Part of my job is working with scholars. They'll ask me questions, I'll read lots, and give them the answers. Other times, I'll direct them to someone I know, or to a good book, or whatever I think would be best for them.
Occasionally, a researcher comes to see me because of an exhibit they'd seen years ago that I did. They want to write a book or thesis and my exhibition was part of their inspiration. That is one of my favorite things to hear.
We work together on and off for months, solving mysteries together.
A few days ago, I heard a heartbreaking animal story from one of these authors, as we sat there with our curatorial gloves. She works for a modern art museum...one of my favorite museums, which I won't name, but where I saw a fantastic Marisol Escobar show.
Naturally, after working, we get to talking about things aside from the project at hand.
At first I was excited, as she mentioned she had a story she thought I'd like to hear. It was about a white bird with a few dappled gold feathers that she'd encountered. She said the unexpected visitor was eating her flower and vegetable gardens, would come and go without a schedule, and had been doing so for weeks.
A white bird? My ears perked up. White birds are some of my favorite things. My brain filled with images of pale wing-ed things.
She explained that she had no idea what species it was. I was surprised, and I silently went through the possibilities in my head.
Let's start out simple.
No, her bird sounded enormous.
No, even the least bird-loving person could identify the neck of a swan, right?
No, too commonplace. The bird she saw was extraordinary.
I said to myself, "Come on, Heather!"
No, they are practically human and are attached to their owners.
No, I loved watching pelicans swim and fly in Bonaire. While I'm not an official ornithologist, I believe they prefer warm climates and bodies of water, rather than the gardens of a New Yorker.
I occasionally spot one near my home.
It's settled then...I figured that it must be an egret, or some kind of albino eagle she crossed paths with.
It was none of the above.
The update to the story- she newly discovered it was a peacock. Which is startling, because even though they are collected, peafowl are not wild in this country. Peacocks are native to Asia, and are the national bird of India.
This one looks painted, but it's not. It is real and alive.
Image source: link
If your neighbor had a peacock, you would know.
She asked her neighbors. No one knew whose bird it was. The authorities connected her with the owner, miles away in another town. My hopes were high as she described the man coming to reunite with the lost bird.
(I envisioned a real-life "Man In The Yellow Hat" from the Curious George books)
The scholar told me that no one had seen the bird fly before. The owner and the bird's caretaker arrived and said:
"it couldn't-- wouldn't-- doesn't fly."
Lo and behold, it took off when they tried to catch it. The peacock soared to a rooftop.
They tried to sprinkle water onto the bird with a hose. They said this would surely make it unable to fly once wet, but it flew away even further. It vanished again.
The two men left empty-handed, and there were no further sightings.
Thereafter, the mate (who'd been left behind) ran away from home as well.
I couldn't believe it. I wish I had seen it all and been able to help.
Even though I want them to be free, I'm quite worried about their survival once the snowy months arrive.
There is a romance going on...there are actually three peafowl.
The plot kept thickening.
It is a love triangle...neither bird is in love with the bird that loves it back.
So...first one left,
then the other,
then the other.
These lovesick birds. I cannot blame them for straying. If you are being hounded by someone whom you do not want, it can be maddening. On the other hand, if a creature feels unrequited love, it can drive the lover himself mad.
Can there be a happy end to it?
The fact that a white peacock is out there wandering for months is unbelievable to me. It must look like a ghost when it appears and disappears. A ghost wearing a crown and a cape.
I'm still praying they all come home.
Wherever you are, dear bird, I wish you well.
May you be healthy, happy, taken care of, and in love.
I have high hopes for you since I heard that you flew, when no one believed you could.