the end of winter this year is long and cold, but veek does not mind. his feathers, fluffed up for the night as he sleeps with his flockmates in their dense evergreen roost, keep him perfectly warm.
as he awakens in the early dawn he becomes aware of zif, his play-mate, nestled into his side, still asleep. he chirps in her ear:
she stirs slowly, enjoying the comfort and warmth and companionship of their bodies together.
soon the dawn chorus begins: the males of the flock each take turns serenading the females, one-to-one, calling them by name, welcoming them back to waking life, and the females return the song. this is what chickadees do, an expression of their love for each other. veek and zif’s flock is ten chickadees strong, the alpha breeding pair and eight juveniles, unrelated to any others, who have joined the flock from neighbouring flocks to vary and enrich the potential gene pool, and perhaps vie for the rights, this year, to be the breeding pair for this twelve acres (five hectares), this flock’s home.
in the morning sun the birds shake off their night-time torpor as their body temperature rises as much as ten degrees celsius (eighteen degrees fahrenheit) to equip them for the day’s activities. veek preens zif’s feathers, gently. she sings to him:
hungry. thirsty. let’s play. come.
she soars up, 150 metres (500 feet) into the sky, and calls:
veek replies with a scolding cluck: there are hawks and eagles about, and such play is dangerous. she shrugs him off, just flying, joyfully, silently.
reluctantly veek joins her, and soon two other juveniles of the flock soar up as well, unable to resist this cosmic dance, this expression of boundless freedom and happiness.
let’s migrate, she calls. go a mile high and thirty miles (50 km) an hour.
chickadees rarely migrate, but when conditions are harsh or numbers too high to be comfortably accommodated, small spontaneous migrations to a different part of their natural habitat will occur.
zif settles back on the branch beside veek. he climbs onto her tail feathers. she chastises him:
get off, silly. we’re not the breeding pair.
we could be, veek replies. sex ten times a day, lovely cloacal kisses?
besides, she continues, play-mating is just as much fun. the pleasure of flirting without the responsibility of the consequences of breeding.
farik, the slow, wise chickadee, is going away, alone, observes veek. he always tells us useful things, but he is too slow now to escape the owls and eagles.
spiders, yum, signals zif.
humans are foolish, sings veek. look. this one runs around in circles for no reason. see, the grouse bird jumps on his shoulder as he runs to tell him so. ‘slow down’, she tells him. ‘be with me, here, now’. but he keeps running. the silent creature the human wears on his wrist looks like a parasite, but seems to tell him what he must do. he looks at it, and then he runs faster. maybe this parasite is like our slow, wise chickadees. but its advice makes no sense. see, he looks at the parasite again, and now he stops running and, exhausted, walks back into his big cage and locks himself inside. nothing these humans do makes sense! and they’re so ugly. i am happy that there are no ugly birds.
the humans are parasites themselves, zif replies. look at that one, climbing into the big noisy creature they call ‘car’ that only runs in straight lines. these poor car-creatures do nothing by themselves. they are kept in cages like the humans’ cages only smaller. they only move when the humans tell them to. and the humans feed them, a strange food that smells like the bones of dinosaurs and makes their poop smell foul. we keep telling and showing these humans how to live, to be part of all life on Earth, to set free their ‘car’ slaves and free themselves from the parasites they wear on their wrists, but they don’t hear us. they’re not listening.
i’m glad they leave us all the food outside their cages, veek trills, but if they were all to suddenly disappear that would be good too.
oh look!, cries veek. that little bird flies into the invisible wall of the human’s cage. ouch! when i fly into something, i hurt. i want to stop his hurting!
it is sad, replies zif, but there is nothing we can do for him. if he’s strong, he will fly again. if not, he will be like the slow, wise chickadees and go away, returnto the Earth. we must not grieve. what is done is done.
come. enough sorrow, she sings, urgently. fly with me. be one with me, with all life, here, now, in joy. we must be strong. we must show the little ones the way.
and the foolish ones the way home.
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