Pet Stories: In Your Own Words
I felt the sadness of seeing a beautiful thing bound when I met Crackers. This little feathered jewel of a cockatiel, body all shades of gray, from the silver of a San Francisco fog to the shadows of your deepest thoughts, yellow head framed by a pair of orange-red clown noses for ear patches, spent his days in a cage mostly alone - a cruel fate for such an intensely social, intelligent creature of the flock.
I think as I stood sensing the smallness of the lonely bird's life, Crackers and I connected. A psychic later told me that we had communicated frequently through dreams.
We must have done a good job of setting things up. A few years later Crackers was living with me, deposited by Norma, his guardian. In spite of my resolution not to get another animal, I guess Crackers and I were meant to be together, fleshing out another chapter in the ongoing tale of two souls' mutual adoration.
Later I would discover that birds should stay in their cages during the first few days in a new home to accustom them to their surroundings. But knowing nothing about feathered beings then, I immediately took Crackers out of his cage.
He never looked back.
In a week he was squawking indignantly if I left him in his cage too long in the morning and biting me when I had to put him there for safety when I left. He rapidly trained me to cut down on my times away from home, a habit I still follow.
Early on he crawled into an open cupboard and stayed there for hours chirping and chuckling with joy at his first experience of "nesting." Crackers had never been exposed to a "nest" in all his 12 years, but he knew immediately what to do. It was my introduction to how close Crackers was to his own wisdom.
During those first days, he bounded through new experiences, flying, getting in bed with me (being under the covers was a perfect nest), and exploring my apartment. One day while sitting on my shoulder, he lowered his head for scratches. Crackers was slowly admitting me into his flock.
It was my first lesson in his capacity for love. Norma has visited him infrequently in the five years that I have had him. But he has never forgotten her. He greets her with excited tweets and kisses. I am full of judgment about her treatment of him. Crackers is full of only love.
Crackers entered into our relationship in small steps, beginning with the dropping of his head. After a couple of months I thought that we had bonded. But it is only now, when somehow, indescribably, I always carry Crackers around in a heart flowering from his presence, and I know he does the same for me, that I can look back and know that it took a full year for our tie to morph from one of human/pet into that of two spirits.
To Crackers, I am his mate. To me, I am his mommy. Our love melts the differences and makes it all work.
These days those few minutes of head scratching have turned into very long daily sessions. If not sitting on my shoulder or preening my eyelashes, Crackers is always just a few feet away, following me around like a puppy.
This constantly chattering little being is a cuddle muffin. He nestles between my index and middle fingers, putting his wings on the outside so that my fingers are between wings and body. He then squeezes his wings tightly against my fingers, to snuggle as close as possible, and falls asleep.
When I recently broke my ankle, he hovered about me making the same little peeping sounds he made when he himself was sick last year.
But underneath his dear little bird personality, in the way that you know about another whom you love deeply, in Crackers I sense an oldness always aware of life's unseen patterns. Sometimes he stops and stares into space, communicating, I am sure, with the spirits.
His purity humbles me. I have investigated many esoteric practices and traveled the world in search of that elusive something. Through Crackers, I have seen the essence of all the teachings boil down simply to being who you are. Crackers lives in profound honesty. I stand beside him full of the dos and don'ts of lifetimes of being human. But he grabs at life, all of it, channeling it unedited into hoots and songs and bites and kisses. He makes ridiculous hollers without a thought as to how they sound. He demands his desires be filled. He squawks when angry. He asks for love unashamedly and returns it without reservation.
This former captive is teaching me much about freedom.