So. I am still watching the eagles in Juneau Alaska, and the young’un is pretty much done with the nest. It fledged over a week ago, and has been in and out and lookin’ all grown up and stuff. Perching wherever it dang well pleases, getting the landing manuever more refined, doin’ their own thang (’cause it’s yo’ thang – do whatcha wanna do). This has been a sweet journey, and the days are short before the eaglet – now a fledgling – will disappear from camera view and start its own life. Those of us watching will never know whether it’s a male or female, because Alaska, or at least the site of the nest, doesn’t band or genetically test its eagles. I am thinking it’s a female because it seems to be a little bit larger than the male parent, but who knows. The nest site named this eaglet Kindness, and the parents are Mama Liberty and Papa Freedom. As if they care. But the watching humans cared, and we were all in on the quaint little family of apex predators that taught us so much about how to be…human.

I’m also watching some bats – flying foxes – and a big mix of birds in Praetoria, South Africa. The bats are odd…there are a few smaller fruit bats on the South African site, but whatever their type, they really don’t fly very well. They have the strangest wings, pointy and not really feathered. They have fingers or feet all over the wing span, and can latch on to just about anything. Then, of course, they rest upside down. The jury seems to be out on why they have adapted that posture, maybe to save time if attacked while at rest or asleep, but who knows. I find them creepy, but fascinating.

As I’m watching these birds, I’m usually wondering what they might be thinking (if they actually think, of course). The other day on the South African cam, which is a feeder cam, a freaking IBIS showed up. The ibis is a pretty large bird, and took up the entire feeder platform. It was as confused as the other birds, which were MUCH smaller (and way more noisy) critters. There are lovebirds of may colors, and exotic sparrows, thrushes, and even doves. There is a red-eyed speckled pigeon that was the largest of the regular feeding species…until the ibis showed up.

When the ibis plunked down on the platform, the mouse birds dispersed in a blur, the love birds eventually abandoned their feeder spots, and even the speckled pigeon (which can be somewhat of a bully) fluttered off. The ibis was left to its own devices for several minutes, and looked as though it was at a buffet…trying this seed ball…sticking the tip of its beak into the hanging seed feeders, sampling another suet ball…um de dum, let’s see what THIS tastes like. Then, as quickly as it arrived, it was gone in one might wing flap and a hearty *whoosh*. It took only a few seconds for the other birds to come back and get down to the business of eating again, and all was well.

I truly wonder where in the heck an ibis came from in Praetoria, although it’s kind of a sacred bird in Africa, though I always associated it more with Egypt. Close enough, I suppose.

All of the birds that show up on that camera are fascinating, some of which I’ve never heard of. The green wood hoopoe (bizarre name) doesn’t look all that green to me, more irridiscent blue, but it’s beautiful. The love birds are more like parakeets in various colors, including blue and white and somewhat rainbow-striped. The mouse birds have really long tail feathers, and tend to convene in large groups around a feeder or piece of fruit. The speckled pigeon, as I said, can be somewhat of a bully owing to its size. There’s also a red-eyed dove, which is essentially a pigeon as well. One of my favorites is the hornbill, which is about as big as the speckled pigeon, although two-thirds of its body is made up of its bill. The bill is, as the name implies, shaped like an animal’s horn, and often proves somewhat unwieldy to manipulate. Apparently its tongue is located pretty far back in the oral cavity, so to get food down its throat requires the bird to almost toss the food up in the air and catch it so that it is propelled to the back of the throat. Ah, well – a design flaw, it seems.

That particular feeder also attracts a couple of no-bird visitors – the bushy baby (which is adorable and has eyes that take up almost half of its face), and the genet. The genet is almost feline in appearance, and moves a lot like a cat. It’s not much bigger than a fairly good-sized domestic cat, but has a really unique pattern of spots, like a leopard. It’s pretty laid back and comes mostly at night, like the bush baby and the bats. Watching the activity at night is like gaining access to a secret world, where the rules are entirely different. from daylight hours. I would love to see what else is lurking beyond the camera range.

Watching these birds gives me some odd sense of piece. Everything in their world is exactly as they expect it to be at any given moment, because they really don’t have expectations. They have needs, and they have instincts. When they are hungry, their instincts lead them to food. If there is no food, they expand their search range. The sometimes compete over food, particularly if the supply is limited, but they have their own ways of determining dominance. Sometimes those disputes are settled brutally, but that is the way of nature.

Most of our observations seem to be intent upon assigning human characteristics to these no-human beings, and it often sounds like fairy tales. There were people watching the eagle camera who were convinced the eaglet was staring at the camera, but in actuality the eaglet had no idea the camera was there. It was located in another tree, a short distance away and mounted higher than the nest. Now that it has fledged, it seems the fledgling – or its parents – lands on top of the camera since it proves to be a convenient ledge perch. They just do what they do, and have no idea of the drama we assign to them from afar.

I sometimes have the bizarre wondering of whether extraterrestrials observe us here on Planet Earth in much the same way. Watching us doing what it is that we do, even when we don’t know what the hell we’re doing…raising families, searching for food, eating, treating each other brutally and then tenderly in the same breath. If we are being observed, it must be like a space-age soap opera, and I hope we are more amusing to them than we are to each other.

Perhaps I have become so enamored of these birds because they do not have to be concerned with the news, or current events, or emotions. They are not concerned with Afghanistan, or the Taliban, or politics. They don’t have their sleep interrupted by memories of stupid things they did five years ago, or the mating dance they did that didn’t go quite right, or the mate that just disappeared and never came back. No worries about health care or having enough money. They just go…on. It’s been demonstrated that elephants, some monkeys, and a few other species do grieve when a mate or comrade disappears. Sometimes they don’t know what has happened to the other, but they know something has changed and their partner is missing. But they go on.

I suppose we humans go on as well, but with a great deal more angst and hand wringing than is necessary at times. That’s because we have the feelings, emotions, sentiment, like and dislikes. Those emotions get in the way of action at times, although sometimes they motivate action. Frequently, however, they point me, at least, in the wrong direction. That, however, is what differentiates us from animals that operate more on instinct. I won’t reflect on which is better, which is the larger economy of scale, because I think it is what it is, and what it is equates to the way it is supposed to be.

Do things happen for a reason? Is there some predetermined plan that dictates every moment, every intersection of actions and reactions? I don’t know, but I know that when I do things that I feel have no purpose, or meaning, or result in nothingness I feel that I have wasted my time, or my energy, or my reason for being…or something. When I was taught that gratitude was an action word, I didn’t comprehend the meaning for quite a while. The explanation that made it easier for me was this – if I am grateful for my truck, I will take the actions necessary to prolong its service. I will make sure its routine maintenance is performed regularly, I will be observant about its performance, and so on.

That works just fine for my truck, since it’s a inanimate object. I have a harder time with sentient beings, even my dog. That’s where the unconditional part comes in – if my gratitude is conditional, I’m not sure it amounts to a whole lot. I cannot be grateful for my dog IF she behaves well, and doesn’t poop in the living room. There’s a logical – and ethical – error in there somewhere if I am only grateful for her 60% of the time. Do I then provide optimal care for her only 60% of the time? That really doesn’t work very well, and I feel that I would be pretending to be a deity if I did that.

The sticky part of that understanding, however, is that I comprehend the concept of conditional love and acceptance and even gratitude very well unless I come to apply unconditionality to myself. I do not forgive myself well, I do not offer myself grace. It’s the damnedest thing, and provokes most of the anxiety I experience. Memories of missteps and outtakes from years in the past still take up space in my head, in vivid detail, as though I experienced them yesterday (or sometimes 5 minutes ago). I suppose I could handle that if those experiences remained memories, like a video on rewind, but I consistently will attempt to replay them and behave differently. WTF? I know I can’t change the outcome, but these fantastic forays into what I should have said, what I should have done, how I should have responded get really old. Really, really old.

Why can I not let go of these things? What about retaining those hooks is working for me? Is it the misery itself? I cannot imagine misery is working for me, in any way. I do not want to be miserable. Is it the drama, the poor, poor me – look how inept and horrid I really am. If you really knew me, you wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me. You would understand what a big fraud I am, how I have everybody fooled and thinkingi I am a decent person. You just don’t know who you’re fooling with, don’t know who I really am, but when you find out…you’ll be gone.

So there. Maybe this whole fraud thing is some kind of intricate pre-emptive strike against abandonment? That might be way too simple, but it has a bit a of resonance . Maybe somewhere deep inside I figure that I know – instinctively – how to screw up and push people away before they can push me away. Maybe that’s buried in here somewhere, and that is what ultimately motivates me in relationships – get too close, feel the heat, throw some cold water on things and I will need to bare my fangs, extend my claws, draw some blood. Self protection is maybe how I see it, on some subconscious level. I suppose at this point I’m just not sure how to stop that instinctual reaction, especially when there is not actual threat. Of course, threat is purely subjective, and I suppose that I feel pending threats everywhere. All the time. All. The. Time. It is exhausting.

There is a large part of me that feels I will go to my death (and I hope that is a very long time from now) with this same mechanism firing blanks at some invisible target. Some days I feel I am my own target, even though I project the assault externally. But it seems to make a weird kind of sense that if I aim at something I fear will abandon me, that is ultimately a deprivation of what I am seeking so … I am taking aim at only myself. That’s kind of messed up, but it makes sense in some kind of weird way.

Maybe I’ve had way too much therapy. Maybe I spend too much time in my head, although I rather enjoy being present far more than being oblivious. I feel that works better than checking out all the time and harming other people because I’m just not paying attention to anybody but myself. I sometimes wish that I could stay in some zone where everything and everybody is at arm’s length, no extreme emotions or feelings, enough distance to feel warmth but not get burned. Such a complicated little thing I am.

I suppose this is all a reflection for another day, because I have just been to check out the eagles’ nest and Mama skidded in with a fish, but there was no young one to receive it. She hung around for a bit, eating it alone, and then calmly flew away. The young’un is probably out enjoying their newfound freedom, the open sky, all the sights they’ve never seen before. Mama is probably not having feelings of abandonment. She is probably just going on to the next thing and understanding on some deep level beyond thought that all is well, and as it should be. I envy her. She’s just an eagle, doing what eagles do in the moment at hand. As it should be.

I’ve got this.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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