Monday, May 02, 2005

What I Learned From My Parrots

We have a parrot of our own (his name is Scooby because he thinks he's a dog. Really) but we also take in sick, abused, or insane parrots, fix them up, work with them, and then find them homes. All that can take a year or more, but we have time and they are interesting so it's all right. The story of how we got into all of this is too long and, sadly, not terribly interesting, so I won't go into that. What I will take a moment to tell you is what my parrots tell me about life and God.

1. Greet the Day With Joy: I don't do this. I am not a morning person. If allowed, I would get up at the crack of noon every day. As it is, I pull my bones out of bed, calling upon the Lord, and sometimes, while attempting to stand, fail to nail the dismount. It isn't something you want to visualize. Mornings are just too early, too cold, and too dark for me. Parrots, however, are hardwired by God to greet every day with absolute joy and enthusiasm. Somewhere around seven they all begin to sing, laugh, chortle, scream, and whistle to greet the day. It is loud and it lasts about an hour until they see that they really do get to live in this wonderfully marvelous incredible day and their delight turns to curiosity about what it might hold.

2. Don't Lose Your Sense of Wonder: Birds are busy. They work hard on finding new ways to play with their toys, new ways to turn something entirely inappropriate (drapes, books, phones, small children) into a toy, or in walking around laughing and cooing at everything they see. If you are cooking something new they want to taste it. If you are wearing something new they want to examine it. When we turn on the TV four of the birds will run over to watch -- especially football. Sometimes they go to sleep, hanging sideways on the bars of their cages, while watching. They aren't bored. They see something to rejoice about every day. The ordinary thrills them.

3. Rest Time is Good. The birds take a nap every day. Somewhere in mid-afternoon a little birdie bell goes off in their heads and, no matter where they are in the house, they will climb up, perch on something, and go to sleep. Winston Churchill once said he accomplished so much in his life due, in part, to his insistence on the afternoon nap. Total disclosure here: the birds didn't have to teach me this. Resting is my spiritual gift.

4. Don't Be Afraid To Sing Your Song: Each bird has their own repertoire of songs, squawks, squeaks, and whistles. They aren't shy in trying out new words or new sounds and, in fact, can be overheard trying out new ones most days. It doesn't matter what it sounds like to anyone else: they like it, so they sing it. I own several guitars, ukuleles, dulcimers, banjos, etc. and play with a lot more enthusiasm than talent, but that's okay: my parrots taught me it's the joy in the playing, not the talent, that matters.

5. Color and Size Mean Nothing: The birds come in an astonishing variety of colors and sizes but they get along just fine (usually). They put no meaning on color and don't rank each other by size. Sometimes a parakeet will march over and bawl out a macaw that is sixty times his size. Some parrots were disturbed or ill fed and pulled out their feathers, looking like a plucked chicken, but they still are proud little guys.

6. Love is a Good Thing: They don't all love the same, but they all want to love you some during the day. One likes to lean against you and purr while another wants to sing to you, but doesn't like being touched. Each finds a way to show love and to request love in return -- every single day.

It interests me that when God says he owns the cattle, He thens says he "knows" the birds. He tells us that a sparrow will not fall to earth without Him; i.e. will not die alone. While we are worth more than sparrows, there seems to be a special relationship between the Father and His birds. Maybe if I watch them enough, I can learn more about Him. (see Romans 1 for further instructions)


At 5/02/2005 09:59:00 AM , Blogger TCS said...

Another great post. Keep them coming. The idea that none of God's creation dies alone.... Wow thats moving. I have to say I don't know how you could sleep late with even one bird in the house. That's why I will let you keep them.

At 5/02/2005 10:21:00 AM , Blogger DJG said...

I too am blessed with the spiritual gift of rest, it is just that I can't seem to exercise my gift in the confines of my day.

I love this post. Much to think about.

At 5/02/2005 04:19:00 PM , Blogger JP said...

Sleep? you folks are lucky....anyhow, great lesson here Patrick, thank you.

At 5/02/2005 04:42:00 PM , Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

Patrick -

I have a book that you and your entire family (actually, anybody)MUST get and read (and keep). It is "The Parrot's Lament: And Other True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence and Ingenuity" by Eugene Linden. I just found it at Amazon for $11.20, which is an excellent price, as I paid about $20 for mine when it first came out because I had to order it from a book store.

Several years ago one Saturday morning I was listening to NPR to "What'a Ya Know?" with Michael Feldman and he had Linden on the show talking about the book, which he'd just written, and it was hilarious. Linden, who is a natural scientist, has long argued that animals possess humanlike intelligence.

To give the book a plug here, in this book, he presents more than 100 anecdotes "about attempts by animals to deceive or manipulate their keepers or each other, stories about games, stories of understanding and trust across the vast gulf that separates different species, stories of animal heroism, and, especially stories about escape."

Linden's sources include pet owners (such as you all), vets, trainers, zookeepers, field biologists and researchers and their encounters with many different species of animals on a daily basis in real life experiences with animals.

I've had mine for several years and have read it 2 or 3 times and loaned it out to everyone I've talked with it about because it is so wonderful. Not only does it show how "brilliant" most animals are who man comes in contact with, it definitely makes you appreciate so much more the wondrous God who made all of these marvelous creatures.

The story's title comes from "Paco" the parrot and his "friend" he lives with, who Paco doesn't like (they, along with some other birds, are "pets" as your parrots are). The telling of their true life antics is worth the price of the book.

But, then, there are the two elephants who figure out how to "trick" their keepers so that they can both eat dinner inside without both having to be "caged" in the evenings, as they both love staying outside. I'm not going to tell you how they do it.

And the orangutan named Fu Manchu who repeatedly jimmied a door lock in the cages and effected a series of nighttime escapes at the Omaha Zoo is exceedingly smart. He never would go far - it seemed he kept escaping just to prove he could do it and outsmart all the humans!

After reading your parrot "lessons" I thought of my beloved book and you really must get it!! You will love not only the parrot stories, but all of the animal stories. And, I guarantee you, you can get some sermons out of the material and plenty of talks to young people, etc.

In fact, I'm going to get mine out and read it again! I'm sitting here confined for 2 or 3 months, so that will be the perfect cure for my depressed state. For sure!


At 5/02/2005 05:07:00 PM , Blogger Cheetah, the cheetah said...

I love animal stories. We learn about life from our cats. Their joy. Their rest. Their affection. Their absolute trust. The little things about the two that are different and give them each a personality of their own. Just another way God shows his imagination and delight with his creations.

At 5/02/2005 10:12:00 PM , Blogger Arielle said...

I hate pets, but I enjoyed your post none-the-less. Living vicariously through other people's pet stories is the way to go. ;)

At 5/03/2005 11:04:00 PM , Blogger heidi said...

B.C. (before children) my husband and I also rescued and loved parrots. "Don't Be Afraid to Sing Your Song" is a fabulous reminder.

Our African Grey, Chloe, who had fallen in love with my husband and tolerated me only because I offered her fruit would giggle, mumble and call out in MY voice. I didn't think I would ever miss that. *sigh*

So, I'll just wander off to have my own little bird brain day. Apparently, that's a good thing.


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