Fish Gotta Swim, Birds Gotta Fly… or, Henry as Sage, Wiseacre, and The One With The Odious Task of Keeping Us All In Line…

While I have been recuperating from my series of ridiculous falls leaving me with a sprained foot and ankle, Henry, grey parrot, man of the house, and Dragonfly Cottage Office Manager, has been on top of things. If you know anything about grey parrots you will know that while some of the things I’m about to say some will think untrue, or find surprising, or think I am joking, anyone who does know grey parrots or has met Henry (even heard him on this side of the phone while I might be talking to someone a continent away) will know that the little man is brilliant. This morning he decided to have a word with the Betas in the Bamboo Forest

Henry calls every one of the other parrots and dogs by name. When I get up in the morning I get the dogs out and in, give them a treat, get all of their food and fresh water, (That would be Moe, the jolly black giant, and the three little nibblets, or rather, puglets…) and then make my rounds with the five parrots, giving them good morning kisses, singing to them, getting them fresh food and water and treats. Henry is immediately out to play first thing in the morning, and if I don’t leave the house he is out all day until I go to bed. He is very well behaved, and either plays on top of his cage or flys over to Solomon’s cage (His best friend, a Blue Crown Conure.) or to me. He spends a good bit of the day on my person or the back of my desk chair, and likes especially to poop on the baffled dogs lying under him. Sampson, the little Zen-Velcro pug, is always between my feet and is mostly safe, but Moe, just behind my chair, is an easy target. He and Henry have a long history (They grew up together.) and have been known to sit on the couch together watching t.v. (They are very fond of Law & Order, any of them. They especially like Criminal Intent. I’m not fond of them watching violence on t.v., but boys will be boys.).

Moe is sulking because I won’t let him have the remote
control. You know how men are, they never stop flipping
the channels and will drive a person cuckoo with that

As I’m getting the birds food and water Henry sings, “Everybody gets clean water, the babies do get clean wa-ter, fresh food and clean wa-ter….” and as I move from cage to cage he’ll say, “There you go Sol,” “They you go Sierra,” “There you go Emmy-Lou Lou Lou…” and finally, “Tommy Tom-Tom, there you go Tommy…” and he watches me carefully to make certain everyone gets their fair share.

He has always talked to Moe and called him by name, but I was surprised how quickly he picked up not only the pug’s names, but my relationship to them and their behavior.

Babs, the little black pug, 12 years old and deaf as a door (meaning she can’t hear a word he’s saying but it doesn’t stop him…) I have loved on and kissed and cuddled like the little black peanut of a girl she is. Henry will say, like a mother talking to a baby, “Hey Babsie, here Babsie, gimme a little kiss…” or, after a recent bit of trouble wherein Moe started going after Babs, first and the other pugs a little, Henry would say, “It’s okay Babsie, it’s okay, Mama loves you, sweet little thing…” He says, “Sampson, you silly boy,” to abovesaid Zen-Velcro pug, and to Coco, who always moves slower than the rest, he will say in a cheerful voice, “C’mon you pokey little puppy…” (She’s 11 and hard of hearing and no puppy, but Henry hears me, and talks very endearingly to her.)

So this morning as we were having the morning latte and planning our day…

Henry tells me which mail to delete, which
mail to answer first, when to empty the trash,
what’s spam, and by the way, it’s time to get
a treat, something like a “Birdie Biscotti”
go with the latte…

… he decided it was about time he checked on the fish. I have been known to have up to six betas and have them for years, but I have given a few to people who dearly wanted them, keeping my two favorites, Vincent (… for Van Gogh, and it was Henry who had to teach me the correct pronunciation of the artist’s name. I hadn’t believed him until we watched a special on Van Gogh’s life on PBS — you gotta trust PBS — and they said, “Van GOFF,” which is the correct pronunciation and not the usual Van GO. Well, it was a terrible shock to me but Henry said, “I told you so,” with a smirk, and I went all pink and kind of hung my head. I am 53 years old, I studied art history in college, and as far as I know every single person I’ve met my whole life has said, “Van GO,” but he was Dutch and it made sense when I thought about it.

The other fish is Yeats, one of my all-time favorites, with a pearly white body and the longest most gorgeous fins in a dreamy blue. He was named for Yeats not just because Yeats is one of my favorite poets, but because he wrote my favorite poem, one that I can still recite aloud today. The poem is “He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven.” It goes like this…

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with gold and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night, light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams beneath your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams…

That poem makes me get teary every time I hear/read it, and when I saw the movie made of Helene Hanff’s “84 Charing Cross Road,” one of my all-time favorite books, and Anthony Hopkins recited that poem in the movie, I thought I had perhaps died and gone to heaven. Once Sir Anthony has done such an impeccable job reciting Keats, no one else will ever do, though now and again I get all melancholy and practically shout it out loud, to which Henry gives me a nip that means “SNAP OUT OF IT,” just like Cher shouted at Nicholas Cage after slapping him in “Moonstruck.” I’m serious, if everyone on the planet had a grey parrot we’d all behave much better and be less of an embarrassment to those around us.

So, this morning, Henry hopped off of the back of my desk chair onto the kitchen counter behind me and sat for a very long time communing with the betas.

It was a wordless communion, but the betas actually swam to the front of the bowls and at one point Henry put his beak on the outside of the bowl just where Vincent was. You could honestly tell that they were really communicating. It was actually a very poignant moment, because what I thought at that juncture is that if birds and fish and dogs and one cattywompus woman can get on so well in one little cottage, why do so many people have such a hard time. Here skin and fur and feathers and fins of all colors, shapes and sizes live in perfect harmony. Even the skirmishes with the dogs are quickly over and right now, the birds are all asleep, the dogs are as well, snoring pugs are here and there making what has become a very comforting sound to me, and we all get on just fine.

I’ve been thinking that Henry should perhaps call the United Nations and offer his services. If he can run this varied group this well — He’s from Africa; Solomon, Emmy Lou and Thomas, all conures, come from South America; the pugs originated in China; Moe is a good old-fashioned American boy; and I’m half French and half Polish — he ought to do a better job than what’s being done right now. In fact, I know he’d be running the White House a lot better. As long as they served him his Latte and Birdie Biscotti first thing.

So here we are, on a Saturday night, a soft rain falling outside, the animals asleep, and I am once again ruminating on how very lucky I am. Henry walks tall and carries a big stick, as the saying goes, but he’s really a lover, not a fighter, and that’s what I love best…

Henry and I having a Good Morning kiss…

We wish you all a peaceful night, a happy life, and that you treasure the little ones who make life more worthwhile and joyful, and if you need any advice, you can write to Henry at Dragonfly Cottage. He’s thinking about starting an advice colume. If “Dear Abby” could do it, he can do it and have his latte and read The Sunday New York Times all at once. Nobody has anything on Henry…

Maitri, humble servant to Himself…

If you enjoy this blog a donation would be deeply appreciated to help me continue to bring “Maitri’s Heart” to you. Thank you, and many deep blessings to one and all…


  1. I wish I had a lovely Henry to keep my menfolk in line, does he have a brother? So nice to read your post today. It’s such a happy post!

  2. African Grey’s are neat birds. I used to have a Goffin’s cockatoo and a few cockatiels (not all at the same time of course).

  3. Hmm, i agree with you. Good.

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