My dreams are caught in a dance with the rain. Last night I lived a thousand lives in the vines of my subconscious mind. Every time I woke I heard the barrage of water droplets descending on the roof like it was their intention to make it cave. I was afraid to go back to sleep because the initial nightmare felt like weeks… and only an hour had passed.
The devil’s dance luckily subsided, and something a touch more cordial took over, albeit with a sense of bottled up ferocity. The details of my dreams were too numerous to grasp, and their volume and intensity left me feeling weathered like the stones of the rolling river.
Apparently there’s a flower here which will enhance your dreams if placed upon a pillow. Had I used it last night I might have got stuck in a whirlpool of my hidden fears.
Most mornings here begin clear, but the rain still scurried from the clouds to the ground. My mind felt like it was beaten through the sockets in my eyes, and the first couple hours were spent toiling in a delirious daze. I cut up fruit for the birds but I couldn’t tell you any more about the morning. It took until about four in the afternoon just to feel like my feet had landed on the ground.
Every day we have a meeting about the animals at five. Today’s debriefing made me laugh because nobody knew exactly how many birds were supposed to be in the cage. The sheet says 13, but we only counted 12. The previous group working with birds forgot to count the last few days, so if one had escaped we had no idea when it would have happened. Someone said one died but that was a couple months ago. The question remained: how many birds are supposed to be in the cage?
A couple hours later we were given an answer on the correct number of birds. It was 12. The whole conversation seemed to lighten the mood a touch, which was dark like the day. One of the howler monkeys passed away in the night, which was tough.
Yesterday I asked one of the long-term volunteers what the hardest part of being out here was and she said loss. “There’s a lot of loss out here. I think that’s the hardest part about life in general,” she continued. I didn’t disagree.
We also talked about the best day of our lives, which she had an immediate answer for. I kind of stumbled around the question with uncertainty, but she knew exactly. It was the day she released a group of wooly monkeys back into the wild. I suppose she was released on that day, too. The light in her eyes makes the hard work here easier.
When you’re picking up animal shit in the rain all day it’s easy to wonder why you signed up for this, but those thoughts get washed away when you feel the passion of the project through the glow of the people involved. Every day I learn more about the connections that have been built between the people and animals, which makes things easier and harder at the same time. It’s easier to put all you have into the work but harder when loss inevitably falls. The loss of the howler monkey in the morning hit especially hard because the connection with the volunteers was especially strong.
I’ve started to develop my own connection with one of the animals, a parrot named Julia. There’s a large cage of seven birds, and Julia lives in solitary right next to them. She’s unable to fly and the other birds won’t accept her into the big cage. We’re supposed to leave the door open while we clean in the hope she’ll wander around and the others won’t be so mean to her.
Yesterday (the first day I worked with her) she stayed in her cage the whole time. Today, she ventured into the big cage. Another parrot tried to bite her wing, so I shooed him away with the branch of a fern. Julia started to climb up the side of the cage and made way towards the back. The other parrots left her alone. I felt proud in the purest sense as I sang the song “Julia” out loud, one of my favorites from the band Mt Joy.
It’s hard to explain why I felt so connected to Julia from the start; somehow I saw something familiar in her eyes. I think we’ve all had it happen with another person. You meet someone and you feel like you’ve known them your entire life. I never expected it to happen with a bird, but the unexpected has broken apart the shell of what I thought I understood.
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