One weekend in July I helped a friend during the Lavender Festival. I’m not always comfortable around hundreds of people. Like many writers, I can be a bit of a hermit – and like it. But, I know it’s important to get out of my shell. And, once I overcome my initial resistance, I do have fun. This particular time was a lot of fun.
My friend does something that, regardless of the venue, is downright awesome: she rescues and rehabilitates raptors and other birds so that they can be released back into the wild. When they can’t be released for specific physical problems (they can’t fly or see properly), then the birds become educational birds.
During events like the Lavender Festival, she, as director of the Discovery Bay Wild Bird Rescue (http://discoverybaywildbirdrescue.com/), displays her educational birds — ones that have been trained to be around people — as a way to get people interested in helping out the center through donations. This type of fundraising helps to keep the educational birds alive, and helps to support veterinary care for hurt birds coming in. Most birds are released back into the wild, which is why her work is so important.
At such events, I get to hold one of the raptors while people wander by and ask questions and, hopefully, throw a few dollars into the donation jar. I suppose it works for me because the people are focused on the bird, and I don’t feel so exposed that way. I answer their questions and that’s about it. The coolest part about this festival was that I got to hold one of my all-time favorite birds: a barred owl. It’s an experience I will cherish for a long time.
Wild birds remain wild even after they get used to a handler. They belong in the wild. It’s never out of them. I have no fantasies about owning a pet raptor, and there’s something refreshing about that. Holding a wild bird, one that would rather be in their natural habitat and not around all those people, reminds me of how I feel.
I suspect many of us feel as though we are somewhere we don’t belong. We want to be free. We’d like to shuck our day jobs, or not have to do mundane chores. We want to be wild!
But what is wild to the barred owl I was holding, isn’t my idea of freedom. I think of the owl in its habitat and have to remember that much of its life is spent in survival mode. They have to hunt and kill their own food – would I want to have to do that all day or night? They sleep outside among other predators – would that be fun? There’s a reason they live almost twice as long in captivity as they do in the wild.
To me, freedom means not having to sit behind my computer for someone other than myself, or not having to worry about paying my bills. What I see as freedom has limits. I don’t want to be “completely” free. These thoughts always occur while I’m handling an owl or hawk or whatever I get to handle for the day. I don’t know if I’ve just got a lot of time on my hands to think at those events or if the owl somehow communicates with me. I do know that by the end of the day my life looks pretty good, and I’m finally willing to go back to it without complaint.
Terry Persun is an award winning author and a #1 Amazon bestseller. He is also a Pushcart nominee. His mainstream novel, “Wolf’s Rite”, was a Star of Washington award winner, a POW! Award winner, and a ForeWord magazine Book of the Year finalist. His science fiction novel, “Cathedral of Dreams”, was also a ForeWord magazine Book of the Year finalists. And his historical novel, “Sweet Song”, won a Silver IPPY Award for best regional fiction. His latest novel, “Doublesight”, is book one of his new fantasy series. His latest poetry collection is “And Now This”. Terry writes in many genres, including historical fiction, mainstream, literary, and science fiction/fantasy.