In the late 80’s I was the veterinarian of a large avian breeding facility in Florida. Among our projects were new hand-raising techniques for the Palm Cockatoo. As with many bird species in captivity, the cockatoo had proved difficult to raise. Many of them were ill, had stunted growth, and did not survive their first year. One of the healthiest chicks we had was Sunshine. He was such a bright spot of hope, for his problem-free robust health indicated to us that our hand-raising techniques were nearing perfection.
Then one morning, Dreama, the nursery manager, called. "I think something is wrong with Sunshine - I may have burned his crop." The young birds were fed a heated liquid diet, sometimes too hot. Burns to a bird's crop were sadly common. Dreama's competence kept such accidetns rare, but examination revealed that Sunshine did indeed suffer a burned crop. We did everything we could to avoid surgery, but there was no way around it. I would have to go in and take out the ruined tissue and put the crop back together again.
I invited Dreama into the surgery room with Sharon, the head veterinary technologist, and me. Everything was going well as I cut away the extensive damaged tissues. When it came time to sew the crop back together again, I had a hard time finding anything to sew. It was probably clear to Dreama and Sharon that I was stressed. I kept poking around and lifting up likely flaps of tissue, wondering if they were of crop or not. Between the burn and the surgery it was a mess. The needle holders slipped from my hand and fell to the floor. For a moment I stood there, collecting myself. Asked Dreama, “So, do they teach you how to do crop burn surgery in veterinary school?”
I mumbled a response, got new needle holders, and did find a way to stitch the bird back together again. Afterwards Dreama sat on the floor stroking the dark black bird with rosy check patches as Sunshine awoke from anesthesia. He recovered with no complications and grew into a large dark beauty, with perhaps a smaller crop than usual. Despite his accident and surgery, Sunshine to us was a perfect bird from start to finish. It was not his imperfection we suspected, but our own when we looked at Sunshine’s scars. Our doubts often kept us from seeing how perfection touched all of us at this breeding ranch – it lived around us and in us. Perhaps if we could have seen this we would not have needed to capture such beauty and could kiss the joy as it flew.
Where do your own need and sense of imperfection haunt you?
How might you feel as good about yourself and other humans as you feel about seeing an exciting and beautiful bird?