Archive for the ‘Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill’ Category

Parrots and Progress Report #87

May 29, 2013

The Munchkin is still passing by occasionally, but he doesn’t seem ill. He’s still separate from the flock, though, and I have no idea why. Very odd behavior. I’m just letting him be and assuming he’ll get whatever social problem he’s having worked out eventually. I haven’t seen or heard the blue crown in more than a week.

I had my first real problem with the book—although it’s worked out now. I started what was supposed to be the final draft at the end of last year. I have to say that I didn’t really feel that at the time, though. That is, I didn’t have the feeling of “Okay. This is it. I’m really heading to the end now.” It’s too complicated to go into here, but it turned out that I had a bunch of unexpected problems to work through. And I had to start all over. I did start the final draft again last week, and this time, it feels real. This is the main reason I haven’t been posting much.

Something new soon.

Another Update on the Munchkin

May 19, 2013

The little guy is still around. He’s coming around less, which is good, but he’s still alive. It’s very strange behavior. I’ll continue to keep an eye out for him and report any illuminating developments.

In the meantime, another blue-crowned conure (like Connor) has shown up in the flock. Somebody’s pet, no doubt. He’s a little clumsy when he flies, but he’s fully flighted, that is, his wings are not clipped. I see and hear him fly overhead every day, and yesterday he was looking stronger. I say “in the flock,” but for the moment he’s on his own. New birds are never accepted into the bosom of the flock right off the bat.

The Munchkin Update

May 14, 2013
Strange bird

The Munchkin Close-up

I no longer believe that the Munchkin got kicked out of the flock. There seems to be something not quite right with him. I did make an effort to lure him into a cage so I could take a close look. But he was hipper than that—which was fine. I really don’t want another bird. Judy and I have our hands full here now with birds and projects and the usual disturbances of life. I’ve stopped seeing him in the last day or two. I don’t know whether that’s good news or bad news. Best of luck, little Munchkin.

Daily Visits from The Munchkin

May 4, 2013
Two Parrots

The Munchkin and Parker

For more than ten years, Judy and I have been taking care of two injured birds (Parker and Big Bird) from the wild parrot flock. Since some trees near our house were cut down, visits by the wild birds have become rare. But last week we started getting daily visits from one of them, who seems to be attracted to Parker. They sit next to each other—Parker in the window sill and the wild bird (whom we call The Munchkin) on a railing on the other side of the screen. There have been two days when The Munchkin was here the entire day, leaving only briefly to eat. I was puzzled as to what was going on until I saw The Munchkin come under attack on two separate occasions by passing members of the flock. It looks like he’s been banished for violating flock rules. I’ve seen this happen in the past. Eventually the ban gets lifted, and the outcast is allowed to return. The last couple of days, The Munchkin has been around less.

Changing My Political Affiliation

April 10, 2013

Last week when I read in the New York Times that Obama was going to submit a budget that proposed cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits, I decided that if he really did this, I was going to leave the Democratic Party. For what it’s worth, I wrote the White House saying so. (No response and no quaking in boots.) Well, he has done so, and I’m changing my registration today. Some people are saying that what he’s done is merely a tactic to try to make the Republicans look bad or something. I don’t care. I want someone who stands up and openly does what’s good and what’s right. I’m sick of the political games. I’m sick of compromising with evil. I don’t know exactly what happens next, but I’m not staying on this track anymore. The Republicans managed to pull the country into hell by being uncompromising. Maybe we have to be uncompromising to make our way into the heavenly realm.

In more pleasant news, I just found out that my book, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, has gone into an 11th printing as a paperback. (It did four printings in hardback.) Next February, the book will have been in print for ten years, a happy milestone.

Progress Report #81

July 1, 2012

Yesterday I finished the first pass through Draft 2, Chapter 34. Tomorrow I start a second pass through the chapter to clean it up. That’ll take most of the week. Then I need to edit the outline so that it conforms to the finished version. After that, I’ll work on Chapter 35, which will be a commentary on the events in the book from the perspective of 24 years later. I think there will be such a chapter in the final version of the book and I want to explore how it might go. But I’m not going to sweat over it. Once I’ve let go of Chapter 35, the second draft is done, done, done. Four and a half years!

When I was writing The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill I knew all along that Street Song was going to be my next book—if there was a next book. But I haven’t been sure what book, if any, I will write after this one. I’ve had one recurring idea, and this week I found myself creating some research files. The book would be about the unique neighborhood I live in. (It’s the same one you see in the parrot movie.) The overarching theme would be how magic is undermined and destroyed by people with money. I’ve seen this happen over and over again. It’s the curse of this nation. How can we have a good life if the good life cannot find a place to take root and grow? I would spend most of the book establishing and depicting the neighborhood’s original magic, which goes back seventy-five years. I’ll be able to tell some parrot stories that didn’t fit into my first book. I have a title in mind, but I’m not going to put that out yet. It wouldn’t take me nearly so long to write this book. At the moment, though, it’s just an idea. My focus is on Street Song.

A Visit from the Flock

April 30, 2012
A Visit fromt the Flock

Parker and three birds from the flock.

As most of you who read this blog regularly know, Judy and I are taking care of two birds from the flock who have injuries and cannot be released. They’re both eleven years old now. Big Bird was brought to us just a few weeks after leaving the nest. She’d smashed into a plexiglass windbreak, knocking herself out and messing up the vision in one eye. Parker was a year old when he fell out of the sky with a nervous system disorder. Parker knows a lot more about being a wild parrot than Big Bird and is more attentive to the flock whenever it flies by the house. A few days ago, we had an unusual event when a few of the wild parrots noticed Parker sitting in the window sill and came down for a visit. It ended up lasting around an hour. Parker was quite calm about their presence, but I have to assume he was pleased with it. He has never become truly tame. He’s still essentially a wild bird.

My Escort out of Town

March 10, 2012

I had a vivid experience last Monday that has yet to leave my mind. Last weekend a sudden opportunity came up for Judy to do a film shoot for Pelican Dreams, her new documentary. She had to go to Ventura in Southern California, and I offered to  share the driving. I dropped her off at the dock (she was to spend two days on a boat) and then I drove to Sierra Madre, which is the town just east of Pasadena. A friend had kindly offered to let me use her cabin for the two days I was to spend waiting for Judy to return to shore.

Sierra Madre is right up against the San Gabriel Mountains, and in the San Gabriel Valley there is an enormous parrot flock. There are thousands of them, mostly red-fronted Amazons. It has to be the largest wild parrot flock in the United States. I was told that I would probably see some of them in Sierra Madre, and I did, very early the first morning. Typically, I heard them first, then saw them in the distance in silhouette. Fifteen minutes later I saw three or four about a block away. They were in the sun, which lit up their beautiful green backs and wings as they flew from tree to tree. Throughout my two-day stay in Sierra Madre I would occasionally hear them, but I didn’t seek them out. As much as I love wild parrots, my main concern right now is my new book. I was focused on my work.

Monday morning, I got in the car and headed back to Ventura to pick up Judy. I was driving down 210 in the right lane when I looked to my right and saw at car-top level a red-fronted amazon flying in tandem with me. I watched him for a few seconds, and just before I reached the Pasadena city limits sign, he flew up and over the freeway and disappeared.

To repeat myself…

January 14, 2012

I saw a headline in the New York Times today that said:

Religious leaders, Seeking Unity, Back Santorum.

Below the headline was this:

More than 100 conservative Christian leaders voted to support Rick Santorum’s presidential bid.

I believe it’s important for it to be said—over and over again—that the people referred to in the article are not religious leaders. And Rick Santorum is not a religious man. None of them have any understanding whatsoever of what real religion is. Whenever they do encounter it, they denounce it.

In other news, I’m leaving for New York City in the morning. I’ll be spending a week there, working on my book much of the time (there is a short New York section) and exploring during the rest. I’m also giving a talk about the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill—the flock, book, and film—on Long Island, in Babylon, mon. When I get back I start preparing for another trip to Santa Barbara Island. From island to island and back again. An interesting and lucky time.

The Three Views of Existence (Part 2)

December 4, 2011

Wherever you are, you are one with the clouds and one with the sun and the stars that you see. You are still one with everything. That is more true than I can say, and more true that you can hear.

Shunryu Suzuki

Of the three fundamental views of existence that I laid out in part 1—creator god, scientific/materialist, and pantheist—I subscribe to the third. (I should add that “pantheism” is short hand for me. It’s a Western term, that is, from the world of Western philosophical speculation, and it undoubtedly has a lot of baggage attached to it that is not real.) I don’t see myself as having sought out this view. At one point in my life I was reading a lot of Taoism and Buddhism to try and stay afloat. I was doing a lot meditation, too, but, again, just to survive. In the midst of this I kept coming across the idea that everything is god, or mind. For a long time I assumed that this was merely a metaphor. Eventually I saw that the people advocating this idea really meant it. The difficult aspect is seeing the material plane as “merely” mind. If you cut me, I will bleed. If I kick a boulder with all my might, it will hurt like hell. The turning point for me came when someone I was reading, someone whose opinion I trusted and valued, stated that the material plane is an illusion, albeit a very thick one. That one statement tied a bunch of others together. The material plane has its own laws, but those laws are one with the spiritual background from which the material plane arises.

I don’t read a lot of science. I try, but I can’t hack the attitude that a lot of scientists adopt. They want to be the go-to guys, the great explainers. But science can never explain existence. It can only probe one layer of it—the material plane. I’ve read enough science to know that as scientists delve deeper into matter, they find that essentially it disappears. It’s a big mystery! But scientists insist that there is a rational order to reality, that through experimentation and research we can eventually understand everything—soberly. But that’s not what the sages say, and I take their word—the word of the real ones—over that of the scientists. The sages say that when you take the journey that leads to an understanding of what existence really is, it astonishes you. It blows your mind. If what you saw didn’t blow your mind, then you didn’t see fundamental reality. And fundamental reality is ineffable, that is, it cannot be put into words. You have to see it for yourself.

I’m not asserting here that I’ve had this vision. I haven’t. Just bits and pieces. So, in a sense, this is a statement of faith. But my journey isn’t over. I think I’m going to continue writing on this subject for some time. There will be a lot more parts. Right now I’m just trying to open up the subject. (There is more on this in The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, in the chapter called “Consciousness Explained”.)

In part 3, I’ll write about the differences between the pantheistic and creator god schools of thought, and how scientific materialism, especially Western science is, in a sense, the outcome of those differences.

By the way, I welcome any comments on this particular subject. Even contentious ones.