I shall not ask Jean Jacques Rousseau,
If birds confabulate or no.
– William Cowper (1795)
Every morning I take the dogs out for a walk and then go run or ride my bike. There are many folks doing likewise, but some are either blabbing on cell phones (who ARE they talking to that early in the morning?) or have earplugs in, listening to music on their iPods or a radio station. I prefer to look and listen to the world around me; sometimes I see some really interesting things!
Birds, for instance. One game I play with myself is to focus on how many different, identifiable bird calls I can hear as I walk; the rules call for spotting the birds, too. About the most I’ve ever come up with is ten: sparrow, starling, woodpecker, mourning dove, blue jay, cardinal, wren, mockingbird, pigeon and a humming bird.
My favorite? The wild geese as they migrate south in the fall. Most unusual? I actually saw a fancy blue peacock prancing regally across the street right around the corner! Who knows where THAT one came from? I also spotted a great blue heron in my backyard once, standing on the rocks surrounding the pond; he was checking it out to see if there were any fish in there for him. No luck, so away he flew on his gigantic wings, up to the roof. He was almost as tall as I! Most interesting bird call? Once I heard a cell phone ringing, but there was no one around. I looked to see if someone had dropped a phone, but then realized it was a mockingbird that was imitating the ring tone!
The other day, I saw a flash of neon green in the bushes, and I looked closer to see a parakeet fluttering around. It must have been someone’s pet that escaped, and I felt a little sorry for it, although maybe it was having the time of its life! Who knows? I saw it again a few days later, among a flock of sparrows that were feeding on some seeds strewn on the ground by a neighbor.
This time I really felt sorry for it, because it was obvious that although the little parakeet wanted to hang out with the sparrows, the sparrows didn’t want the parakeet anywhere close to them. The little green bird would hop hop hop up to a sparrow, and the latter would flutter a distance away. Again and again, it tried to get closer, but they wouldn’t let it. Finally, off flew the sparrows to a nearby tree, with the parakeet following hopefully along behind them.
I wonder what bird dynamics are; are they self-aware? Did the parakeet know it was different from the sparrows? Were the sparrows repulsed or frightened by this strange, exotic bird? Did the little bird finally give up? I haven’t seen it these past few days, so I don’t know the answer.
Watching these birds made me think about how some people shun others who are different. It’s often cruel when this happens, and although I like to think I don’t do this, I know that I struggle with it sometimes. It’s a challenge to welcome and befriend a person who looks different, sounds different, is maybe from a different culture or has different values. When my own brother struggled with cancer, he ended up with some physical deformities that made it hard for him to talk or eat. It was difficult to be with him, as he was a most unhappy person in his final years, but I regret that I didn’t try harder to see his basic humanity still there.
So I hope to take the lesson of the birds to heart and try to have more compassion for those who may be on the outside looking in. I’ll look closer for the little green parakeets of the world and hope to make a difference in the life of someone who may need a friend.