“This smells delicious!” Cadences chirps, ladling a small pile of sweet potatoes onto her plate. She reaches for the butternut squash adding a dollop beside the potatoes. It is an official announcement that autumn has arrived. A hint of crisp and dry in the air always sends me fleeing the grill and firing up the oven, roasting meats and boiling root vegetables.
Mashed potatoes, peas, stuffing and gravy make their way around the table as Cadence delights in the menu change; little piles of this and that placed in a circle around her plate. “I’m going to have a little of everything,” she announces, “except for that.” She points in the direction of the roasted chicken lying crisp and spread eagle on a platter.
“You don’t want any chicken?” I ask.
“Vegetarian.” She answers. “Mom, I’m taking this thing seriously.”
“Okay,” I tell her, “but we are going to have to start you on protein shakes or something because cheese and yogurt aren’t’ enough.”
“Fine,” she answers, “As long as an animal doesn’t have to die.” She stares briefly at the victim on the platter.
Cadence’s attempt at the vegetarian life style has waxed and waned over the last six months but is picking up strength and conviction. I think about her passion this summer when she discovered the displaced Monk Parakeet colonies. Driving through a nearby shoreline city, I pointed out the nests on the top of the utility poles on the road along the water; massive sea grass nests like hairy heads on the poles, collectively housing thousands of birds.
“They have been in the area more than twenty years,” I explained, “Some think it started when a truck accident released birds that were in transport to a pet store. They are tropical birds, but somehow have adapted to our northern environment.” This news of underdog survival tugged at the very heart of Cadence, who clamored for more information and a closer look.
I parked the car and we stood beneath a nest on the sidewalk. The small noisy green parrots popped their heads out and cocked them sideways, inquiring as to our purpose. Cousins to her beloved pet bird, Cadence was captivated by them and squawked to them in their native tongue. We watched as one landed on the wire with a large piece of dried sea grass, carefully weaving it into the nest. Cadence fluttered and chirped loudly and I shooshed her, knowing the human residents did not share her enthusiasm. I explained about the power outages and the nuisance the birds posed to the people and utility companies.
“But it’s not their fault that they were brought here! They probably have to work hard just to say alive!” She defended. I continued that while this is true, the utility companies had decided that they needed to remove them. We talked about euthanization and how they came during the night, taking the nests when the birds were sleeping. Cadence was outraged.
“Why can’t they take the nest and drive it to the rain forest back where they belong?” She pleaded; a simple and logical solution.
“I guess because relocation would cost more than euthanization.” I told her as her mouth dropped wide and her eyebrows arched.
“So it’s all about money?” She squealed, pulsing with injustice. “There must be a way to solve this. There must be other people who want to help.” I explained that lots of animal lovers are upset, but so far it has not changed anything.
“We have to do something!” She demanded. She was not deterred by the idea that one voice or a few were not enough. “I need to find a way to build human perches next to the bird’s nests. Then I can get other animal lovers like me to sit there so people will pay attention. We can make signs that say “Relocation, not…what was that word?”
“Euthanization.” I told her, wondering how long it will be until she is spearheading rallies for real.
“Cadence, do you want a leg?” Her father asks from the head of the table, carving the defencless chicken lying before him, oblivious to our conversation.
“Vegetarian.” She answers.