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I received a very special gift from David on mother’s day, two colorful lovebirds that are sitting on 5 eggs. The babies are due to hatch in about 10 days. I can’t wait! It’s been a long time since I’ve had what I will call “exploratory fun with nature”. Oh, how I miss the simple joy of interacting with nature as it unfolds under my observation and care. My time in Georgia had plenty of sadness on the personal level, but at my barn, as I raised a baby horse, a baby llama, hatched peacocks and ducks by hand, learned about chickens and goats, cared for my donkey, and tried training horses etc…… I was touched in ways that changed me forever. My anticipation of hand feeding baby lovebirds brushes against that authentic place inside that  makes me feel deeply alive and connected to the world.
     Every day I come face to face with evidence that a person doesn’t have to be retired or living on 50 acres to have a rich, natural life.  I feel such a sense of promise as I realize I can feel the amazing sense of contribution I get from building a business at what I love, can provide an quality life for my daughter (and myself) in a place that offers art, opportunity and diversity AND my life also can include animals and gardening and hiking and kayaking and the sea and open country, and cooking and writing… David can build things and follow his interests and at the same time, he continues to work and plan for our future. We are busy and overworked and worried about money, but still, each day we ease closer to the life I’ve always known was possible if a person just recognized and appreciated the vast opportunity available in a diverse place like Sarasota. The point is, as my life takes shape again, I couldn’t be happier to see just how expansive and fulfilling can, and will, be.

I suppose an explanation of how we came to find brooding birds should be shared.

I currently have a beloved Hahns Macaw pet. He is the smallest breed of Macaw parrot, and the brightest. A tad bigger than a conure, these birds are not loud or obnoxious and they are easily trained and gentle by nature, so they are sought after as pets. I began looking for a bird to adopt from bird rescue months before taking the plunge. I often browsed the internet just for the entertainment of it – dreaming –  wanting a new pet – but I knew I should hold off until I got out of my small apartment and could afford to care for the bird properly. For fun, I perused craigslist to view the tons of amazing deals there for rehoming birds. Parrots live anywhere from 30-99 years so, of course many people find themselves in situations where they their lifestyle no longer is conducive to a bird. Because they are attached to their pet, they sell the bird for enough money to assure only a responsible, established person can afford to take them on. Still, they let the birds go for much less than a pet store would charge. After months of looking (when I knew I was finally moving to a house) I started shopping in earnest. I was leaning towards an African Grey and was negotiating to buy one when I saw the ad for the Hahns Macaw. I liked the idea of a smaller, smarter bird, and unlike regular Macaws, Cockatoo’s or Amazon parrots, finding a Hahns Macaw on Craig’s list was rare. So, I drove to Tampa to get my bird. He only cost me fewer than 200, when normally these breeds are between 600-700 dollars – a great deal.  (And there is a poignant story behind how and why I bought a bird at all, but I will save that for another time.) 

Anyway, I named the bird Whynot, and I adore him.
The thing is, I work often and I worry that some days he is lonely, so when I have free time, I browse Craig’s list just to see what is out there thinking that someday, when the right bird is available, I might just take the plunge again and get him a companion.  I’ve been looking at sun conures since that breed is close in size to my mini, knowing it is unlikely I’ll find another Hahns macaw. Since it is fun to window-shop, I started looking at lovebirds too, and low and behold, the other day I see that a man right near me is selling two fisher lovebirds with their cage and five eggs they are sitting on – all for  only 75.00! Of course, it is the eggs that pulled at my heart strings.

Naturally, I was curious about how people go about raising lovebirds, so I watched some YouTube videos of lovebird hatchings and saw how to train, feed and care for lovebirds. I read about raising and breeding lovebirds to see how much sleep a person would lose if a mother bird didn’t do her job, and I wondered if a person did or did not have to hand feed them. Once I had enough information to understand what breeding lovebirds involved, (they take care of themselves if you choose not to get involved – kinda like chickens) I started thinking how much I would love a new project like that.

I mentioned how interesting it all seemed and how the idea of raising baby birds again awakened this primal feeling of happiness that I lost when I left my dreams behind in Georgia, and David  instantly said, “Let me buy them for you as a mother’s day present. It will be fun.”

He had already taken Neva and I out to lunch. He cleaned my car (twice thanks to a trip we made to visit his Mom and the lovebugs that were in our path). He bought me a beautiful card and we were all going to a movie later that night for Mother’s day, so he certainly didn’t need to do anything else to make the day wonderful. But, unable to resist the offer , I made the call. Ten minutes later, we were at the seller’s very interesting home to pick up the birds. The seller looked to be in his 50’s, and seemed extremely nice. He is in a band and he had about 16 guitars, (some vintage, collector’s items, and some state of the art, common guitars) hanging all over his walls. His home was eclectic and artistic with a big Tikki bar on the porch designed with bird perches and a beer keg running right through the wall of his home to an indoor fridge. I could see David’s mind spinning as he ran his hands along the lacquered top and checked out how the inviting bar was made, viewing the roof and supports and reengineering it in his mind. (We have some big aspirations for our home and often discuss the many directions we want to go to make our outdoor living space more inviting and conducive to entertaining….)

 The man had a big amazon parrot in one corner, the lovebirds were in another. He explained that he gotten the lovebirds two years earlier on Father’s day (so passing them to a mother on mother’s day seemed perfect).  They are called Leila and Paco. Since the beginning, he let his birds roam free. Recently, they were missing, and he found them under a shelf on a bookcase nearby sitting on a nest they had built. The female had laid 5 eggs and was brooding.The guy said he would love seeing babies hatch, but he was not up for the responsibility, so he put them on craigslist that day because he thought it best to let them go to someone who would be into the project. He was thrilled to hear my history with raising birds, even though I admitted I had zero parrot experience so he probably shouldn’t be so quick to trust me with this responsibility. We talked a while about what might happen if we moved the eggs, but finding them a new home seemed in the best interest of both the birds and the humans involved, so we loaded the nest into a shoebox that we hoped would assimilate her current breeding space and loaded the birds into my car.

The man not only gave us the birds and cage, but threw in a bird stand for the porch – something David was just getting ready to build for Whynot this week (and still might since his version will no doubt be more involved).Within ten minutes we were home and the new birds were fully set up on the porch. It couldn’t have been easier.

Sure enough, the mother and father both were curious about their new situation, so they came out of the nest to explore. I waited with bated breath, hoping they would return to their job of caring for the eggs. I’d feel horrible if, by moving them, 5 potential baby lovebirds didn’t make it. Neva wanted me to force the mother to stay in the nest, but I assured her that instinct would kick in (of course, I wasn’t sure, just praying…)

About ten minutes later, the mom went into her shoebox for the night. Bingo! We went to the movie, confident that all was in order, and when we returned, both the mom and dad bird were in the nest, caring for the eggs.    

Now, I have a few weeks to learn about lovebirds. I plan to let the mom & dad feed the babies for three weeks until the young birds feather and are substantial enough to be handled easily, and then I will take over the hand feeding for the next three weeks to be sure the birds are very people friendly and trainable. I look forward to getting Neva involved too. The longer she is here, the more her interest in nature and the environment is rekindled. She often visits my garden now. She has taken a serious interest in photographing wildlife, and she has even asked me if I’m up for a new bunny. (Umm…..not at this time.) Together, we are reclaiming the joys and connections that we shared during our wonderful years in Georgia together. There are a million reasons why this means the world to me – primarily because I see my daughter growing up with expansive interests and an awareness in ecology and the environment once again. She is becoming a woman of substance who is interesting and aware and curious about the world, and I couldn’t be prouder. 

So, here we go… we are wading into the shallow waters of a new animal adventure… I’m going to raise lovebirds. David and Neva are on board. Fun! 

Meanwhile, it is going to rain today. Hard. I went out and harvested some veggies from my garden this morning and deadheaded my flowers so the rain can nurture the best of the plant. Growth is everywhere….. in the garden and beyond. (But from this picture, obviously, not in the grass…. um… that is another project on the “to do” list…..). But today is for making soup, sitting on the porch with coffee to watch the new birds peek out of their nest, and to enjoy the rain while I do some business planning on a yellow pad. Nice to have some quiet time at home before going in to teach later…. 
Life is all about balance…..

About Ginny East Shaddock

Ginny is the owner of Heartwood Yoga Institute. She is an ERYT-500 Yoga teacher, C-IAYT Yoga therapist, RCYT & Ayurveda Counselor who loves nature, gardening, and creative arts. She has an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University, and a BA in Business Administration from Eckerd College. She teaches writing and is the creator of the memoir writing program, "Yoga on the Page" combining the teaching of yoga to writing personal stories with integrity, intention, and heart.

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