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man of birds

June 8, 2011

there is this man who works at la mariposa, manuel, he’s in his thirties. he used to be a guide at one of the national parks, and here he seems to do a bunch of things like: take care of the many animals, the buildings, the land etc. he is also the one everyone goes to when they want to know what to do for their cold, or their infected toe, or something, and he’ll go into the woods out back here and collect the appropriate leaf/herb/whatever. but best of all, he acts like a guide in the few acres around here, which are super lush, hilly, full of wild life. he’ll get the attention of whoever is around to show them, for example, hey look at that iguana over there on the tree branch! last week, he pulled me aside and led me to a nearby dirt wall, pointed a flashlight into a hole, and handed it to me. baby birds inside the hole! they nest about 6 inches deep into the dirt. i got to take a walk out back with him, and he’s pointing all these things out all along the way, but even cooler, whistling the songs of all these birds out there, and they’re singing back to him, over and over again. he is so excited especially about these little birds called toleros (i never heard of them), who he says have a special dance or “game” they tend play at certain times of day (all of which he knew). he said that he worked here for a couple years, and would always sing to the toleros. then he went away for six months last year and when he came back, they were gone! he whistled for them every day. and finally, one day, one sang back. slowly, there were more and more, he says, and that now they aren’t hard to find here at the mariposa. his explanation: they’re just like us. you need to let them know you love them, because if they think you don’t love them, or care, they’ll leave. ! when i told him ruby and alice are coming, he was excited and said we’ll have to go for a longer walk…if you guys want to. and then just this morning i was talking to danilo, the patriarch in my homestay family, and asked him what he teaches at the mariposa, because i know he teaches at the school, but is not a spanish teacher. he said he only has one student at the moment; he’s teaching manuel to read. i was touched, and rather awestruck, because here’s this quite brilliant person, and…a person is so complicated. and well, life is so complicated i guess, to put it mildly.

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  1. Brenda Rathai permalink

    Hi Betsy:

    I am really enjoying your journal, Hope we can get together when you get home to hear and maybe share some pictures! Love, Brenda

  2. Erica GrandPre permalink

    Betsy, I love this story about the man of birds, manuel! So well written, it is like a circle. And it reminds me of my grandpa, thank you!

    • hi erica! i’m glad you like it, i wish you could be here to see, especially since i got to see the dance the other day, this really cool mating ritual where the boy birds line up on either side of the girl bird and take turns leaping over her like the big show-offs they are. thanks for reading and writing!

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