March 2012 – Sept 2, 2016
Rosa came into this world weighing maybe 20 grams, all pink with unruly yellowish down. I, nor any other human, knew her then. I also never met her parents, but I imagine they loved her, and cared for her. They stroked her body with their beaks, pulling at the sheath of her new feathers so they could sprout rainbow and rise over the earth. But then one day men came to her home, broke into it, and pulled Rosa screaming from the warm comfort of the place where she was safe, loved. At least that is one version of her early life. Another telling is that the men hacked into her pine tree, and felled it to get to Rosa on the ground. However she became a prisoner of human desire, she ended up with broken legs and wings. Her parents swooped, calling until they were hoarse, but to no avail. They would never see Rosa again.
Rosa now entered into a dark time. Men bound her in a burlap sack so she wouldn’t move and could be easily moved from the fields to the nearby town. She was given little water, and heard no longer the sounds and words of comfort that she had known before. No attention was given to her brokenness, even though she cried in pain as she was moved clandestinely from house to house. New men with a different vision for how to meet desire, found her in squalor, fed only corn mush. Her legs were swollen, scabbed over from where the bones had once protruded. I saw her pictures from afar and wondered if she would ever fly, let alone live.
Live she did, finding her way to Anayda. Anayda and her spouse Santiago, and other villagers, had been taking in rescued scarlet macaws and yellow-naped parrots for the past 2.5 years in the village of Mabita in La Moskitia, Honduras. Rosa joined this liberated flock, though she had to be hand carried from branch to feeding platform to porch. I met her when she was nearly 18 months old, a sad and pain-ridden being. I thought she would die, and said so to Anayda. “Without you, Rosa will not live.” Anayda heard that as a charge and did not let Rosa die. She continued the treatments I began, and never let Rosa out of her site. When she went to Nicaragua to tend fields, Rosa rode in her shirt, both of them behind Santiago on a motorcycle.
I next saw Rosa when she was two, and she was a fine thing. Still fearfully thin, she had regained her health, her feathers had grown in shiny and shockingly red, the disease gone and replaced with some feistiness. She used her beak for balance and to walk, taking hobbling steps with her bowed legs and curled feet to get to food and to companionship.
I got to spend two months with her near her 4th birthday. I wondered about her future, all broken, so un-macaw-like with her diminished ability (earth please forgive me for such thoughts). I am a hobbler too, legs in declining function, so it is perhaps really myself whom I judge for being less than my species can be. I watched Rosa closely, and found a fierce friend, for she taught me that even the broken can yet shine and serve.
Just past her 4th birthday Moncorron came to the Rescue Center. He was a weak thing, timid and beaten down with captivity. We were afraid to introduce him into Casa Ara, knowing there could be fights. But Anayda said, “Rosa will take care of him. That is what she does with newcomers.” It took all of 5 minutes before Rosa zeroed in on him. Beak advancing to grab wood or wire, she pulled herself slowly towards him. Within ten minutes they were preening each other, hardly thereafter ever leaving each other’s side, Moncorron safe now in the company and protection of Rosa.
I got a call from Santiago a few weeks ago. “Doctora, algo triste. Rosa murio.” Dr., something sad, Rosa died. She had developed a cough and was taken into Anyada’s home. There was no clinic, no veterinarian, inadequate medicine, and no diagnostic ability to know why she was so sick. She died two days later. I didn’t feel much then, couldn’t, because I had to work with Santiago on understanding the illness she had and who else might have it. Santiago did the hard chore of performing a necropsy, cutting up little Rosa so her tissues could tell us something of the mysterious illness that threatens the liberated flock.
Our love and care wasn’t enough for Rosa. We all have failed her, and her kind. But Rosa didn’t falter. She lived in pain and with her unique and precious life; she gave us and the macaws companionship. She taught us the kind of love that tasks us to bone deep rending and mending that never ceases. I’d like to go back to the days before I met Rosa, when I wasn’t responsible for all those crippled and tortured birds in the illegal wildlife trade in Honduras. Anayda once told me something similar when I asked her why she dedicates her life to caring for macaws. “Once I saw Rosa, I could not let it happen anymore.”
I can’t let it happen anymore either. So dear Rosa, I promise you now my unending love. May I not forget that though you are now gone, you are still visible and ever with me. Your beauty flies behind me, around me, under and above me, and in front of me. You live into the future in those who knew you, and I dream beyond knowing, that your parents flew over the Rescue Center in your last days and recognized your voice, calling out their love to you.
Rosa, Pree Palisa (Miskito for Rosa, Fly Free). Your beauty will never die.