Wings and Things.



When I was little, really little, we had two pet parakeets.  Their names were Pretty Boy and Billy.  I don’t know when we got these birds or how they came about.  But I really liked them.

They lived in a tall cage in our kitchen.  I don’t remember those birds making too much noise.  Ever.  Pretty Boy was green, and Billy was blue.  I don’t know how they got their names, either.

I used to stand on a chair at the far end of the kitchen and talk to these birds for extended periods of time.  I liked spending time with them.  They had a little mirror in their cage.  They would stand on a tiny perch in front of that little foil reflector, and bob their heads, pecking at the image in front of them on occasion.  It was my understanding, they acted this way, because the parakeets thought they were beautiful, and were giving themselves congratulatory kisses in that mirror, mirror, on the wall.

Now, Billy was a homebody.  He never tried the jailbreak deal.  But more often than not, Pretty Boy would find a way to fly the coop.  I don’t know how he always got out.  I can’t imagine any little kid leaving the door to the cage ajar.  But Pretty Boy would bust the move.

Once he was out, he would follow the same exact flight pattern.  right out of the cage, he would sprint over the kitchen table, through the kitchen hall, and out to the living room.  Once he was in the living room, he took a sharp left, passed the table lamp, and head right for the huge wall mirror on the west end of the house.

He would pick up speed, only to have the flight cut short, by an abrupt intersection with the mirror.  He would smack it hard, and slither down the mirror, and drop on the mantle.  At that point, Dad, or one of the older kids would retrieve him, carry his limp body back to the cage, and lay him on the newspaper on the floor inside.

A few minutes (or more) later, Pretty Boy would shake his little head, get up to his feet, and climb back up to the nearest perch.  And he would sit there, in quiet calm. He seemed to be reflecting, without his little mirror.

The next time, it would happen, exactly the same.

This never killed Pretty Boy.  But one Sunday morning, we came from Mass, and both birds were bloodied and dead in the bottom of that cage.  I cried, and cried, and cried.   I was told they pecked each other to death. To this day, I don’t believe it.  I talked to those birds daily and I never heard an ill word between them.

I suspected it was a Parakeet Murder.  Now a Cold Case for sure.  But I bet it was one of many in the Parakeet World.  Serial Bird Killer.  Nonetheless.

Back to Pretty Boy and his Grand Escapes.  He did the same thing again and again, always returning with the same fate.  At least that is how it appeared to us.   But now, looking back, I see it differently.  That bird got the chance to fly.  To spread his wings and fly like the wind.  And in front of him, he saw a wide open space.  Another bird was coming from the opposite direction, so it must have been wide and open and free.  And once he hit that mirror and fell into unconsciousness, perhaps he was free.  Perhaps he continued to fly, and to see the tops of trees, and brush his feathers right up against the whitest of clouds.  He flew and he flew.  There was no stopping him now.  He found his freedom, his joy.  He was on his way.

And when he woke… he yearned to do it all over.  Again, and again, and all over again.  He found his truth.  His bliss.

He didn’t do it because it because it made sense.

He did it because he had to fly.

As Joan Walsh Anglund or later, Maya Angelou noted…. “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

And that is life.  We should all sing.  Because we have a song.  We should fly, because we have the wings.

Dream big and dare to fail. – Norman Vaughan

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. – Lao Tzu

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. – T.S. Eliot