Bonnie Grafton and Kelly Moore Parsley are old hands at running an aviary and working with birds. They like macaws and what is more, macaws like them. Bonnie owns Bonnie’s Birds in Port Charlotte, Florida with her business partner, Rebecca Stockslager and it is their shop. They get occasional help and undying support from their husbands, Ed and Bill, but for the most part, it is their shop and they run it. The birds they have available in the shop are not for sale. They are up for adoption from Florida Parrot Rescue, a model I wish more bird shops would adopt.
Kelly has several flighted macaws in her house and volunteered for months, driving a couple of hours each way from her home in Ohio to help take care of the birds seized from Wings Over the Rainbow. She cleaned, fed, watered and socialized over a hundred birds for the Greater Dayton Humane Society, so going to Best Friends and helping with their birds was a snap.
Bonnie works at Bonnie’s Birds and has her own birds as well as many fosters at her house, so she too, knew how to quickly and efficiently do what she had to do for the birds at Best Friends.
They were a team, a well-oiled paper changing and cleaning machine that talked to each bird as they went from cage to cage, tidying, sweeping, soothing and socializing. They were fast, efficient and thorough. Jacque Johnson, the Manager of the Parrot Garden practically swooned when she saw their work.
If you read my last post, Discomfort, you understand the feeling you get from the place. I’m not particularly big on mysticism and trying to understand the “Big Picture,” or any of the Carlos Castenada, Medicine Man rhetoric. But with this place, there is definitely something going on around there. I don’t have that many good photos of Kelly and Bonnie because they spent a good amount of the time I spent with them at the Parrot Garden in tears. They weren’t sad, I don’t think. I believe it was because they were so whipped emotionally that it practically drained them. I was also busy at the time on my hands and knees cleaning baseboards or washing windows. But every once in a while, the place touched them clear through to their core. I refer to it as The Calling. And Bonnie and Kelly both very clearly heard it.
But before I left, I asked both Bonnie and Kelly to write up their thoughts about the Parrot Garden, Kanab and how they felt about working there and ultimately, leaving. I know they were both touched by the place. Here are Bonnie’s thoughts about her experience:
If you’re a fan of old westerns, Kanab, Utah is pure nostalgia. Nestled in rock cliffs, every horizon reminds you of a movie and the view is spectacular. Kanab is a simpler place, it’s a very small town. There’s a grocery, a movie theater and several restaurants. Motels range from the quaint to the contemporary. There are several old west style buildings that house attractions designed to attract tourists’ dollars and tour groups pass through regularly on their way to the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
Unless you visit, you wouldn’t know what sets Kanab apart from every other small town.
You might notice a lot of pets. I mean A LOT. Everyone has a dog or cat or a parrot or several or some of each. Kanab is a little different from any other place I have visited. Cars stop to let people walking a dog or two cross the street. A beautiful rental home is under lease for $200.00/month if the tenant fosters a cat or two for Best Friends Animal Society. Somehow everyone in Kanab has a connection to Best Friends and it shows. They are kinder and more patient.
Then you take the dirt road to Best Friends Animal Society. I was not prepared for the feeling of utter peace that Best Friends exudes. The place is beautiful, really beautiful and tranquil. It’s a world separate from the rest of the world and there are animals everywhere. There are horses and pigs and a goat, dogs & puppies, cats & kittens, bunnies & wild creatures, but for me, there were only parrots.
I spent a week volunteering with one of the most amazing groups of people I have ever met. I cleaned cages, played with birds, made toys and got to know the staff. The caregivers come from all over the country and most have had better jobs, but they are happy and content at Parrot Garden. Each and every person is totally dedicated to the birds and it is genuine.
I was very emotional during my time in Kanab. The place is just that beautiful…and peaceful….and right. I cried a lot and I wasn’t the only one. There is something about this land of red cliffs and kindness that simply breaks you down. You cry with grief, you cry with joy and with laughter and when it’s time to go, with devastating sadness. I know that I will return, to see the birds, to see the people and to listen once again. I’ve heard the call of this place in my soul and it is hard to ignore.