Question: What's yellow and florescent green, rolls like a feather-covered Nerf Ball, and squawks loud enough wake up an entire rain forest?
Answer: Shakespeare. No, not the famous bard, but my Amazon parrot (aka "Shaky"), when he's battling a 60-mile-an-hour gust of wind.
Now, before you call PETA, let me assure you that no avian creatures were harmed in the making of this blog. Here's what happened.
A week ago, Shaky and I headed out for a routine walk around our local pond. The sky was sunny and the temperature cracked an astounding 70 degrees, which is rare for New England in November. The wind was noticeable, but not strong enough to cancel the walk or dislodge Shaky from his mobile perch -- my shoulder, which provides a great view of the pond. While Shaky's perfectly capable of flying, he prefers to hitch a ride with me and provide non-stop commentary on things going on in the immediate environment. If I don't stop and look at something he deems important, like a beautiful swan or the rare albino squirrel living in the big oak tree, he'll gently give my ear lobe a tug with his beak (his version of "Gibbs-slap").
As we rounded the first bend on our journey, I felt as if we'd stepped into a whimsical Impressionist painting. The autumn leaves created a mélange of color, some sparkling from the sunlight poking through the semi-bare trees that shroud the pond.
Shakespeare had quite a bit to say about the view. I stopped, turned my head, and paid attention to the red, orange, and pinkish leaves floating on the surface. No ear nip, so I knew I was observing nature like a curious botanist, which is what Shaky expected of me.
Then Shaky cut his soliloquy abruptly short, something he rarely does. I looked at him to figure out why, and saw fear in his eyes. Within moments, a gale-force wind swept across the pond, sending leaves 20 feet in the air and knocking Shaky off my shoulder. I couldn't believe the sight -- the maelstrom of leaves flying about and my dear companion of 30-plus years tumbling head over tail, flapping his wings as he tried to gain control. A second gust swept over the water, pumping up Shakey's wings like a sail and pushing him dangerously close to the four lane highway that runs along the southern portion of the pond.
My concern turned to panic as I watched cars and trucks whiz by; if Shaky couldn't regain his equilibrium he'd surely become a two-dimensional display on the asphalt. Instinctively I wanted to rush towards him, but my gut told me there wasn't time. Instead, I stopped, relaxed my body, and shouted in a loud voice, "Shakespeare, be calm. Stay, Shakespeare. Stay right where you are. Relax."
No sooner had the words left my mouth then I realized how absurd it was to try and talk a bird down from a panic attack. A human? Possibly. But a bird? Remarkably, Shaky folded his wings tightly into his body, then tucked his head down into his belly, and hunkered down into the grass. I made a beeline straight for him, picked him up with both hands and placed him in my jacket. I was surprised he allowed me to swaddle him like that -- birds typically resist being confined. I then headed home, frequently telling Shaky to stay calm and praising him for listening. "Good bird." Once inside our house, he flew into his cage and stood on his perch, where, I'm sure, he felt safe and secure.
Emotionally drained, Shaky sang out, "I'm a good bird," several times, loud and clear. And I profusely agreed. I then took time to reflect on the incident and Shaky's remarkable un-bird-like behavior. Though we've been connected for some 30 years, never had we communicated so clearly as this. His behavior, in this moment of crisis, reflected his utmost trust in me -- try stuffing a bird into your jacket under normal circumstances and you'll wind up with an assortment of beak bites and claw marks on your skin.
As I thought about the incident, I realized that there were some important lessons I could learn, aside from never underestimating the capriciousness of the weather in New England.
Gale Force Lesson One: Calm action and self-trust gives you the power you need in order to get the outcome that you want to achieve. Frantic flailing only adds to the struggle and decreases your chances of winning.
Gale Force Lesson Two: You can imagine a positive outcome and quickly map out a plan for winning, but, if you hesitate, you interrupt the flow between your thoughts and your action. And you often pay the consequence, which is failure to succeed.
Gale Force Lesson Three: When two or more minds align in the name of a specific outcome (in this case two minds: my mind aligning with Shakespeare's mind), there is no force in nature that can prevent you from accomplishing your aim.
Gale Force Lesson Four: When you concentrate your energy on a future possibility, your energy attracts the right and perfect acts that bring that possibility to fruition. Both Shakespeare and I acted in perfect harmony to bring him home safely.
Gale Force Lesson Five: Every sunrise offers priceless opportunities, and you experience the richness that the world holds whenever you take time to offer gratitude for the blessings that life offers.
End of story? Not quite. Later that night, Shaky was talking up a storm while eating his sunflower treats. And what was he saying? Two sentences that he'd learned long ago, and sensed it was appropriate to put them together right then, "I'm a good bird. Thank you, Rob." He said this over and over again.
Yeah. Good bird.