“Scott … he’s not letting Potatoes near the seeds again.”
I sighed. This had been a running theme of our first day or two in the Finch Family Revival. We’d finally managed to get a pair of birds, Potatoes and Molasses, named for a silly song on a favorite cartoon. On arrival, they were everything two finches should be: cute, energetic, curious.
But they were also not the matched pair we’d been seeking. Potatoes is a society finch. Molasses is a zebra finch. For those of you not steeped in the intricacies of Birdie Lore, that’s the Odd Couple: the quiet-living, polite individual suddenly asked to be roommates with Mr. Pushy.
Most of the time it didn’t seem to matter. They’d quarantined together for a week at the pet store and seemed appropriately friendly and affectionate when it came time to discover the strange new setting of Chez Rochat (or at least a comfy cage within it). But when Potatoes would land on the seed tray, Molasses would get uncomfortably close. “Ahem. Excuse me. You know that’s MY spot … right?”
And off Potatoes would go, putting off her meal until later that night.
We tried a separate dish. Results were … ambiguous at best. We weren’t taking them back – we’d never returned a pet in our marriage and we weren’t about to start now. Reluctantly, knowing how social finches were, we bought a second cage and began putting it together. And then we gave it one more day, partly from hope and partly from the knowledge that moving just ONE finch out of a cage is like trying to catch a single specific fly out of a swarm: a matter of grace, delicacy and no small amount of luck.
Potatoes grew a backbone.
Molasses hadn’t stopped coming over with his “Watcha doin’, why’re ya here, lemme see, lemme see.” But Potatoes stopped retreating. And faced with that, Molasses didn’t push it. Before long, the two were eating together at the seed tray like old buddies on lunch break.
They’d had to relearn what normal meant. And they pulled it off.
That gives me hope for the rest of us.
About 100 million of us are now at least partly vaccinated from COVID-19 (including the Rochat household). With that, the rules of “normal” are starting to get rewritten again: how to travel, who to visit, when the masks can come off and when they still need to stay on. We’re finding out once again how to live with each other, especially during this transition period when some are protected and some aren’t.
When the dust settles, it’s highly likely that some pieces of how we live and work won’t look anything like they did before. (And sadly, as we saw recently in Boulder, some pieces of it may be all too familiar.) But one thing will be just as true as it was in 2019 – or, for that matter, as it was during that oh-so-chaotic 2020.
We still have to do this together.
That doesn’t mean rolling over for the demands of the callous and the cruel, any more than sharing a cage meant Potatoes had to starve herself. But it does mean remembering what we learned during the Great Pandemic, or should have: that we all depend on each other, that small acts of compassion can make big differences, that it’s worth giving a little to get a better world.
That when the world changes, we can change with it. And remain neighbors through it.
A finch can learn it. Maybe we can, too.
Meanwhile, anyone need an unused bird cage?