Bob McPhail 6:31 a.m., May 19
For me to be interested in a bird at the zoo it has to possess either brilliant colors or a quality so exclusively unique that it demands praise and admiration. Birds that I habitually visit when at the zoo or Wild Animal Park are spoonbills, crowned cranes, flamingoes, Andean cocks-of-the-rock, and roadrunners. There are no roadrunners at the zoo but there is one at the Wild Animal Park. The roadrunner shares her cage with six green thick-billed parrots. Her story is a heartbreaking one. First of all, she is a single roadrunner in a cage with parrots. The parrots perch on the trees in the enclosure while she dashes about on the dirt below. The parrots look down on the roadrunner, viewing her with contempt for her singular existence among them. Their cage is large, about the floor plan size of a two bedroom apartment, but certainly not large enough for a roadrunner to capture a genuine feeling of liberation as if she were racing through pastures and preying on rattlesnakes beneath wild tufts of sagebrush. Confinement aside, the roadrunner’s real tale of woe is that she has been separated from her true love.
The roadrunner is native to Southern California, and this particular roadrunner seems to have been added to the park’s menagerie almost as an afterthought. Maybe a local roadrunner somehow became trapped in one of the park’s exhibits, and, since they are such interesting looking bird, the park curator decided to just throw her into the parrot cage and make her part of the park’s collection.
When Daisy and I first noticed the roadrunner in the parrot cage, she was at the farthest right hand side of her cage, and on the outside of the cage was a larger (hence, my conviction she is female) roadrunner. Their beaks were as close to each other as the close-mesh metal cage allowed. The roadrunners appeared to be softly communicating.
“I think they know each other,” Daisy said.
“Maybe they’re married,” I speculated.
Daisy nodded her head. “Yeah.”
Lines from Romeo and Juliet began to form in my mind:
Romeo: “O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?”
Juliet: “What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?”
Romeo: The exchange of thy love’s faithful vow for mine.”
Juliet: “I gave thee mine before thou didst request it.”
Romeo: “It is my soul that calls upon my name: How silver-sweet sound lovers' tongues by night, like softest music to attending ears!”
But the roadrunners were probably really discussing an escape plan. But apparently the couple could come up with nothing, and they suddenly began to dash about the perimeter of her cage, she on the inside, he on the outside, both of them pacing each other in what appeared to be sheer desperation. Maybe, maybe, there is an opening somewhere in this barrier, an opening to free you, my love.
If there is, we shall find it, beloved. Fate has ordained it.
The roadrunners vanished from our view, their presence obscured by interior and exterior shrubs. We waited for them to reappear, but they stayed hidden, perhaps once again conspiring to defeat man’s attempt to cheat ever-lasting love.
That was four years ago when Daisy was eight. The female roadrunner is still captive with the thick-billed parrots. I wonder if her husband is still out there waiting for her, visiting every day. Or has he moved on? Maybe he has, and with her tearful blessing. Go, my love. Visit me no more. You have mourned our love enough. It is far better that you find someone new, someone to share your blessed freedom with.
No. I will not forsake you. Never! I will be here every day without fail until you are free.
I insist. It is for the better, don’t you see? Don’t you see how I suffer when I see you through tear-filled eyes trapped just as I am? Though my prison is tangible, yours is equally as confining. Go, I say. Free both of us by not returning. If you do return, I will not approach or speak to you. Go please. Go, and remember I will always love you.
She has always been single-minded, and he understands how committed she is to her principles; he knows he must comply with her wishes. I see this is what you truly want. I will go. But if I find someone else I will never love her as much as I love you. Goodbye, my love. You will exist in my heart always.
He will find someone new, but he will still visit her. He will watch her from the bushes or from the cover of night, but watch her he will until she is finally free from her cage or from the boundaries of life, or he from his.
With his departure she is free, if not physically, philosophically. She can wake now with a clear conscience. He can lead a normal life, a life he deserves. Oh, her sweet beloved!
She forced him to go, yes, but she knows he will always be there, watching her, silently loving her. She won’t look for him. She doesn’t want to see him, doesn’t want the pain to start anew. Her love for him is vast, as is his for her, so vast in fact, she knows the love in his heart can be shared with his new bride, a shared love she will never begrudge her.
When he watches her from the night, his warm presence, although she cannot acknowledge it, will secretly help to mend her broken heart and carry her through until she is free