The Penguin Auguries
Washington D.C. / Chiloé Island, Chile. While Washington D.C. celebrates President Obama’s second inauguration, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on what that word means. “Inauguration” comes to our language via French from the Latin word inaugurationem, meaning “installment under good omens,” directly related to the word for augury which is the process of divining the future from the flight of birds. Strictly speaking, it is only advisable to celebrate an inauguration if you have witnessed a favorable flock of birds in a certain combination.
Though traditional auguries are more convoluted than a cricket match, my personal guidelines are simpler: the greater the flock of handsome birds – or even the appearance of a single exceptional bird – the better the omen. By contrast, a trio of circling buzzards is grounds for locking oneself in a panic room for a few days. I also liberally apply my auguries to all bird species, flightless or not. In a pinch I’ll even take a platypus.
I’m not sure if Obama’s spiritual advisors conducted a proper augury before he swore in yesterday, but if I were his augur I would have insisted on a trip to the island of Chiloé in order to “chance” upon heaps of auspicious penguins. They fit all the criteria of a great augury. They’re endearing, they’re numerous, and their particular evolution prevents them from flitting off before you’ve snapped hundreds of pictures of them in typical tourist fashion.
Incidentally the appearance of a sea otter in the middle of an augury bodes very well for the future.
I visited Chiloé in December of 2011 and let me tell you, 2012 was a fantastic year for me. I got into grad school, explored some amazing islands, and started interning at a travel magazine. I can’t help but attribute my good fortune to all those merry penguins. So good luck Mr. President. I sure hope you did your auguries!
Practical Info: EcoTurismo Puñihuil takes boat trips out to the protected islets just off shore of Puñihuil in the northwest corner of the island to see Magellanic and Humbolt penguins as well as cormorans, flightless steamerducks, and sea otters!