Owls and Interesting Lives …

24th August, 2011

As you go through life – there will always be something interesting happening!    So says one lady in the tearooms today and I could not help but agree.   She had an earring stuck against the side of her face, unable to remove it without the assistance of a jeweler.  (A small earring would not have been a problem obviously but this was an elaborate sculptured piece that looked pretty sharp!) She had put it in this morning, as she had been doing for many years,  the only difference being that she did it in a rush and the catch got jammed.   So she stood at the counter laughing about her embarrassment and sharing a smile with the staff and customers.   

There definitely is always something happening in the Tearooms!   And hopefully something that if not interesting, can at least be turned into laughter and a humorous story to share.   These days there is a constant stream of events turning life on its edges, in one way or another.  Don’t you agree?  Some are sad, some are painful, some are stressful, most are very confronting…..  while some are very exciting.  As you go through life, how invigorating it is to have interesting things happen….  Things that change the way you think or feel, things that challenge you to alter your perceptions, to change what you do every day, events which may not be cataclysmic, may not be bad, or even good, but simply interesting and thought provoking.  Be honest!  It’s better to have a little of the unexpected, the inspiring, the challenging,  even the disturbing, than become stagnant, bored, steeped in the mundane, colourless monotony of “a rut” !    I definitely prefer life to be interesting, don’t you?   And even if you think your life is uninteresting, perhaps all you need is a fresh set of eyes and a good long look around.  You might just find that spark of interest where you have been overlooking for years!

It’s business as usual at the Café this week.  Everyone is home from their well earned breaks, and back in the kitchen cooking up delightful treats and planning the new spring menu. 

Well, ALMOST business as usual!  Outside in the street, things are heating up with workers tearing the road apart in readiness for the new cultural precinct.   The old bitumen is being cut and removed to be replaced by cobblestone paving as part of an upgrade that will see the street outside the café become a hub of activity and entertainment.   New light poles are already in place, and the old buildings across the road are being deconstructed as I write.   In the future the street can be closed off for public performances and events, or used as a general mall when required.   Future festivals and events in this town will certainly benefit from the changed appearance and energy of the street and cultural surrounds.  It will be a major improvement for the art galleries and the tearooms and the general feel of the area.

So today there is heavy machinery outside the old windows, they are digging up the old bitumen road, and removing paving.  There are jackhammers and power tools grating on the ears and shattering the peaceful feeling of the tearooms.   The sounds are juxtaposed against the old world music trying hard to be heard in the café…. Somehow it reminds me of the old movies of the war era, where the forties music plays relentlessly over radios while the planes are bombing the streets outside…. There seems something unsettling about such a juxtaposition of the sweet human sentiments and monotonous melody of music against the background of potential death and destruction.  It isn’t easy chilling out today, but everyone knows it’s not permanent, not life threatening (I hope!) and is certainly for good cause.  

I think you can overcome most annoyances or grievances if you can find the bright side of the situation, or see a bigger picture.  Brenda has the most beautifully simple way to handle such things.   With the calm and wisdom befitting a Buddhist monk she faces a constant stream of all nature of events and people with their own share of issues, many of whom turn their issues against the staff or Brenda herself.   She deals with such matters that would annoy, upset or enrage other people, in the most admirable way.

“Compassion” she says with a zen like smile.
“Enormous amounts of compassion and when all else fails – a good belly laugh!”

For me, if things get too much, I try to make something different happen…. Remove myself from the rut and go somewhere out of the ordinary, or where I can be reminded that life is not all about stress and hardship or people and their issues, but simply LIFE.

  Last week, I took such a drive down to Margaret River to Eagles Heritage, to meet up with a little friend of mine.   Echo the Barn Owl is, as the name suggests, a Barn Owl, and the most quaint and lovely little fellow you could ever hope to meet.   He and his carer/handler Nancy were doing the free flight display and talk at Eagles Heritage, and as I have photographed Echo many times over the past few years, I thought I would visit the raptor sanctuary and catch up with them both again.

I always enjoy being out in nature and seeing wildlife, and even though many of the raptors at Eagles Heritage are in cages, they are only there for a reason.   They have either been rescued after illness or injury, in which case they are cared for and then carefully released back into the wild, or if their injuries would place their lives at risk if released, they are cared for indefinitely.  In some cases, where they become accustomed to handling and human presence, they can become ambassadors and education birds, used to promote the care, preservation and wellbeing of not just raptors but all wildlife.    Any birds that spend the whole of their lives in cages are only there because to be free would spell certain death for them.   

Judging by the stories of, and the actual birds themselves, that return once released, to visit, show off babies or mates, or cadge a free feed during a flight display, they do appreciate their caregivers and their lives in proximity to humans, and certainly do not forget.  

Some birds have been born in captivity, from parents who live at the park or at one of the other raptor centres or zoos aroundAustralia.   Birds bred in captivity are supposedly not allowed to be released back into the wild, for environmental and health reasons.   During my visit I got to meet one such baby – a lesser sooty owlet.   As yet unnamed, this tiny, fluffy baby was hatched from an egg produced by the two lesser sooty owls at the raptor park, and was being raised by humans.    All eyes and beak, he was almost grotesque, looking more like a little vulture than an owl, yet like the ugly duckling, it would only be a matter of time before he was a magnificent bird, though an owl not a swan.  

Speaking of magnificent, I also got to see one of the baby owl’s older siblings from a previous hatching – a female lesser sooty called Chip. She was the most exquisite bird – with pure white plumage.   She put on a display of aggression towards me as I looked into her enclosure, and it seemed as if she was afraid, so I backed away feeling rather sad for disturbing her.  However I was told by her carer that she was not at all bothered by humans, as she had been hand-reared, and was perfectly friendly – her only issue was that she was annoyed at being transferred to the raptor park enclosure after a life in a human household and had become a grumpy bum!  

Echo was his usual charismatic self, sitting up proudly for the free flight talk, allowing people to photograph him, or hold him on a gloved arm, all the while looking around with great interest, or staring rather intently at the speaker box over our heads, and attempting to fly at it.  (It turns out that the box was emitting a humming sound that we could not detect, but he could.)   Many times during the talk he directed his gaze intensely at the roof above our heads and made as if to attack.   It gave me a bit of an idea of how it might feel to be a mouse on the ground with an owl scouting above.   The intensity of the eyes in the seconds before he took flight was something to see!

I always enjoy meeting the people and birds at Eagles Heritage.  Immersing myself in a place that honours and cares for wildlife, and our magnificent Australian raptors, where people are doing good rather than harm and endeavoring to make a difference on this planet, is one of the uplifting and interesting things I can do to turn a bad day into a good one!

So what do you do at times like this?

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