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A parakeet, Javier was the surviving member of a twosome after the elder bird passed.  His person wondered if he was ready for a new partner and that was where I came in.

Nothing more than a yes-or-no question, it could have been answered in a few seconds.  But this bird had more for us to consider and our conversation unfolded in this way:

First, Javier scooted over on his perch, as if he was making room for someone else.  Then, without introduction I found the two of us observing one of his past lives.

It had a muffled, obscured quality; later I knew he was inside his cage and under a cloth.  I couldn’t see much, but auditory and sensate clues told me where we were.  I heard metal implements clanking against each other, canvas slapping against canvas, the creaking of wood and the sensations of stillness and heat.  We were moving in a lurching, jostling way.  I had a sense of a covered wagon, a sod home, homesteading in the 1800’s.  “Nebraska,” the bird told me.

Then I remembered something I saw at a museum about the settling of the American West:  many settlers came from the east coast; trading modern dwellings, neighbors, stores and entertainment for wind, isolation and deprivation.  It wasn’t uncommon for the women to bring little birds along as a hedge against the loneliness they were sure to face in their new lives.  Javier showed me that he was once one of those little birds, and his job was to sing and bring hope to his person, the wife of a settler.

At some point in that life another parakeet appeared; he belonged to a neighbor woman who had passed away and the widower wondered, would missus like a second bird?

Well, apparently she did, and Javier showed me how taking care of his new friend boosted his confidence and assuaged his own loneliness; I saw that he flourished in Nebraska in the 1800s, carrying out a job he took great pride in.

The past life receded and left Javier and myself to consider the situation.  I now knew, Javier wasn’t looking for any bird, he was looking for that bird.  It would be up to his person to find him.

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