One Friday afternoon I was walking out of my building on the way to meet a friend for dinner. When I stepped outside, five young boys from my neighborhood were chasing after what appeared to be a bird. At first glance I could not tell what type of bird it was because it had flown down beneath the sidewalk to the alley where the recycle bins were below us. I watched as one of the boys clamored and tried to grasp the bird with his hand, but the bird flew back up over the sidewalk and darted across the street. The bird was suddenly hazed by a moving vehicle passing by and fell to the ground. The other boy threw his jacket on top of the bird and as he picked it up and opened it, to our surprise and amazement, the bright blue bird flew right into my hands. The bird was a small parakeet, probably lost and separated from its owner. Although the bird had been stunned by the car, it was not physically injured. I took the bird home, and named it 'Sky.' I do not believe in sheer coincidence. I think life gives us signs and nature speaks to us if we take the time to pay attention, quiet our monkey mind and listen to spirit. This can be difficult to do in the day to day, hustle and bustle of city living. Perhaps Sky was instinctively aware I was raised on a ranch as a child and have a love for all animals and nature, or that my cousin owns a large arboretum of tropical birds-so I was somewhat familiar with caring for them. Maybe my bright colored shirt made him mistake me for another bird. Either way I decided that I would take the time to care for Sky, one of Gods precious creatures and look upon the bird as a gift from the Universe.
I went to the store and bought some parakeet bird food and plastic gloves. When I returned home, I put on my plastic gloves and carefully bathed Sky in a mixture of soap, water and a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide to kill any bacteria or parasites just in case there were wounds under the birds feathers I could not see. Sky was then rinsed in a solution of water and lemon juice. Sky did not struggle with being bathed, instead the bird just relaxed under the soothing flow of the water like he was sitting in a sauna. Once the bath was done, I put Sky in a cardboard box lined with some newspaper and used a clean bottle cap to hold the birds food until I could buy a cage and get to a pet food store to buy a proper feeder. Sky was safe for the night and could rest. The next day I got lucky and found a listing on Craig’s List and bought an antique, art deco bird cage with glass panels from a super who was cleaning out and renovating the apartments of previous tenants in his building. Sky once lost, now had a home.
On Sunday I was returning home from church with groceries in hand. As I was walking back through the entryway, the same boys who found the parakeet shouted, "Hey bird lady... we have another bird for you but it is really beat up." I laughed thinking they were joking....Bird Lady?!? Well they boys were not joking. While waiting for the elevator, one of the boys comes trailing behind me with a baby bird in his hands, probably not more than four weeks old. The boy set the little cream colored bird on the window ledge of the hallway. The baby bird was visibly weak, with a lot of feathers missing from her head, tail and wings. The bird looked like it had been in a bird boxing ring and taken a beating. The boy turned around, leaving the bird on the ledge and walks out the door all the while explaining that the bird was attacked by other birds outside. I looked down at the baby bird, and then the baby bird looked back up at me with these sad eyes that said, "Please take me home." I cannot just leave the baby bird there or it will die. It is much too young to take care of itself properly and is too young to fly. So I empty out one of my grocery bags and use it as a glove to pick up the baby bird and carry it upstairs to my place. I will call this bird 'Harlem' because just like the people in the neighborhood, the bird may be a little 'roughed up' but essentially is still a survivor. Like Sky, once inside, I put on the gloves and began to bathe Harlem but the wounds on both of his wings, tail, and neck and under belly were more serious then I thought. I knew that it would be crucial to keep the animals wounds clean daily and give Harlem a nutrient rich diet if the bird were going to survive. Once the bath was finished, Harlem went into a new cardboard box lined with newspaper for the night, until I could get another cage.
The next day, my friend had the idea to put a listing on free cycle to see if anyone had a bird cage. Free Cycle is a community board focused on recycling unwanted items to reduce consumer waste within a local area. We got a response! A woman had sold her cockatoo and had a nice sized bird cage. Now Harlem once lost, also had a home. Harlem looks like the exact same bird used in a scene for the movie Practical Magic with actresses Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. He is the same type of bird the two witches use to cast a spell for a female client who is madly in love with a man that she wants to be in love with her. Harlem's new home is perfect for him because he is much larger than Sky, because Harlem is a Dove, the bird of Peace.
In one weekend, I went from having no pets, to attracting two lost birds into my life. First a parakeet, then a dove. I find it ironic, with our countries state of economic affairs and war that I would be caring for 'a bird of peace' that has been severely wounded, beat up and abused. Perhaps it is a sign for me as well as the people of our country to now do what is necessary to obtain peace between nations and care for those who have been wounded in our quest for economic prosperity and lifestyles of convenience. We have been at war for eight long years. If you are in an abusive marriage for eight long years, eventually you get fed up with the abuse and get a divorce. Don't you think it is time for our country to be 'divorced from war' and to move forward to more humane solutions? It is time for our soldiers to return home to their families. It is time for us to act upon the values we profess to believe in and stand by the Constitution and Bill of Rights for all people. We must hold a vision of our country that like President Obama's Presidential election....reaches far beyond borders. The same way Dr. Martin Luther King had dreams and visions of equality beyond racial prejudice and oppression. It is time for us to consider how our actions or our lack thereof affect the lives of everything and everyone around us, including other nations, other cultures and other species. There are absolutes in maintaining survival for all life on this planet; clean air, clean water and quality food. We cannot breathe our almighty American dollar, we cannot drink our almighty American dollar, and we sure as hell cannot eat our almighty American dollar. The coming New Year is a time for new beginnings and to make necessary changes to our lifestyles; it is time for the Era of Sustainable Living and Compassionate Capitalism. Together, we can Re-Invent the character and reputation of the United States. Together, we can learn from our past mistakes and the lessons history has taught us. If we work together, as a team, the United States can be the leader in the Eco-Revolution. Not eating the dust of other nations as they discover new ways to harness the earth’s natural resources without abusing or polluting them.
The question is; Are we willing to heal the wounds we have inflicted upon other nations in our quest for material gain and let go of outdated belief systems, outdated methods of abusive economic prosperity and re-invent who we are as a Nation and as the individual people of this Great Nation?
In order to manifest change and healing we must be willing to accept, 'Where we are responsible as a Nation and as Individuals in creating the Problems and Wounds in regards to the current state of World Affairs; war, social injustices, poverty, manufacturing abuses, famine, pollution, oppression, corruption and greed.' If we are to truly change for the better, if we are to make much needed corrections to our behavior, to heal and move forward as a country. We must be willing to set aside our arrogance and pride, to take the time to understand the root of the problems we have created in our country, in our world and clean the wounds before they become infected. We must be willing to look at and learn from the successes of other countries that are doing well in areas where we are not; such as education, prison reform, sustainability and other societal issues where we may lack. Healing is not easy, admitting where we have failed or wounded another country, nation or culture in our chase for the almighty dollar, will allow for us a chance to reassess, to change and to improve our actions for the better, for the future of our country and our nations children. Beyond our borders, we must want all children to inherit a brighter future, one filled with hope and an abundance of natural, unpolluted resources and companions from the animal kingdom.
Having these birds in my home has not only put me more in touch with nature, they often remind me of the classic tales of the 'canary in the coal mine.' Up into the 20th century, coal miners in the United Kingdom and the United States brought canaries into coal mines as an early-warning signal for toxic gases including methane and carbon monoxide. The birds, being more sensitive, would become sick before the miners, who would then have a chance to escape or put on protective respirators. Many canaries were sacrificed so that the workers and laborers could live. Our soldiers are our 'canaries in the coal mine' and every day that we are blessed to live our day-to-day life freely as we choose on United States soil, they are sacrificed overseas on the battlefield so that we can maintain our quality of life. Our soldiers lives are put in harms way so that we can gas and oil up our non-hybrid vehicles and live our lives ever so conveniently, shopping as good consumers do, without regard to how the products we buy effect the environment or oppress the people who make those products for our consumption in other parts of the world. It is time for a change in how we shop, in what we buy and in the responsibility that lies in our purchasing power. We cannot forget about the costs that are being paid to continue our modern way of life or forget about the lives of our soldiers who stand on shifting political sands as we go about our holiday season and plan celebrations for the upcoming New Year.
This Holiday Season change your lifestyle, challenge yourself to do something different:
- Take the time to remember a soldier and send a care package overseas.
- Take the time to buy sustainable products this holiday season and know your brands-make them accountable to supporting the environment.
- Take the time to wrap your gifts in recycled paper or buy recycled greeting cards.
- Take the time to put down your keys; run, walk, ride a bike to conserve energy.
- Take the time to make your home environmentally friendly before the New Year.
- Take the time to volunteer and count your blessings.
- Take the time to care for someone or something that may be hurt or injured and in need of your assistance.
- Take the time to clean out the wounds in your own life, mend broken fences and help begin the healing process.
- Take the time to write your Senator and tell them what you think about the current state of leadership and request sustainable changes.
- Take the time to listen to and appreciate the beauty of nature, even in the midst of your busy holiday rush.
Across great distances, our Canaries are singing to us...and their songs are of peace, healing and a need to return home to their loved ones.
Sky and Harlem are healthy and doing wonderful now. It is amazing what happens when we allow love to cleanse the wounds and give time a chance to heal them.