Wednesday, July 2

The Child and the Lorikeet

At the Oregon Zoo in Portland (accessible by rapid transit from downtown and the suburbs) a child can experience close up creatures of different species. For the city child or for any modern child who doesn't live in the country, such encounters are usually with dogs, cats, minor rodent "pets" that live in little plastic worlds, and if the child is lucky enough an Uncle Milton's Ant Farm. it doesn't take a lot of occasional encounters to let the child know that she shares the air and earth and water with other, interesting creatures.
The Lorikeet exhibit at the Portland Zoo is an outdoor enclosed habitat with double doorways to ensure that the birds stay in. In the anteroom you can buy a cup of nectar for a dollar, and then you walk into the sunny preserve with flowery areas and a path bordered with wooden railings. If you are smart and have listened to the guide (or your parent has listened and passed this wisdom along to you), you stand still by a portion of fence, rest your forearm on the railing, and hold the little cup even and steady. Then you take a deep breath and hold still and wait. Soon a brilliantly colored bird lands on the rail (or on your wrist, if you're tall enough to rest your arm on the railing), holds tight with its feet, little foreclaws and backclaws, looks at you, then bobs its head into your cup. It drinks and drinks, and you hold very still and stare at the bird with wonder.
It doesn't take a lot to make a person aware, but someone needs to create the setting or provide the opportunity -- for the child, and for the child-in-us and for everyone.

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