Sunday, May 19, 2013
I once knew a woman whose fear of cats teetered on the edge of phobia. She quaked in fear during her one visit to my house where, at the time, the cats numbered three. I know lots of people who don't like cats. She was the only one I've known who feared them, and I'll admit it: I judged her for it.
Occasionally you'll come across a person who was bitten by a dog as a kid and has put all dogs on the "out" list. Almost everyone else seems to fall somewhere in the range of "I like a nice dog" to "If it came down to my kids or my dog, I'd have to think long and hard ... ."
And then there are birds, in all their winged strangeness. Birds, in their inscrutable bird-brainedness. Their unpredictability. Their Hitchcockian fluttering. They are beautiful and unknowable, and oh, by the way -- they fly. They do this thing we cannot do without heavy machinery.
I spend more time around birds than the average person -- more time up-close with birds of all kinds, but especially birds of prey. Up close they become more beautiful and more strange. Up close, the communication between bird and human seems both more vivid and more elusive. That they try to communicate with us seems undeniable. What they mean is often another question, though they can be deliberate and clear when they dislike something.
Mostly, I think, they'd like us to leave them alone, and yet those of us who can't really can't. I might've mentioned here that I've been known to visit the caged birds at the pet store just to get summa whatever that is. We can't have a bird at our house. Wouldn't last long with the cats and dog, and to be honest the cage aspect of captive birds makes me anxious. What good is having a bird if you keep picturing the better life it might've had outdoors, where it could put those wings to good use?
And still, their beautiful strangeness is intoxicating. I cannot say why. Can you?
By the way, we had a whippoorwill in our backyard for a couple of nights recently. Whippoorwills are extra strange because they're super-camouflaged, thus much more often heard than seen. I was happy to have heard him or her. It's reassuring to be visited by something other than a robin or a finch.