Recent Findings

I once was lost, but now this.

From time to time, when feeling vaguely haunted by a general sense of loss, it can be useful to turn to the oracles of online message boards for reminders of the abundance that has recently been found. For instance, a small but costly kite has been discovered in an ice plant container, along with some keys at the ledge of the walkway near the dog park. Someone walking along Chollas Creek recently came upon a skateboard, and a foray into the Costco business center led one unsuspecting traveler to discover the proverbial box of money. 

It’s not just the bounty of these findings that’s worth noting, but the fact that person after person is going out of their way––after work, traffic, everyday aches and pains, in between nagging health concerns, personal grievances, and untold losses of their own–– to locate the rightful owner and return the treasure, resisting the age-old maxim of finders keepers.

I won’t comment on the sensitive nature of the personal items the dog keeps finding in the marsh, but there is reason to believe that they will be returned without any questions asked about how exactly they got in there. True, there is still no sign of the teeth that were left in a Skittles bag on a picnic table in Oak Park, but there is no shortage of found kittens ready to soothe the toothless without judgement. We are all on the lookout for the lost parts of ourselves, and what are we here for, anyway, if not to be ever returning them to one another?

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I have an odd fondness for taking inspiration from Craigslist ads. Although I have never actually used them to locate any goods, services, or people, I take great delight in reading them. 

In Bird News

This morning, I am heartened by the parrots.

“We proclaim human intelligence to be morally valuable per se because we are human. If we were birds, we would proclaim the ability to fly as morally valuable per se. If we were fish, we would proclaim the ability to live underwater as morally valuable per se. But apart from our obviously self-interested proclamations, there is nothing morally valuable per se about human intelligence.”  – Gary L. Francione

This morning, I am heartened by the parrots. First, it’s Bruce, a New Zealand kea with a severe disability, who has fashioned his own prosthetic. Bruce is missing most of his upper beak, which is essential for preening, which removes parasites and dirt from feathers. Researchers watching Bruce observed that he was not simply enamored with pebbles in a random manner. He only picked them up to preen. Unlike other birds interacting with stones for other reasons, Bruce only picked up pebbles of a specific size. He’d fit these between his tongue and lower beak when he preened. No other kea did this. It was his own idea, they concluded. Upon publication of these findings, some asked the scientists why they had not given Bruce a proper prosthetic. He doesn’t need one, they answered.

Also, in an experiment involving trading tokens for treats, African grey parrots have been demonstrating a remarkable tendency to help one another, even when there is no obvious benefit to the helper. When one parrot had the tokens, but no access to the treats, he would pass the tokens to the bird beside him, even if the other was a stranger. The other bird could trade the tokens for treats. Repeating the experiment with other species, researchers found the Blue-headed macaws to be more selfish, perhaps because they live in smaller, unchanging groups. One of the researchers offered an alternative reading of this disparity in sharing, suggesting that perhaps the selfish species are just not as good at understanding the needs of their mates

I have no small amount of fascination with birds, and reminders back to this often call to mind a passage from Terry Tempest Williams: “Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated” (from When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice)Amen.

Notes

I discovered a report about the study published in The Journal of Scientific Reports, “Self-care tooling innovation in a disabled kea” through a link in this New York Times article by Nicholas Bakalar, which in turn led me to this one on African grey parrots by Elizabeth Preston.

Gary L. Francione has raised interesting questions about the way that current practices in what passes for animal rights legislation tend only to reinforce systemic hierarchies that treat animals as property. Distinguishing between rights and welfare of animals, Francione has argued that the single most important right of animals that should be understood, is the right not to be treated as property.

More bird-themed posts:

For the Birds

Nest

Flight Paths

Pigeon Spectrum

Mirror, Mirror