Consider the birds, Jesus said. Most days, I consider a green one.
We had a long season of pet-lessness before Ernie joined our family. Prior to living at our house, the second-hand Amazon Green parrot lived briefly at a friend’s home. There, he cawed like a crow and regularly staged stressing little conniptions. When she and her husband left on vacation, Ernie stayed with us. They never picked him up—but, yes, we agreed to the adoption. At only twenty-odd years, with a life expectancy of fifty to a hundred, he’s the only pet we’ve owned who may have to put us down.
Ernie dislikes hats, earrings, red fingernails, and black clothing. He loves to laugh, and adores walnuts, almonds, and peanuts, all of which he cracks with his beak. He detests most large men and cracks those with his beak too, when he’s in a snit.
We don’t need a watchdog. Ernie thinks he’s one, and plays the role with surprising ferocity. During the Preacher’s naps he perches like a regal eagle on his shoulder, and not even I dare approach when he’s on duty.
For awhile, Ernie’s cage sat in our room, on my side of the bed. One night I went to bed early, hoping to catch up on a sleep deficit. Ernie, his cage door open, positioned himself at the inside corner where he could watch me snore.
A few hours later I woke to hear footsteps in the hall. I recognized the Preacher’s tall figure entering the room, but clearly, Ernie didn’t. He darted to the top of his cage, spread his wings, and dive-bombed. Landing on the Preacher’s hand, he dug in with his beak, clamping down with the tenacity of a pit bull.
The Preacher grunted, pried the bird off, and pushed him (protesting loudly, wings akimbo) back into his cage, this time shutting the door behind him. When he came back into the room, I noticed a bandage on that hand.
The next morning as Ernie ate his morning snack of sunflower seeds from my palm, I said, “With two fingers, the Preacher could have wrung your pretty green neck. What were you thinking? ” He cocked his head at me. “Hello!” he said, bowing and fluffing his feathers, pleading a good scratch.
Ernie may only weigh a few ounces, but his iridescent feathers hide a colossal personality. He often forgets he’s a bird, not a dog or a person. That he’s small, and we’re big—and trustworthy. And that as the pet in the family, his only real responsibility is not to attack those he sees as a threat, but to be our friend. To love us back. To trust us to care for him.
On good days, he seems to remember all that. On those days, his companionship thrills us.
Consider the birds, Jesus said. They teach things about relationship with our Father. I’m considering a green one, and am wiser for it.
Below: The Preacher’s precocious parrot purloins a pear. Lesson here? Before risking life and limb to achieve what you desire, be sure it’s the real thing. (In this case, it wasn’t.)