Chintan writes about his connection with the feathered beings.
Shortly before his death, 84-year-old Shoeshine Man, Rufus Pinckney, who had spent his entire life in racist Florida, told me that if he had any choice in the matter, he would be a bird.
“FREE!” is what he said! “Free at last; thank God-a-mighty we be free at last!
My love of birds began in my early teens, when younger brother John rescued a baby pigeon that was being tortured by neighborhood kids. We kept it in our crowded tenement flat, where it learned to love cats and humans, but developed a terror of birds that would come to the window to spy on the little freak. People despised pigeons as dirty pests, but this little guy proved to be a total delight, very intelligent, and very fierce. I was impressed. She would ride on the handlebars of my bike, fly off onto a telephone pole, and then swoop down and land on my shoulder. To add to the disgust my father felt at the latest addition to our menagerie, the bird really enjoyed eating apple seeds from my mouth.
Throughout my life, birds have come to me, mostly for healing, but also for reasons I have never been able to fathom. A prime example happened when I was with my friend David, a truly macho Tennessee hillbilly, who was my work partner for two years. We had a truck, some implements of minor destruction, and an assortment of muscles, which were employed cleaning rich people’s mountain chalets, chopping down trees, delivering wood, and any other odd job we could find. Also in the truck were our sporting stuff: tennis rackets and a basketball. In between jobs, it was off to the courts for fierce competition.
One day, during a tennis match, David stopped the action to inform me that a rather large bird, bigger than a blue jay, smaller than an eagle, was perched on the wire mesh fence directly behind me. This was very strange bird behavior. We were concerned that an errant ball could hit it. I walked over to the fence and spoke to the bird. “You really should not be there. Are you ill? Do you need some help?” There was no response, and so we continued our game. A few minutes later, I turned to the bird, and for some reason, held out my outstretched arm. Without hesitation, the bird landed on my arm.
David and I sat with the bird for several minutes, looking for an injury. The bird was fine. We decided that we had had enough of tennis, and since my house was close by, I put the bird in my sports bag and drove home to see if my wife Nancy had any ideas about what to do. (Nancy, by the way, was a great lover of all species save humans!) When I presented the bird to her, it became alarmed, flew to a nearby tree, stared at us for a few moments, and then flew away. (Didn’t like women?)
The most dramatic and strange bird happening also occurred when I was with David, and involved a hummingbird. We were putting the finishing touches on a chalet we’d been cleaning, when I noticed a mangled hummingbird in the open doorway leading out to the sun-deck. I examined the little creature, and sadly concluded that it had little or no chance of survival. There was blood dripping from one eye socket – apparently the eye had been knocked out. What to do? David suggested that we eat lunch, monitor the bird, and see whether it might live or die.
We made a little nest of dry cleaning rags, enjoyed our lunch, and delved deeply into the subject of death! I couldn’t leave this thing to suffer, taking it with us would be a torture for the bird, and I really hated the idea of killing the little creature. What to do? Still racked with uncertainty, I held it in my hand, and informed it that it had to make a choice. Live or die! It’s up to you!
It stood up.
Now, if memory serves, the eye still looked to be absent.
David was a smoker, and suggested that in American Indian healing, they often blew smoke on an injured being as a healing method. Blow away, my friend, I said. He did. I believe it was a Camel Filter! Maybe it was then that I noticed the absence of blood, and the return of the eye. The bird began moving its wings ever so slightly, and then went into full hummingbird flapping mode, which is very fast indeed. It was able to lift off to a height that corresponded to my eyebrows, and I felt the deliciousness of the breeze from a hummingbird’s wings on my face. Then it settled back in the palm of my hand.
Okay, bird, we haven’t got all day. Either fly off to freedom, or you are going to be in a cage. It took off, flew to the top of the highest tree nearby, as David and I let out a series of manly whoops. We packed up and began to leave, but first looked to see where our bird had gone. He or she was still there, but as we turned to go, she flew back down, buzzed around our heads, and then flew off out of sight.
What’s next? I’ll stay with hummingbirds. I first became aware of this species in my early twenties when I moved out of the inner city and settled for a time on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The first time one came to me, I thought it was a very large wasp, and therefore took a swipe at it. Fortunately my aim was off. I honestly did not know what it was, and had to be instructed by my new friends who had not wasted their lives in asphalt jungles. I was thrilled that such a creature existed.
Around that time, an acquaintance (another David), after arguing with me about the nature of political and religious “realities,” gave me a book by Henry Miller entitled Stand Still Like the Hummingbird. I thought Miller was just a purveyor of pornography, and was therefore thrilled to discover a man who was to become a favorite author and great inspiration.
Fast-forward thirty years, several years past the first hummingbird healing, and Nancy and I were doing a 3-month stint as hosts at a dysfunctional campground near Sedona, Arizona. Following an unsuccessful attempt to heal a Scrub Jay, I had acquired the reputation of being a bird expert, and when a hummingbird was found near death, it was brought to our trailer. We could not detect any physical injury, but it was definitely stressed, and unable to move.
We kept the bird for a number of days as it grew stronger. It was just a baby, and probably had fallen out of its nest. Nancy found a way to feed it using an eye-dropper. It was a very sweet few days to be sure. Finally we decided to release it into the campground. We took it to a fairly isolated place, next to a slow-moving stream. I held it in my cupped hands and waited patiently. It took such a very long time for this little guy to make up his mind. Finally, he flew; up, up, and then down, down, down into the exact center of the stream. In I went, slipping, sliding, and falling head-first, creating a bit of a tidal wave for the bird. I managed to grab hold of him, and brought him back to shore. Nancy took care of it while I dried off. The second attempt was much more successful. This time it flew to a nearby tree, rested for about half an hour, and then flew back to us for a thank-you… before taking off into his own world.
A recent happy story involves a little one who was found in the mouth of a neighborhood cat. I managed to wrestle it away, and then turned it over to my next-door neighbor who runs a wildlife rescue service. He took it to one of the veterinarians who assist in his mission. He reported back to me a few days later that the bird had recovered and been released. Aaaah, the happy outcomes!
These are Japanese Silkies. Rupa and I spent a couple of years in the New Hampshire hills, and created a little farm with two flocks of chickens, one rabbit, a huge organic vegetable garden, and numerous cats.
Onward we go, or is it backward?
BIRDS: so many in my life. I have had the thrill of witnessing divine healings or just shit luck occurrences, who knows? So often I have held a bird in my hands, or in the case of a hawk, in my arms, and wondered if I was observing the last breaths of a dying being, or the stillness that happens just before that distinctive “snap” sound or movement that indicates that all will be well. Whenever a bird would lift off from my hand, a part of me traveled with it.
Of course, I will have to include at least one of the thousands of photos of Clarence; the peacock that I have managed to spoil rotten. He has been coming to me for about six years. He has NO distinguishing features. It is amazing to me that all peacocks look the same. The reason I know it is him is that he comes by himself, walks up to the front door, waits patiently for up to an hour, and then begins pecking at the glass to let me know he is there and getting hungry.
These are Sand Hill Cranes.
They live here in Florida. They travel as couples, and usually have one or two children each year. Quite often, they walk down the middle of the street, with apparently no care whatsoever for the traffic. Every now and then one of them gets hit, due to the fact that humans in Florida have overpopulated with extremely stupid people. My neighbor did a rescue and rehabilitation of one a couple of years ago, and I got to watch him over a period of several months while he recuperated. When he was finally able to fly, he would take off from his perch on my neighbor’s outdoor fridge, make a 360-degree pass over my house, and return to the fridge. Then one day he was gone! On the ground they are silent. In the air, they make a sound similar to two blocks of wood being clapped!
Oh, one more story: This is a photo of a painting done by Anna B. McCoy, niece of Andrew Wyeth. Nancy and I became very close to the Wyeth family while we lived in Maine. Anna B. asked if she could do a portrait of me, and I willingly complied. I think the sitting lasted three days, and during that time, she asked numerous questions about Osho and my life as a sannyasin. I told her all about the encounter groups, the divine healings witnessed in Pune, the Shamanic Groups led by Somendra, and the daily miracles that occurred in the presence of an enlightened Master.
When the portrait was finished, she said she had a vision of me as a shaman, based on my stories and what she had witnessed of me tending the gardens, working with the mentally ill, and my affinity with the animal kingdom. When she presented the portrait to me, she referred to me as the Bird Man. It was her idea to put the feathers in my pocket, tattoos on my face, and seagulls flying behind me.
Chicken story – A true story by Chintan about two holy Zen characters, a possible cure for mental illness, a terrifying rooster, and a horror story starring Jack DeCoster