My son takes his Cockatiel Nugget out of her cage as soon as he wakes up. She sits on his shoulder when he comes downstairs to work at the computer before breakfast.
“Good Morning Son. Would you like me to make you oatmeal ?”
At the first sound of my voice, Nugget climbs down my sons arm, jumps off of the chair he is sitting on and runs into the kitchen looking for me. I hear a faint, rapid, tap tap tap behind me as I wash dishes. I turn around and look down to see Nugget racing across the floor towards me. She reaches me and stands on my foot.
I lift my leg my leg at an angle so it easier for her to climb. She uses her beak to grab the fabric of my sweatshirt and continues to climb up my shirt until she reaches my shoulder.
She is content to sit on my shoulder while I make my breakfast and eat it at the kitchen table. She climbs down my arm when she sees my water-glass. I bring her an orange fiestaware bowl full of water. She drinks and then splashes in the water.
When I was attending the Alberta College Of Art in Calgary in 1981 I had a hand tamed Cockatiel, Cody. I bought him from a breeder that I worked with in Northern British Colombia the summer before school started. My bird’s cage door was always open, like a draw bridge. He had complete freedom to fly in the room I rented above a Used Office Furniture store on 2nd street. I lived alone. In the morning when the sun came through the windows Cody flew from his open cage and landed on the corner of my loft bed. He walked to my hand and woke me by placing the back of his head into my open palm, waiting for me to preen the keratin off his pin feathers.
We shared a popcorn bowl watching movies. He sat on my knee when I had a bath in the public bath down the hall. He sat on my hand while I ate my salad at dinner. He played “pick up” with a radish from the top of my drafting chair. He eventually slept on the corner of my loft bed on a tea towel.
On November 3, 1983, I flew to Tokyo. I gave Cody to a friend. She promised to keep him for me until I came back. Cody moved into a cage with two other cockatiels; a home with three cats. He was never taken out. He did not fly. I came back to Calgary a year later to visit. He paced back and forth behind the bars of his cage, tormented by the other birds. His chest was bare. I was a stranger.
feathers plucked , fear, fighting, cats, noise,
radishes, popcorn, bathtubs, sunshine, flying
feathers plucked, blood, seeds, pain, loss
love, preening, comfort, warmth
feathers plucked, bars, anger, loss
This photograph was taken with a self timer the year before I moved to Tokyo. It is from the book “Portraits” published in 1982 as a senior project.
I lived in Tokyo for seven years. I never came back for him.
I am sorry Cody.
Nugget in the morning.