This morning Scott and Leno from Mariana Aviaries came to pick me up in Antigua. I worked with them both when I was the veterinarian at Mariana and have known them for 20 years; we haven’t seen each other for over 13 years. The years have left the marks on all our faces and hearts, though the attachment I feel for them has not wavered. It’s great to see them and to have them host me for a day seeing the site where they will move Mariana Aviaries over the next few years.
Scott and I walk over the land where the birds will be one day, up through the deforested area as we see brown, fires, and haze everywhere.
I ask him if he has hopes for the birds as we have been speaking of the encroachment of sugar cane in the Costa Sur (South Coast), and the difficulty of conservation efforts given the socio-economic-political environment here. He feels that the hope is in “controlled areas,” such as in private areas where birds and forests can be “managed.” Free flying parrots without extensive management may be a hope not to be realized in many parts of Guatemala.
Yet I see hope here, in these two, and what they dream for and what they have built along with Nini de Berger, owner and sustainer of this project and so many others. Leno spoke of this hope as we drive through field after field of sugar cane, that I once knew as fields with giant ceibas towering over them, homes to Yellow-naped Amazons and Caracaras. I asked him if he had hope for the birds and he said not really for even without poaching what would they eat with all the sugar cane? I then asked him, “Why work for bird conservation then?” He said it is in the very work that the hope lies. We can protect some areas that are left. He used the word “nosotros,” we, and not “yo,” I. There it is then, together we can protect and nourish life.
I am reminded of the sensibility that states: I may not be able to save it all, but who am I to desist from the work where we might even save one, and I add, ourselves in the process? And it is not the single “I” that saves or even the human “we,” but the we of interdependence that flies, crawls, and photosynthesizes.
Before leaving the aviaries I spend time with my old friend, Moses, a Yellow-naped Amazon whose parents had abandoned him as an egg in Finca Trebol. So many poachers were climbing the tree to pluck the chicks as soon as they hatched that the parents finally gave up. So we took the eggs into our laboratory, assuming they were dead after three days abandonment, and lo and behold, one chick was still alive, hatched, and grew from egg to adult and lived in my home.
He is tall and slender for his species, a quiet bird, and watches me intently. He, like the feather near the women’s begging cup, is asking me, what does it mean to be human in communities of mixed species and what are you going to do about it?!
In the Sufi tradition, there is a central text called the Conference of the Birds which I am rereading on this trip. In the beginning it speaks of how a feather has been dropped from God as a sign of the power of love to transform us into accepting the unity of existence. In each of us is a feather’s counterpart, calling us to wholeness and to love.
These feathers, this Moses, these birds are a sign of love. What then are we going to do about it?