Scarlet Macaw Parents Flying During Chick Exam (photo by Marcial Alvarez, WCS)
I arrive back to the USA on Earth Day, a fitting point of reflection to capture my month in Guatemala. I recall an editorial in the Prensa Libre on April 21 about “Día de la Tierra.” The author said that the earth like our body can regenerate and that it has mechanisms to break out of the ashes of a crushed forest, but only to a certain point. I wonder if we are getting close that point as I recall my month of fire and ashes in a country that loses more trees per year than Brazil, losing about 1% of its natural resources every year. When asked who is responsible for this I heard such anger, shame, and remorse come from the hearts and mouth of Guatemaltecos. Blame was placed on themselves, other biologists and conservationists, the narcotraficantes, the government, the wealthy, the indigenous people, the land invaders, and internationals. One conservationist described people as porquería (garbage) and others said that their hope for the future comes from the possibility that the human species to go extinct. It was rare that I heard praises sung of our kind. If we cannot have faith in humankind’s good, I wonder if we might turn to the birds to see what they see in us and what they might say…..
You ask me what I see in you when I look down on you from a high. I see such caring and compassion. You are spending so much effort and resources to save my kind from annihilation. There is kindness in your voice when you speak to my chicks below during your exams and when one of our chicks is sick I can feel your heart carry the concern with you as you walk from my home to yours. And still you find a way to laugh, play, and care for one another in your conservation projects. We share so much – we too care, protect, and prudently care for others and ourselves.
I worry though about how you see yourselves. There is blame in your voice and disgust of your own species. We don’t experience this as parrots. Perhaps it is because you don’t have the over view vista that we have. Blame isn’t even in our behavioral repertoire. What we see is that we all are beings interacting in complex ways trying to meet our individual and collective needs. There is no bad or good, just the process of ecology.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t get angry with you. You’ve heard my voice call out when you take my chicks’ temporarily from the nest. It is hard to trust your kind in general for from up here I see my forest burning, my food trees being cut down, and those who do not replace my chicks once they are roughly taken from by beloved nest cavity.
Even still I wish your kind no harm. I wish you well for my heart aches for you. There is such addiction in you, for I’m guessing you wish to still the pain. If only you could see what I see and know in my being. We are all inextricably interrelated, we are one. If I could give you anything it would be this knowing that I have; that happiness isn’t what life is about. The best that we can is to rise in love and in awareness of beauty out of the ashes of death.
We have a legend of our kind that we share with you – the Phoenix Bird as some call her. From her far up view as she circles the earth she can spot the fires over Guatemala and her heart breaks as she sees life disappear and suffer.
Guatemalan Fires 2005
But from that view she sees too the beauty of the whole, so she flies on and on, tail dipping in ashes and feathers burning with fiery loss. Though sometimes she falls to the earth under the burden of awareness, always she rises again with lightness in her heart. There is no other path for her. To hold the love and light she must also hold the darkness and the despair. As the witness for mother earth she holds us all in love, compassion, and kindness, no matter the harm we experience or cause. Hers is not an easy path, nor is yours, or ours. But we are not alone.
We travel together, helping each other fly above the mess of our daily lives to see the long perspective – that we are here to love another, love the earth, and love ourselves. Even though there is pain, there is always love. Love may not be enough to quench the fire of human desire, in this moment, in this decade, but I see it rising in you ever stronger throughout the years.
I want so desperately for my chicks to grow up and fly free. This too I wish for you and all your kind that your hearts soar like the Phoenix. May we all fly free together, forever.
Vuele juntos y vuele libre, para siempre!
Wearing the "Fly Free" wristbands during a chick exam