Saturday, May 16, 2009

lessons in love

A year and a bit ago I was here, in Xian China.
I stayed in a hostel run by a charismatic guy from Jersey and his dog Charlie. Charlie is not just a normal dog, but one of the friendliest mascots a hostel could ever hope for. Charlie is also a very lucky dog.

Charlie was a street dog, the guy from Jersey explained, friends and I were all out on a drinking binge and I decided to adopt her. I mean, you have to be pretty drunk to think that adopting a Chinese street dog is a good idea. But she's amazing. This dog will teach you how to love. This dog loves so hard, it's changed my life.

And everywhere Jersey went, Charlie was at his heals, occasionally stopping to share some love with the hostel guests. And when the hostel, sadly, went under a few months later, Jersey took Charlie back to the states, a feat that surely involved patience and paperwork that only true love would inspire.

And it's been quite a year thinking about love and relationships and commitment and promises. Most of it is unbloggable as I generally try to follow "the rules of group therapy" when blogging, i.e. talk only about your own experiences. And here I am, 11am, in the empty bar on the top floor of a hostel in La Paz, sappy music with Spanish lyrics playing over the radio, stuck on the same questions that never seem to get answered. Where do I find what I'm looking for? Where's the line between someone just not good enough and someone, imperfections and all, who I'm better of with than without?

and then there is Loopy. I LOVE YOU LOOPY!
A funny little Severe Macaw, who loved so hard and who I dearly miss, sitting on my shoulder.
A funny little parrot who despite apparently having the ability to learn how to speak and make many different sounds, only had a mildly grating "squaw" to say over and over. A small parrot who most of the volunteers lost patience with quickly because of his unrelenting and loud squaw, but who I absolutely adored. I rarely let him sit on my shoulder as he was so loud and instead carried him around on my arm as I did chores or chopped vegetables.

When I couldn't carry him around, like when I was working in other birds cages, I'd put him in the "kitchen" near his beloved papaya fruit or over-ripe banana.
But often, preferring love to food and unable to fly, he would climb down from the kitchen counter and follow me around the aviary, slowly walking on his little parrot legs, "SQUAW"ing the whole way. Sometimes he'd climb up the outside of the cage where I was working to try to get closer only to realize that the bigger parrots inside the cage were less than friendly to him and then be stuck because he couldn't fly away and in desperate need of rescue.

And when it was eventually time for the afternoon break after all the birds got lunch and when there wasn't too much extra work to do, Loopy and I'd sit down and relax.
Him sitting on my lap or chest and me scratching the back of his neck and head and him slowly going from LOUD SQUAW to sleepy squaw to everything-is-right-with-the-world-and-I'm-so-happy-little squaw. Sometimes if there were no monkey raids on the aviary and we had enough time to relax he'd fall asleep on me, completely undignified, neck stretched out on my chest, wings askew, totally relaxed and more cat-like than parrot like, blissfully happy.

But eventually there were always afternoon chores and cages to repair and dinner to prepare for the aviary and Loopy would give his most frustrated SQUAW when the time came to get up and do work. And he'd follow on foot or sit near the kitchen flapping his mostly useless wings like a toddler stamping his foot, demanding that nap time be extended.

And I find it amazing how simple and obvious animals make loving someone. I'll walk 20 minutes on my short parrot legs just to have you pick me up, give me a pet, laugh, and then put me back on the kitchen counter again and I'll climb down and follow you again. What I want from you is simple and I have no qualms about asking for it obviously and clearly over and over again, despite that I'm not designed to walk and my wings will never be strong enough to fly. I'll come to you, in what ever way I can.

And somehow we humans never keep it that simple. And I don't think I've ever had someone fight as hard for my love as this little parrot did.

Of course it's not the same, I guess. Of course it's not the same with people. I wouldn't want to be responsible for a partner the way I felt responsible for Loopy (...though for kids, if I'm ever so lucky). People ask for a lot more than just a hour to fall asleep on your chest while you scratch their head. Or at least most do.

I miss you Loopy. In the last month in Bolivia you've made me laugh and made me so happy. You've taught me how to love better. Funny how a stray dog or a loopy little parrot can change your life.

and the adventures continue....