love the image of you showing the game wardens your studio!

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    1. You know how crowded it is in there even on a good day, so it was a tight fit with three of us! But they were really nice.

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  4. Jenn - it's a most interesting story you tell here. I think I probably would have done exactly what you did : think, research, ponder... and in the end I would have kept selling my photos. Judging from the documents you mentioned there's nothing wrong with selling photos of feathers.

    Your beachcombing activity is well documented throughout your blog so it's quite clear that you would never kill a bird to sell its feathers (or photograph them).
    As far I as know, beachcombing isn't illegal, even when it includes bird feathers. Taking photos of your catch is'nt illegal. Selling photos of said catch isn't illegal. So my response to Mr. or Mrs Anonymous would be thanks, but no thanks. Thanks for leading me to conducting some research on the subject, but no, I won't let myself be intimidated into deleting these photos from my listing.

    I think it's every individual's responsibility to fight off the tyranny of politically correctness when it goes overboard. There.

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  5. Did the wardens actually tell you that you should stop selling your photos ?
    It appears they didn't. And even if they did, they only represent the lowest level of law. Any appeal to a higher level of responsibility would have you cleared completely. You know, it is so dangerous to let yourself get caught in the madness of doing things right way over and beyond what is reasonable!

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    1. Hi Nathalie,
      No, photographing feathers is fine. I only removed the listings for actual feathers, not the photos. Beachcombing is not illegal, but it turns out that picking up certain feathers is.

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    2. And I totally forgot to say Thank YOU for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate your support and encouragement.

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  6. Oh dear. I want to let you know, though, that you are my favorite seller on etsy. I love all your items and your artwork and enjoy looking through all your things. I have also been a purchaser of a few things.

    Keep up the good work and continue blogging. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Maine and you have a life I would love to live searching for treasure in Maine. ;-)

    Lori

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    1. Oh my gosh, you are so nice! Thank you!

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