"Not all who wander are aimless. Especially not those who seek truth beyond tradition, beyond definition, beyond the image."

Saturday, August 15

Majestic Macaws

I got my first "official" job when I was 16. It was at this job, in a pet shop, that I first fell in love with macaws. Copa taught me to read his moods, his body language, and his sounds. I learned exactly how and when I could hold his beak and pull him in close for a kiss. I also learned when to keep my distance. I never lost sight of how powerful his beak could be. I learned to laugh at his harsh words ('shut up' was his favorite) and giggled along with him when his perfect imitation of a "meow" or "ruf-ruf" left customers baffled after their fruitless search for the dog or cat. B.G. taught me patience and trust. I spent hours with him, slowly gaining his trust and learning to trust him in return. Again, never losing sight of just how powerful that beak could be. Slowly, but surely, he began to move closer to me during each interaction. Eventually, he would bend his head down and ruffle his feathers slightly, indicating to me that it was safe to scratch the top of his head. And, finally, in one of our parting moments before I left for college, he climbed gently onto my arm and perched there comfortably. I moved him closer to me until his beak gently grasped the collar of my shirt and he tucked his head under my chin as I scratched and kissed his ruffled-feathered head. In those teenage pet shop moments, I never stopped to think about how those beautiful birds got there. Never stopped to think about where they came from. Clipped wings, filed beaks and trimmed claws just seemed necessary. Normal. It was what I knew and I was so thankful for the experience those birds, that shop, gave me. 16 years later, as I sat perched atop a canopy tower in the Peruvian Rainforest, I learned to love these majestic birds in a whole new way. I never once saw Copa or B.G. fly. Never experienced the contrast of their colorful wings against the green trees. Never witnessed the strength in a single wing flap or got a sense of just how huge they were. It was here that I learned about their monogamy and witnessed them flying or sitting in pairs. Always. It was here that I learned that, if their mate was captured or killed, they would never find another. Never reproduce. Never recover. I learned the purpose of that white, salty stone that always hung in bird cages and witnessed the magical site of dozens of parrots and macaws converging on a natural clay lick to satisfy those salty needs. My recent experience in the rainforest doesn't change my experiences in that pet shop. It doesn't make me regret the bond I formed with Copa and B.G. and it has not turned me into a pet bird-owner hater. It just opens my eyes. It reignites my love of animals and nature and allows me to appreciate just how vast and valuable and beautifully fragile it is. It gives me a whole new lens in which I can use to view a sliver of my world, our world. And for that, I am grateful.

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