This past weekend in Los Angeles was Open Press. I organized and introduced a panel about Interspecies Communication that featured Teresa Carmody, Michelle Detorie, Brenda Iijima, Taleen Kali, & Rosa Quezada. This is the introduction I gave, which borrows much from some of the previous Birds pieces I’ve published previously on Entropy.
In many aspects of my life, I turn to the birds.
The birds perched on the lamppost give hope. The birds lined up neatly in even increments, perched so calmly and intentionally. They give hope that there is order. That they are watching. That they persist. And are content.
Every bird perched on a lamppost is a reason to turn away from despair. Every bird perched on an electric line is a reason to keep on going one more day. And every bird that swoops off, flies around in a mad circle, and swoops back down to land, is a reason to love.
I remember in a parking lot after eating breakfast, several pigeons waddling around slowly, their heads cocking back and forth like a continuous bobbing or nodding to a beat that only the birds could hear. I thought they were so funny, waddling around like that, like they didn’t have anything else to do. One of the pigeons started making its way toward where I was standing, saw me standing there, saw me take a few steps closer to it, and then hurriedly waddled under a car. I tried to cut it off, tiptoed around to the other side of the car. It saw me coming and reversed its steps. I tried to hurry back too. Eventually I scared off all the pigeons. It seemed actually that they were trying to, in a strange illogical way (or a very logical one), reunite with each other, get closer to each other. They were waddling in strange patterns towards one another, and my human curiosity and strange desire to get closer to them (that desire to get closer only and inevitably increasing our distance) was splitting them apart. The price of longing.
I remember the days after my mom died I would see hawks everywhere. It seemed that every time I dared to look up at the sky (because sometimes looking at the blue of the sky is a very sad thing), they would be up there, circling, watching. The thing is, that after a mother’s death, all the words disappear in that instant of finality. So even when such beautiful birds reach out to whisper, We’re here, I have no words to say back. Even when a hawk lands not 4 feet away from me to perch on a log, I almost can’t look back. It’s as obvious as reaching out a hand, her hand, but I can’t bring myself to take it. Because the hawks, though they are beautiful and in a way, make me feel safe, also work as triggers for memories. Like the memory of saying good-bye to my mother. It wasn’t a good-bye at all but an awkward reunion with an already yellow face connected to a dead body that used to be my mother. Eventually the words return. It is the words that persist through it all, the circling hawks, the soft whispers in the ear, because language is also a kind of mother, and the daughter can always and eventually remember one by the other.
For awhile, the words wouldn’t come the way they used to. I felt like I had lost the capacity to say things, to express things, the way I used to. And then the birds.
And when the hawks dwindled, that is, when I would look up into the sky and not see hawks, but just open, blue sky, the words started to come in a different way.
At a particular moment in time, it seems that the birds are everything.
Through all of loss and being lost, there are the birds.
Because it is when life is at its most difficult, you realize your capacity to live.
The pigeon looks at the ground, its heart at your feet.
How do you bridge the gap between pigeons?
This is a panel on interspecies communication. We want to talk about the ways in which we interact with, create intimate relationships with, telepathically communicate with, and are affected by animals and each other.
I want to talk about these things because we are not the only species here.
because we gain so much wisdom and insight from other species.
because they give to us without asking for something in return.
because we don’t yet know how to thank the trees.
because I am writing a novel that a cat I met in real life and who also visits me in dreams has told me to write.
because I have two dogs at home that love me differently than I love them.
because the animals see differently.
because we see differently.
because we don’t see at all.
because we exist.
because we all exist together.