I did not realize this until I started thinking about what to write for HocTok, but now there is a new little thing that brings me tremendous joy with her presence. A few months ago, a friend gave me her 20-year old cockatiel so that I would take care of her while she, my friend, deals with other things. Prior to that I did not even know what a cockatiel was. In addition, I am also new to having animals as companions, so probably many of my thoughts and emotions are nothing new for people who have pets.
This short time with Peanut, the bird, has been a period of observation and discovery. Almost by chance I found out that she loves being touched. She needs affection. And now that she feels comfortable around me, she lets me rub her head with the tips of my fingers. And when she is close by, she likes to burrow her head against my chest. This bond of trust and affection goes both ways. I believe it has had a positive effect on me, too.
I do not know enough to understand how such different beings –Peanut is so small and fragile, and I, well, let’s just say that compared to her I am a gigantic, clumsy human– enter into these exchanges. Through her I am reminded that love, social bonding and affection are not exclusively human; and that is a powerful feeling that momentarily shields from all the hate we see nowadays.
My experience with Peanut has also been revelatory in other ways. In cockatiel years she is quite old. Despite that, she is still lively, quick on her feet. She has a good appetite although she does not have the shine of youth anymore. Her feathers, colors, and eye sight betray her age. I never thought I would say this, but her old self, reminds me of certain older people I have known. She makes me think of my 86-year-old bartender at my favorite bar here in NY. She also reminds me of my dad in his last months of life. Perhaps all of us, human and non-human creatures, share more than what we think. Perhaps the limits of existence are the same for all. By observing Peanut’s fragility in her old age, I am somehow reminded of my own limited time.
Who knew that by taking care of my new friend, a cockatiel, I would find so much affection and feel connected to life in such unexpected ways.
Mauricio Arango was born in Bogotá, Colombia and lives and works in New York. He is an alumnus of the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum and has participated in residences at Headlands Art Center in San Francisco, the International Academy of Fine Arts in Salzburg, Austria; the MacDowell Artist Colony, USA; and Museo El Barrio, New York. He earned an MFA from the University of Minnesota. His films have been screened widely at art and film festivals including most recently New Directors/New Films at the Lincoln Film Society and The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Kino Der Kunst, Münich; VideoBrasil, Sao Paulo; Rencontres Internationales, Paris; and IndieLisboa, Lisbon.