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All This Bull----

Friday, June 23, 2006

Luther pants in the muggy heat inside his tent. Day 24.

June 22. Luther is 24 days old. While Shila and I watch, open-mouthed, he launches himself from his perch, grabs a little white miller off the tent wall, returns to his perch, masticates it, and swallows it. We cheer and whoop. I kiss Luther atop his head. I can taste freedom, theirs and mine.Avis pecks the lens. This behavior is very Avis. She is a stinkpot. She pecks Luther and me, too. They don't call them tyrannid flycatchers for nothing.

This morning, Phoebe took a dish of mealworms out and put it atop an overturned joint compound bucket where the young phoebes could easily land and pick them up. Each bird ate ten worms from the forceps. So we know they like them. We'll see what happens. If we can get them feeding themselves, maybe we could, um, go to the grocery store? Go out to dinner? Ride the bike trail? See a movie? Just get in the frickin' car and drive?
This is why I am not a full-time wildlife rehabilitator. I have waaay too much living to do, too many other people and too much else to care for, to devote my life to nestsful of baby bunnies that need to be fed every two hours all night. There are women who do that, and I am deeply grateful that they do it, but I am not one of them. I will gladly give a month of my life to baby hummingbirds, phoebes, chimney swifts. But I won't raise baby house sparrows, starlings or grackles. I'm in this for what I can get out of it, and I'm not ashamed to say that. I'm after birds that are, quite frankly, worth my time, birds that can become part of my life's work. My vision for our future does not include acres of cages, teen-age volunteers, or Boy Scout troops coming to look at all the busted birds. It fiddles with, but skirts around burnout. I tell people who call with baby bunnies or squirrels or coons that I don't deal with mammals. I'm happy to field calls, but most of the time I tell people to put the bird or animal right back where they found it, because they've unknowingly abducted it from its parents. I admit that I have an aversion to hearing the phone ring in June and July.
(Unless it's my darlin' on the other end of the line.)
And yet...I know I'm in deep. I've been told as much. Someone who has known me for years once spent some time at our house, and witnessed first hand the whirl of work and activity that sustains the arksworth of life forms here at Indigo Hill. He sat me down, and with real concern, incredulity and conviction, said, "Julie, why don't you get rid of all this stuff? It's bullsh-t! All that writing, that painting... You don't need all this! All these plants and birds and turtles and fish, the bonsai trees, the gardens, all this stuff you take care of, it's all bullsh-t! Get rid of it! Just take care of your children!"

I stared back at him, thankful that he hadn't thrown Chet Baker into his carpetbag of what constitutes bullsh-t. (That could have gotten ugly.) For once, I took the time to collect my thoughts. I was astonished, taken aback, more than a little angry, and thoroughly unrepentant. I chose my words carefully.

"All this bullsh-t is what makes me who I am." Raising the nurturing fist. Photo by Shila Wilson.

"And being raised by a mother with a lot of outside interests makes my children who they are. And I happen to like the people we are."


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