Mary Beth Writes

Christmas Eve is when we remember that we are capable of wonder and astonishment. It is a day for unexpected light and warmth, for animals who speak, and for people who thought no one was looking - becoming the center of a love story.

Franc Garcia is my friend and many of you know him. (Franc's story) Franc has lived with rescued animals most of his life although he doesn’t tend to designate them as “rescued”. He calls them “my girls”.  Currently he lives with one supremely coddled, antique Italian greyhound named Maya. And Seema the Great Green Macaw. This story is about Seema, who once was called Paco (oh the ignominy).

Franc’s story: It was a Wednesday which is my weekly mental health day when I don’t take care of anyone else. I drive to Milwaukee for Indian food, thrift shopping, and checking out Razed&Found https://www.razedandfound.com/ . I’m “in the zone” on Wednesdays. It’s just me perusing stuff left behind by our throw-away world.  It’s my weekly pilgrimage to see what art and beauty has been lost, dumped, and left behind – and to rescue it if I can.

So I was meandering when my cell buzzed with a text from my friend Carol. I met Carol years ago when my partner and I were looking to adopt an Italian Greyhound. Carol runs the Midwest I.G. Rescue. Carol also works for a Humane Society in the Milwaukee area.  She was texting me from a meeting that she was in right then, where they were trying to decide what to do with a bird that they had just received. They were thinking of sending Paco to a bird rescue organization. That's when Carol remembered that when we first met, I had birds. So she made a fast video of the rescued macaw and asked me, still via our phones, if I knew anyone interested in adopting it.

I replied that I might be interested, but I needed more info.

I was told in that first conversation that Paco was taken from a home and they had him in a cat cage at the shelter.  They would be taking the bird to a vet check its health and have its DNA tested to determine its sex. And also, there was no cage to go with this bird.

No cage? Why not? That was weird. I was also eventually informed that an x-ray showed one wing at one point been broken. Probably the bird couldn’t fly.

Carol said I could have the bird for $100.00. That’s super-inexpensive for a macaw, I figured it must be a smaller Macaw, maybe a "severe macaw. She turned out to be a full-sized Great Green, which is a big and super-pricey bird to buy. From a breeder they can cost a thousand dollars.

“So we left it hanging a little. I probably wanted the bird, but I needed to see about cages and I wanted to hear results from the DNA test.

The very next morning I was taking my friend George to physical therapy in Kenosha. As I rounded a corner near his house his house I glimpsed of a cage leaning against the side of a house. After dropping George off I went back to that house and knocked on the door. No one was home so I checked out the cage which was NICE!!  I left a note asking if they had plans for the cage and if not I would be interested in buying it.

That night I got a text saying that I could have it for $40.00!

"SOLD!"

New it would have been $400-500.

Friday I drove to the humane society (with a dog cage) to pick up Paco and his food. On our way back we stopped for the cage. During our car trip, Paco was in the backseat mumbling and making little grunting noises as I talked to him.

The DNA & blood work results came in and - HE'S A GIRL!!  Other than the healed broken wing, she is healthy.  

After I cleaned the cage and set it up I put banana slices in the cage. Macaws love bananas. She threw them to the bottom of the cage. I gave her mixed nuts in their shells. She did the same thing, threw the nuts on the floor of her cage. Totally not what a macaw would be expected to do. “Danger, danger, Will Robinson”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RG0ochx16Dg

I wanted to know more about this large, kind-of-bedraggled, lonesome, broken-winged macaw who didn’t say much, who didn’t recognize beloved macaw treats, and who didn’t come with her own cage. I contacted the Humane Society to see what they could tell me about her backstory.

The humane society had received a call from the police department. They had learned of a very elderly man who was living on his own porch because he couldn’t get into his house. The house had no electricity and no working heat. The responding officials wore masks because of the stench.

In the middle of the trash-filled living room were two tall bird cages, both filled with inches of filth.  One cage housed Paco who had somehow survived. The bird in the other cage was deceased.  When the Humane Society official reached in to get Seema, she didn't resist. Healthy birds are noisily suspicious of strangers.

This told me what I needed to know. This bird had no clue what the brown guy – that would be me - was putting into her food bowl because she had so rarely been fed.

We had a project ahead of us. I started eating bananas in front of her until one day she wanted some. That only took a week. I took a hammer to the nuts to crack them open so she would figure out that inside they contain Manna from heaven. I gave her orange wedges; that was love at first bite!  Her food dishes are attached to doors that swing open so you can change them out. These days, when I'm putting nuts or oranges in her bowl she reaches out and pulls her door back in so she can get her treats immediately.  I hung a squeaky toy from the top of the cage. At first she was afraid of it and would perch far away from it. Two weeks ago she untied the zip tie and now carries the toy around the cage while squeaking it and putting it into her water dish or food bowl. I love to hear her squeaky toy, I love knowing how busy she is in her new life.

She has figured out all on her own that she should be fed at 8AM and 5PM.  If I’m home and don’t feed her, she squawks and pleads until I do. 

After months of encouragement, after talking to her every time I walk past, eating my meals standing next to her, chirping and chatting and telling her what a lovely bird she is - she's beginning to act like the curious Macaw I thought she could be.

Her feathers are lackluster, she will go through molt and grow new feathers next year. I expect that with her new diet, she will be a astonishing beauty!

About a month ago I was reading a magazine that had a list of unusual and pretty names.  Seema struck my fancy and that is now her name.  She is a proper, healthy, well-fed, well-loved female macaw with a lovely bird name and a future of talking back to me, observing my life, adding to my pleasant days with her cheerful, messy, noisy ways. 

There is also this. In my life I have often fallen into depression. It’s not easy being a single older person with a lot going on in their life, some great, much of it a slog – but my bouts of depression haven't even reared their ugly heads since Seema came into my life.

Once Seema discovered what's inside a nutshell, she no longer needed me to crack them open for her. Now she opens them all; even hardest Brazil nut is no match for her vice-like beak. She just pops them open.

Maybe I am her biggest nut to crack. I’ve helped her figure out how to have a life. She is helping me do the same.

Which is our Christmas Eve story of the miracle of love.

Wild Great Green Macaws live in the humid lowland or the foothill forest edges in some areas of Central and South America. Because these are places where logging is stripping the land faster than it can regenerate, Great Green Macaws have become endangered. It is estimated there are less than 3500 of them left in Mexico and Guatemala.

Comments

Awesome story, MB! Merry Christmas to you and yours and Franc.

I love this ---- a lot! A perfect story for Christmas Eve!

Merry Christmas to all creatures great and small, feathered or not. If you keep your heart open you never know what or who will walk in...

Hi, just read this today- found by accident- made this February day a good one❤️THANKS both/all of you
Mary Beth's picture

I brought a small pretty plant to my Mexican neighbors this afternoon. An hour ago they showed up at my door with chicken posole, pork in red sauce, SO MANY tamales, a spicy salsa that is over the moon delicious - and a basket with baby Jesus in it, sleeping on top of a nest of candy. Navidad arrived in our house and my heart is moved.

... Or what they will bring with them. My father used to say "To us Hispanics sharing food is sharing love." Why can't we keep this feeling going throughout the year and with everyone we meet?? Some people believe we need wall, but I think what is needed is love, common sense, decency and respect. Feliz Pascuas a todos. Or however you celebrate life.

Amen❤

Beautiful, evocative story! The story of Seema is asking us to see the gift that is in everything around us! Merry Christmas and thank you MB!

WOW! And so nice that Franc can't hide his true self..... Nice to be on the planet with both of you!

We are spending time with friends and their 2 dogs and I keep hearing about the pitiful lives they had and the trauma they still live because of this... It is why my Girls are not referred to as rescued. As ny ex Michael says you didn't run into a burning building to pull them out... My Girls are NOT defined by their past history and so why shackle them with that burden??

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