We pray to the birds.
We pray to the birds because we believe they will carry the messages of our heart outward
We pray with them because we believe in their existence,
The way their songs begin and end each day – their invocations and benedictions of earth.
The birds pray for us to remind us of what we love rather than what we fear.
And at the end of all prayers
They teach us to listen
- Terry Tempest Williams
In this moment the songs of the Puerto Rican Parrot are ending this day in Luquillo Forest. I listen to their voices that are just like a prayer, calling out love, and calling love out of me. Here in this place, the people’s work to bring back the Puerto Rican Parrot from the brink of extinction is a prayer of service.
Arriving yesterday afternoon, the aviary manager Jafet Velez-Valentin (http://www.fws.gov/caribbean-ecoteam/PRP_partners.htm) showed me around the el aviario Iguaca.
Under the canopy of trees sheltering the somewhat isolated breeding cages I had the sense that we were on sacred ground. The winding path that connects each cage connects the generations of birds and people that have gone before to the two of us.
Each step we take approximates a walking meditation as we admire the work, the native flora and fauna, and each other’s hope for this particular species. It’s as if an ancient labyrinth has sprung up in the tropical landscape, leading us on a shared journey into the past of neocolonialism and in general the good, the bad, and the ugly of our species. Out of the darkness, we find the center; the beauty and love of birds. Strengthened by this wholly interconnection, we remerge into the sunlight convinced we are nature’s own, and not alone, ever.
In this new light after decades of the Puerto Rican Parrot Project, of which I was part over ten years ago, even the large flight cages with their reaching arches remind me of a natural cathedral. It is not filled with idols or humans’ guess at the divine, but with living spirit flying over the earth.
This morning when I shared morning’s rise with the workers here we spoke of this place, of how my time here is like a spiritual retreat for me, and for them each day. Our voices fall to a whisper, we look up to the birds, and give praise that we may live another day honored to be with these birds and with one another, and offer prayers to the holy that these birds may not just live another decade, but flourish.
May it be so. Blessed Be.
(stay tuned - tomorrow I go in search of free flying Puerto Rican Parrots and to observe the placement of radio telemetry collars in anticipation of an upcoming release of birds into the wild)