Sunday, December 11, 2011


A bird is a fine feathered, four lettered, friend.

As domesticated animals, birds are relative newcomers to the game - starting around 2000 BC, far later than most other farm animals.  Originally used for their meat and eggs, it isn't until later that their talents are put to use in hunting and communication, nevermind as a pet.  But is is interesting to see how they have moved into their roles as family members, as much as household dogs and cats, and how their slightly-more-wild neighbors are simultaneously welcomed and reviled.

Ask any resident of New York City about the pigeons, and you will hear near universal hatred of them.  "Rats with wings" is the usual epithet.  And yet, at the same time, you will see people distributing crumbs to them... taking pictures of them... and otherwise welcoming their presence.  The movie musical Mary Poppins is filled with unforgettable songs.  But the one most loved by the Sherman brothers, who wrote all the music, and Walt Disney, who produced the move, is Feed the Birds - an almost haunting song talking about the pigeons around St Pauls Cathedral and a woman selling bags of crumbs to passersby.  Even I must admit to having some less-than-positive thoughts about a relatives birds, chirping up a storm in their cage, as I awaited a Thanksgiving day turkey dinner and watched Martha Stewart decorating with feathers... and threatened the same sort of fates to the caged critters.  But there is much that birds do give us.
Photo courtesy Jayne Firstenberg

Word reaches us this morning of the death of Poseph B. Poenstein, a budgie of exceptional and mysterious talent.  Although an accountant by day, this was just his secret identity, concealing his ninja-like powers - including the ability to mimic the other birds in his cage, his "kung-poe grip", and the stealthy sleep positioning that was more spread-eagle than spread-budgie.  Named after Edgar Allan Poe's, there was little raven-like about him.  I have been hearing about his antics for the past few years, and he brought light, flight, and song to all who met him.

As Jonathan Livingston Seagull reminds us - we don't need wings to fly.

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