Once upon a time…
Although he loved her from afar, she was more interested in what he could do for her. She sized him up fairly quickly, determined him to be reliable, then volunteered him to watch her cockatoo for the holiday break.
“I’ll be back next week. Its food is in the plastic bag on the bench. Give it some fruit once or twice a day too,” she said breezily over her shoulder as if parenting parrots came naturally.
“What type of fruit?” he called after her as the door slammed on her way out. The parrot gave an ear-splitting squark. He blinked at the bird, waiting for it to stop, but the bird only became louder and more insistent.
He examined the bird more closely. It appeared unkempt and its cage was dirty. Perhaps if he took excellent care of the bird, she’d see him in a different light? As neighbours in adjacent apartments, he had always been particularly courteous to her, even when she pretended not to see him. He would pick up her packages and carry up her groceries, while empathetically listening to endless stories about her mother. He would change her lightbulbs and retrieve her prescriptions. From time to time he even caught the tiny vermin that entered her apartment. He had seen some of the larger vermin leave her apartment in the early morning hours, promising to call.
Now, he looked at the bird thoughtfully. There must be more to taking care of a bird than feeding them nuts and seeds with the occasional piece of fruit. It seemed to want something on his counter. Not the stack of library books that needed to be returned. Not the leftover Chinese takeout, now cold and congealed in its foam clamshell container. Not the bills that he couldn’t figure out how he was going to pay this month.
He offered the bird the food she had left. He gave the bird fresh water. He even thoroughly cleaned its cage, replacing the filthy liner while wearing large yellow rubber gloves. For each gesture, the cockatoo puffed up its feathers and hissed at him in annoyance, chirping loudly to let him know that each offering was unacceptable.
“What do you want?” he finally asked the bird in frustration.
“Ted Hughes,” the bird chirped.
Ted Hughes? Ted Hughes, the marginal poet who married Sylvia Plath? He was apparently such a horrible man that eventually his wife, his mistress, and his son all took their own lives. His mistress even killed their daughter! Ted Hughes? What a request.
“Ted HUGHES,” the bird squawked.
He fumbled with his iPhone, pulling up one of the poet’s works.
“DOOR! DOOR!” the bird called out, a plaintive cry that made him quickly open the cage door. The bird jumped up and immediately rested its head on his shoulder.
“Here’s a short one—”
“Ted HUGHES,” the bird squawked.
“Yes, buddy – Ted Hughes. Ready?”
The bird snuggled more fully into his chest, preparing to listen. It looked up at him in a wholly expectant way, head slightly cocked to the side.
“The empty world, from which the last cry. Flapped hugely, hopelessly away…”
At the end of the poem, the bird spread its feathers, raised its crest, and flapped its wings applaudingly.
“Oh, you liked that?” He said, smiling. He went over to the kitchen, with the cockatoo now curled around his shoulder, looking for an apple to pare. The bird’s grateful reaction to the carefully prepared treat was immensely satisfying.
“SHELL-ey!” the bird squawked.
“Say again?” He looked down at the bird, now the cockatoo returning his gaze with one of absolute wonder and trust.
Shelley? Percy Shelley? The British romantic poet who cheated on his first wife, Harriet, who then committed suicide while pregnant with their child? Shelley, who took copious amounts of opium while espousing radical views about free love, atheism, and vegetarianism?
“Shell-ey…” the bird said quietly and nuzzled his neck.
He tapped his iPhone in earnest.
“Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! Bird thou never wert, That from Heaven, or near it, Pour thy full heart In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.”
The bird did its best to kiss him.
He tapped his iPhone again. “It says here that since you don’t have a partner, you might need me to scratch your head.” The bird held its head up from off his chest. He lightly scratched the feathers on top of the bird’s head and neck. The bird seemed far happier, having help with preening the areas he could not reach.
“Now, let’s see your nails,” he said to the bird. The bird spread out his claws and held a foot up for his inspection. Just as he suspected: overgrown. “Hold on, little fella, pedicures aren’t just for the ladies,” he said, while walking to the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. He retrieved a nail file from a small shelf and began to file the bird’s claws down.
“EM-Lee,” the bird cooed. “EM-Lee.” The bird flapped over to the counter and began to peck at his upturned iPhone.
“I’ll take it from here, buddy” he smiled, rescuing the electronic device from the curious cockatoo. “Who are you researching? Em Lee? Emily? Emily Dickinson?”
The cockatoo bobbed and weaved its affirmation.
“Oh, I have one of Dickinson’s poems memorised from high school,” he smiled at the bird and dramatically cleared his voice to the bird’s great delight. “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. And sings the tune without the words. And never stops – at all …”
In a burst of joy, the bird fluttered all of its feathers and took flight, gliding in a tight circle around the small apartment, causing him to laugh. Then the two of them sat and watched a movie together, sharing a few stale pistachios and slices of apple.
She returned several days later than expected to pick up her bird. At the sight of her, the cockatoo retreated into his clean cage and loudly chirped his displeasure, hissing as she drew near.
“What’s wrong with it?” she said.
“Nothing,” he said. “He’s been wonderful this past week.”
“…You know, I’m exhausted from my trip. Would you mind keeping it for one more night?” she asked, battering her eyelashes.
“I wouldn’t mind keeping him for good,” he boldly stated, staring her full in the face.
“POE,” screeched the bird and hissed at her again.
“What’s wrong with it?” she repeated.
“Nothing is wrong with him. He just really likes Edgar Allan Poe.”
“Who?” she asked, looking between her neighbour and the bird, suddenly feeling like an outsider.
“Do you want to go home with this woman?” he directly asked the cockatoo.
“NEVERMORE,” shrieked the bird.
“Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart one who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them.”
Moral of the Story:
Most people want a soul-fulfilling relationship. Someone we can share all of ourselves with – not just a part of us the other may deem acceptable. We want someone who is capable of seeing and honouring all our different facets. To do this we must get to know the aspects of both our inner feminine and masculine halves, which combined make up the blueprint of our multi-faceted soul self. The more discordant our parent’s relationship (which modelled a blueprint of these inner gender roles) the greater the challenge we have to harmonise these opposing forces within. Here’s the thing: our opposite polarities must be balanced internally before we can enjoy equal and balanced partnerships. This awareness helps us to individuate from the conditioning we received in childhood. In this way, we can reclaim our unique and authentic personal self-expression.
Within all of nature we see the divine design of perfect symmetry. By seeing and understanding that we each contain both feminine and masculine energies that are seeking to be brought into balance, we can find greater authenticity, vulnerability, and emotional and psychological intimacy with both men and women in our lives. This is how we create a foundation for conscious community. Whether it’s a relationship, a business, or a small house plant, everything needs to be nurtured to grow. Nurturing is an expression of feminine energy which can translate in many ways – elegance, sensuality, fertility, and creative expression. To nurture anything is to supply the loving attentiveness necessary for that thing to flourish in abundance. From a place of loving compassion and support, you can literally grow anything! When you see it as a gift and an honour to tend to others, you also receive reciprocal flow. Bring your creative ideas into being by nurturing them and supporting their growth. Allow those designs and their manifestation to flow through you by acting with compassion and demonstrating loving attentiveness. Like fertiliser for your dreams and aspirations, this is the power of nurture.
“Love is meant to nurture and not enslave.”
Affirmation: I show up in each moment with loving attentiveness
I am alive to the joys of living. Boundless creativity helps me to connect to the world. I open my heart to the love, happiness, and possibility in each moment. Problems are chances for me to become stronger. I am a magnet for blessings and I trust the process of life to take me to my highest good. I am free to speak up for myself. I am now secure in my own expression and I communicate only with love. I balance my masculine and feminine energies easily and effortlessly. It is with flexibility and ease that I see all sides of an issue and I show loving compassion for myself and others. I share my feelings and my love. I respond to love in everyone. I easily forgive and let go. I love myself and reward myself with thoughts of praise. I effortlessly create a new life with new rules that totally support me. My creations fill me with vitality. It is safe to be me.
“Any fool can break something, criticise someone, and tear things
apart. It takes a far more skilled, wise, and kind soul to build
something, nurture someone,
fix things and help others thrive over time.”