Today our pet parakeet hurt herself. In the evening back from work, I found blood all over her cage, apparently from a sore she had pried open with her hooked beak, the strength of which she herself does not know.
Well, I know now and do maintain that keeping a pet bird is cruel and unethical, whether it be a parakeet or a Bird of Paradise. Nature intended them to be part of her finery, her bards and her emblems of freedom, of flight.
But when we got Sam fourteen years ago, we did not know she was a she, nor that it was wrong to want her. She came to us, a mass of wobbles and gobbles, squeaks ‘n screeches, all skin and no feather, with a disproportionately large beak and an appetite to match. She couldn’t keep anything down though. Or should I put it this way, whatever one fed her came out in acid splotches of warm, yellow-green on my study table. And she begged, no demanded, more food!
She has grown up with me and the siblings and is as much a part of the family as any of us. She has mastered phrases like “What are you upto, Sam?”, “Have you eaten, Sam?” and “Mom I’m hungry, what’s for dinner?”, picked up from the cacophony our home used to be when we were children. She can keep up her end of the conversation, sometimes using various tones and moods, to everyone’s delirious amusement, which of course makes her angry and even more talkative. Our Sam takes herself seriously, she does.
Over the years Sam has become more imperious than ever in her demands, more fastidious about food, and more curious about goings-on all around her, somewhat like a voluble matriarch at her grand-daughter’s wedding. And of course, when we are away, Sam feels she is the mistress of all she surveys, scolding visitors in her best headmistress voice, and refusing any but the choicest of tidbits.
Tonight is medicine time for her, a paste of herbs for her back. Three or four of us will have to coax her out of her cage, subdue her, trying to hurt either her or ourselves as little as possible in the process. Sam has a sharp beak, and boy, does she use it!.
She isn’t scared of much, our Sam, and would give our dog Jim a hard time with huge squawks and painful pecks if he ventured near, offering a friendly sniff. Jimmy died last year, but Sam continues– unfazed. There is one thing she is scared of, however. Being outside her cage. It drives her to the edge. After having bathed her and cleaned out her cage if we ever forget to shut the door, she gingerly climbs down and does the needful. Having never known flight or freedom, she knows her cage to be her only haven, and us, her only family.
I think of Sam and wonder about myself, about each one of us. What if the world we are so happy to be in and so scared to leave and the people around who we cannot live without, are not really the true essence of our existence? What if it IS true about the world being an illusion, what if all world is really a stage and we are part of an all-encompassing make-believe?
With my marriage drawing near I now know exactly how Sam feels when the door of her cage is left open. She carefully stretches out her beak, tests the air and then reaches up to the door to clang it shut. No adventurous explorations for her, thank you very much.
I do the same, or perhaps we all do, when we are faced with these “what ifs” which we’d much rather not answer, and go back to our daily loves and hates, our pet peeves, and in this case, our quarrelsome pet, the adorable, barmy chatterbox, Sam.