Have you ever read, “Jabberwocky?” If you haven’t, it is something that is difficult to understand, but it really doesn’t need understanding. If you aren’t familiar with it, here is an absolutely incredible rendition done by Johnny Depp:

For my purposes, I intend to concentrate on one line in the poem:

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!”

 I remember having both of Lewis Carroll’s books read to me when I was about four years-old. I sat in my Father’s lap as he read them to me, one chapter a night. Out of all of the content of the books, “Jabberwocky” and “The Walrus and the Carpenter” were my favorite parts. As I got older, they both had new meanings to me as I began to understand them. However, in the last few weeks, the particular line I cited has become significant to me. There is another quote that I think has taken on new meaning to me since last summer: “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

That quote is attributed to John Bradford, an English reformer and martyr, who decided to go up against Mary Tudor and ended up in the Tower of London for his troubles. And yes, you’re damned right I have a point.

I’m a big believer in having an opinion. And if I only associated with people that agreed with me or only knew the things that I knew, it would be a pretty boring existence.

I have seen some pretty troubling stuff during my time in the world of birds. But what troubles me the most are the divisions and the sniping that occur from behind the comfort of a keyboard. In the years I’ve been blogging here, I have seen my share of “The jaws that bite, the claws that catch.” I have seen sadness, joy, hilarity and comforting.

I’ve also seen down right meanness. I don’t like meanness. I don’t care for hurting other people. I’m sure I’m guilty of it as well but I try not to do it. And if I do, usually unintentionally, I feel absolutely terrible. And I mean, sickly terrible. Depression terrible.

The name of this blog is not by accident. When I first entered the world of aviculture, I truly felt as though I were joining something very special. I could feel connections that existed between people, bound together by a common understanding and a mutual interest and love.

I first came into this light, bright airy world that is its surface.

What I had yet to see were the dark alleys. I didn’t know about those dark alleys. Nobody warned me that they were around some corners and if you went there, it was like entering this sad, horrid place where everything was broken and you could feel this terrible, cold breeze of disdain.

Suffice it to say, in my first few forays out into the world of aviculture, I wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms. I was pretty much dismissed as inconsequential. After all, I had only one bird, no ties to any avian organizations such as a rescue or bird club and nobody knew who I was. I went to a weekend event once in those first cold years and the entire time I was there, only one person said a word to me. Just one.

I was just A Pet Owner. Ever see the movie, Mean Girls? So much for my introduction into the charming world of the avian community. It made me feel terrible.

 I twisted and turned and tried to find my place, my spot. I needed to find where I fit in. Well, I found it with a little help from Susan Friedman. She saw my place right off and told me that writing was where I belonged. So here I am.

Photo courtesy of Natural Encounters Inc.

What I didn’t expect to have to do in writing about the field was having to deal with other people’s sadness, anger and negativity as often as I do. I am working on developing a steel-belted gut, but it doesn’t come easy for me. I can’t quite cast off other people’s feelings that quickly. While there is much sadness and regret when you deal with animals at all, you have to realize that a lot of it indeed comes with the territory.

Nature can be a cruel thing. Humans develop feelings for these creatures and when they pass or when we see something that is not right, we get upset. However, there is a lesson to be learned here. And it brings up some questions as well.

One of those questions is one of the very first questions I asked myself when I joined what I call “The Parrot Nation.” And that question was, “Where do I belong?”

Well, where do you belong? Where is your spot on the avicultural map? We all have birds. We all think the way we do things is the way others should do them.

I disagree. If I followed that tenet, I never would have taken any classes, attended any seminars or learned anything new.

Do I have opinions? Of course I do! We all have them. I have a certain belief system about birds that I strongly believe in. But my beliefs and my ways are not the only way.

I have been introduced to new ways of doing things over the years, as well as coming up with an idea or two of my own that other people seem to like. I like what works. I like to see innovative ideas and adopt them for my small Grey flock.

I don’t mind disagreement. I don’t mind looking at things in a different way. I like learning and discovering something that can be done better. Quicker. Easier. More efficiently.

What I do mind is sniping. I mind it when people are mean. I also mind when people go after each other with virtual socks full of manure.

There is also something else that I think needs to be examined here: Intent. While intention to do good things is wonderful, sometimes it simply isn’t enough.

When two teenagers who haven’t graduated from high school declare their undying love for each other and decide to get married, thinking that is what will sustain them, I just shake my head. The intention is there, but that sure as hell isn’t going to put food on the table and a roof over their head.

Eventually they discover that it isn’t working because you can’t put love in the fridge. It won’t cover your back in the winter. We can be the most well-meaning people in the world, but without skills, without an income, without a way to back that intent up, we’re lost.

We all just can’t “love our birds.” We have to have a way to support them. We have to have a place to keep them. And we have to somehow build a system that allows us to not only take care of and feed our flocks, we have to have a back up system in place, should life take us away from them on occasion.

I love it when people have a fierce love for their flocks. I don’t love it when they think that they can interpret this as meaning they can put other people down.

When I titled this blog, Parrot Nation, I meant it. I want to be clear here: unless we figure out a way to become a united front, we’re screwed. The Tea Party may be ridiculed, skewered and made fun of, but those people are together in their ideas.

They want what they want and they are a united front. Can’t say I want them over for dinner, but they sure are faithful to their ideas and they sure as hell stick together.

Let’s try and drop this Us Against the Rest of Them mentality. It’s not about that. It’s not about being better than someone else.

 It’s about all of us. And the practice of learning to be a bit more understanding of each other with an openness and tolerance needs to be adopted. We’ve got problems all over the place.

But we sure as hell aren’t going to fix them by trying to prove to each other that the only way to get things done is the way one group or person does it. Helping and supporting each other should be key. And learning to ask for help or taking help when it’s offered is just as important.

We are a community. We are the The Parrot Nation. And until we all get on the same page and learn to help each other, instead of constantly ripping each other up; well, then we’re all just a bunch of Jabberwocks.