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  • Sharron Montgomery Pena

2020- Farewell to a Foul (not Fowl) Friend

I thought I would be able to resist a recap to a year that has been so unkind to so many. Yet here I am. I don’t get personal very often as this is our business page, but I thought I would share how 2020 unfolded for us and to express our struggles and gratitude for the blessings we have found in what can be referred to as the year of suck.

You, our friends, our fans, our supporters have been so kind to us this year and wanted to know how we are doing. In a year when so many have lost so much, we count our blessings and give many thanks first and foremost for having a place to ride out this pandemic. Please allow me to share with you just how critical the timing of finding our property was leading up to this year.

In 2015, we were fortunate enough to find a perfect piece of property for two road dogs like us. Our home in Northern Florida is in a place which used to be about as pristine as it gets in Florida. We are somewhat remote, 20 minutes to the local grocery store, and surrounded by all types of wildlife. In 2015 four acres, fenced, with electric, septic, and a well would accommodate our RV whenever we stopped for a couple of months out of the year. It was a seasonal residence we looked forward to having, but unfortunately, two years later everything changed.

2017 had other plans for us when it was discovered that Ray had a brain tumor. We were forced off the road, but thanks to our good friends, Kitty and Pete Carroll, we found refuge at their place during this transition to help babysit our large family of birds while I ran back and forth to the VA hospital..

Once we got over the initial shock and early stages of treating his illness, we came back to our property, and with the help of friends and family, quickly made improvements to make the birds secure.

Every other week

they had to be left alone for the day so we could make the 140 mile round trip to drop Ray off at the hospital, and then another 140 mile trip later in the week to pick him up. We felt so fortunate even then that we had this space, especially given the nature of our work and living out of campsites and renaissance festivals most of the year.

For the next 2 years we continued to make improvements and in 2019 we finally put a home on our property. It was ready to move in the week before we left to go to Bristol, but it was there at long last. When we came back in the autumn we moved into our brand new house. We enjoyed it for about 2 months before we left for our next job at the Brevard Renaissance Festival and then the Florida Renaissance Festival. We worked until

the end of February and headed home for a month before our next show.

The rest they say is history. That was the last time our live and in person shows were conducted. So here we are and here we have been since February. We are infinitely grateful that we found our little slice of heaven. Though hot it may be in the middle of August, it has sustained us and keeps us and our birds safe and happy. Likewise, it is easier to deal with the heat when you have a house that is not on wheels and create an oasis in the middle of the storm.

We are surrounded by blackberries and an amazing array of interesting insects in the spring and summer, including a large number of butterfly and moth species. Our hummingbirds enjoy their choice of 4 feeders or a variety of flower species. The battles when the young leave out of the nest are epic and keep us entertained until their departure in the autumn.

The autumn brings more tolerable weather, although still hot by most standards. The wildflowers are in full bloom for about a month or so before the frost comes, killing the sensitive vegetation.

Larval host plant of the Sulphur Cloudless Butterfly
Cassia tree

My miscalculation in cold tolerance of many of my new plantings as well as some of my succulents has resulted in what I hope is a temporary loss of their beauty. Live, learn, do better next time. We have now been here for almost a year straight and seen the full change of seasons. Our gratitude is periodically broken by feelings of depression, loss, and intense bouts of pain and suffering that Ray has endured bravely despite all of the efforts of his doctors to find something that will offer some long lasting relief.

All of our shows have been cancelled since and we had to withdraw from our first show of 2021 because of the rapid rise of covid numbers and the dire risk for Ray. His history with cancer puts him in an “high risk” category as well as his history of brain trauma from his surgeries. He cannot afford to risk the possibility of lasting effects of covid on his neurological systems.

His life is at a much slower pace, but he still heals from his battle with cancer and the aftereffects of his treatments. He still beads to deal with his chronic pain and spends time training his birds daily. In a lot of ways, this slowdown is just what he needed, to recuperate and rest from all that he has been through. He’s not on social media, so although he has a profile, he has little interest in the facebook world,

so please don't be offended if he doesn’t respond to messages or friend requests. It’s just not his world.

Every time a show has cancelled, we have grieved with our fans, our friends, and in the end, agreed it was for the best, despite the emotional isolation and financial uncertainty. Like many of our colleagues, we reached out across social media via livestreams and events to connect with our fans and also to help those struggling the most. A new charity emerged to help our fellow renaissance workers called RCEAF who struggle with the financial and emotional complexity of pandemic on our way of life. Many of our fellow Rennies have been able to keep going by transitioning to online platforms, though it represents a small fraction of what most earn during a regular faire season. It has been an enormous undertaking for many who earn a living as artisans and entertainers to make that jump to online platforms, myself included.

I struggled with a transition into virtual platforms. I thought video would be a good way to express our program and message.I learned quickly however that building an interesting video that will get a lot of views is easier said than done. Two minutes is consistently the attention span that people have in watching a recorded program. I find that I am very boring when I don’t have a face with which to connect, so live connect through zoom is something I have to pursue, in the hopes of keeping people engaged.

Gulf fritillary caterpillars, pupa, and butterflies
Life stages of the Gulf Fritillary
Captive Rearing of Gulf Fritillaries

My time in quarantine gave me time for hobbies for the first time in many years. I successfully raised and released 70 gulf fritillary butterflies and maybe 20 zebra longwings. It was one of the most magical things I’ve ever done. I also connected with the spirit of my long departed grandmother (ma maw) and began sewing regularly and loving it!

And finally, we said goodbye to our beloved dog Molly in January of 2020. She suffered for two years with a chronic condition called cushings disease. Despite our best efforts to provide her with medications and alternative treatments, her condition deteriorated and we gave her the peace she deserved as a loyal companion.

The day after Thanksgiving, we were ready for a new dog, and our little Santos came to join our family. He is a bundle of energy without end, but he is smart and very well behaved. We look forward to many years with his companionship.

It was your sponsorships, your purchases, and your constant affirmations that have truly kept me committed to keeping our program going. We were able to feed our birds last year and the first part of this year on your contributions and purchases alone. We feel the love for the birds and for us as well, and from the bottom of our hearts, right backatcha! My resolution for 2021 is to work on our online presence and building our community right here on Flight of the Raptor. But I need your feedback. I need to know what you find most meaningful about our content here at Pictures? Stories? Merchandise? Comment on this post and let me know what moves you!

So happy new year and I look forward to your comments. Mwah!

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Love seeing the pics of your home! Now I can put your faces in a place,lol. Lovely writing!



Oops I forgot to mention, you look amazing Sharron!! Always do!



Dearest Sharron and Ray,

Heartfelt words of beauty and struggle and strength you shared! What a journey, ride, adventure your lives have been. And wow, just look at you both now. Your santuary is simply an oaisis of the love and dedication you have made to each other and the winged and furry world around you. Your ability to touch young and seasoned lives at each of your shows is such a gift and YES do find a way to continue in the virtual world until we can all be together again. I do believe your novel would no doubt be a best seller ;-)

I think the world of you both and my life is richer because you shared…

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