When we moved into our new house in South Florida, one of our biggest regrets was that we had not worked it into our contract to have a certain dead palm tree in our yard removed. Our neighborhood is full of ancient royal palms that are truly enormous and thus very expensive to remove. We were so in love with the house that we did not consider many practical things like that.
This evening, we pulled our Adirondack chairs out onto the lawn to watch Henry and Sherlock roam around. It’s bizarre enough to be out walking your pet lizard, but as we were chatting something flittering around in the trees caught my eye.
“Those are parrots!” I screamed. “No, seriously, look! There is a pair of parrots in the tree!”
Prior to this experience, the most exotic bird I had ever seen in the wild was a painted bunting at our old house south of St. Augustine. Well, there were also the roseate spoonbills.
We ran to the kitchen to fetch the binoculars we keep by the sink to watch yachts as they pass down the Caloosahatchee River on their way to the Gulf of Mexico. Sure enough, there were two small parrots (about a foot tall) in our neighbor’s mango tree. The birds then flew to the top of the dead palm tree, seeming rather busy up there.
I walked to the base of the dead tree with the binoculars to see what they were doing. There was a large hole near the top of the tree, which these birds were using as a nest! Suddenly, I was pretty cool with the fact that we had not had the tree removed. (At least until we get hit by a hurricane.)
Eventually, they had held still long enough for us to identify them as nanday parakeets (also known as nanday conures). These little neotropical parrots are mostly green with a distinctive black face. “Neotropical” was a term that confused me initially, as I am accustomed to seeing the prefix “neo” in the context of things that are, well, new. Neotropical in zoology and botany, however, applies to organisms that are found in South America and the Caribbean. The New World, I guess. Fun stuff.
I have wanted a pet parrot since I was a young child. One time, my family was at a massive swap meet in Los Angeles (we loved going antiquing) and a giant macaw landed on my father’s shoulders. (Some old man was selling pets at the swap meet, which I am sure was totally above-board and legal.) This macaw was absolutely in love with my father and refused to get off his shoulder. I guess he thought he had finally found a proper pirate. My father tried to pull him off, and the parrot went all Mike Tyson on his ear. He had to walk around the swap meet with blood gushing all over his shirt. I thought it was fantastic. That giant bird was not having any of it.
My husband is not very interested in letting me get a parrot because, as he puts it, “they are loud, they shit everywhere, and they live forever.” Everyone I know who has one seems to agree, unfortunately. “Parrots are like children,” he said today. “You spend two years teaching them how to talk, and the rest of your life trying to get them to be quiet.” At least here in Florida I can admire them in the wild.
Anyway, these are the sort of things one misses staying inside. I have been painting the house coastal colors during Elise’s short break from homeschooling. As I have made it to the dining room, most of our dining room furniture has been moved into the living room and is piled high with china from the china cabinet. That’s an unnecessarily long way of saying we can’t use our table to eat at. We set up a new table in the courtyard by the pool and are eating dinners out there temporarily. The biggest perk of this arrangement is we never miss a sunset these days.
I was thinking today how the two times you really get a sense of how quickly this little planet of ours is spinning around are (1) watching the sun set, and (2) looking at some celestial object through a telescope that is not computerized. With the telescope, you have to constantly keep adjusting its position to make up for the movement of the Earth. Every time I cannot use the computer on my beast of a telescope, I am awe-struck by how much people learned about the night sky in past centuries – the patience that had to require! But those last moments of a sunset, man, you look away for the briefest moment and it is gone.
Lots of things in this world require your undivided attention….