Maggie Wright
 

SMILE!

 

Words are NOT needed for this one.  The song Smile by the Lettermen helped me get through  sadness, tears, pain, sorrow, disappointment, rejection, and the heartache of growing up. It is one of my most favorite songs. 

Enjoy!

   

Posted in BRINGING BACK THE MAGIC | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Magical Duets: Maggie’s Picks

Just wanted to share with you a few of my very favorite duets:

How do you keep the music playing?  by Tony Bennett & Aretha Franklin

 

The Lady is a Tramp  by Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga

 

 

 

Posted in BRINGING BACK THE MAGIC | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Comins’ and Goins’ of the Cholla Cactus Tree

Mrs. Bird and babies

Above painting titled “Where’s Mine?”  By Arlene Powers.

I have a true story to tell.  It’s about two brown birds… two brown birds that have curved bills and they live in the desert.  They are Curve-billed thrashers whom I have named Mr. and Mrs. Bird.  Brown birds? Thrashers?  Yick, Maggie, couldn’t you find a more interesting bird to write about?   Well, no.  These guys are special, at least, they are in my heart.  Here’s the story.

My first home here in Phoenix, Arizona, was like a little Doolittle paradise.  The backyard was luscious with three citrus trees (orange, grapefruit, and lemon), a pear tree, a grape vine, a plantain banana tree, pines, and many beautiful bushes.  The front yard had desert landscaping with a shady mesquite tree and a large Cholla cactus tree, as well as countless other cacti and rose bushes.  There was a 1500 gallon pond that was in an outdoor porch structure, just outside of my bedroom.  That’s where my beautiful 18-inch koi fish  lived.  It was a joy to live there.

All kinds of birds flocked to the yard: doves, wrens, finches, woodpeckers, quail, sparrows,
hummingbirds, blackbirds, and a few cardinals in the winter.  But there was one thrasher that stood out.  He did not stand out because of his color… he was plain brown.  But, it was his  attitude.  He pranced around that yard, chasing after all of the other birds when they got in his way.  He had pronounced himself King.  I named him Sir Thrasher because of his great skill at protecting his Cholla cactus tree.

Sir Thrasher’s wife, whom I named Lady Thrasher, had only one leg and no tail feathers.  They kept their nest in the cholla tree.  I took great joy at watching how this energetic one-legged wonder could whip around that cactus tree with only one leg and no tail feathers for balance, but she did it victoriously. She grabbed a twig here and a leaf there and meticulously built her nest.  I watched her perch on a cement wall, completely balanced, again with no tail and only one leg.  Sometimes, while perching on a tree, she leaned against a branch to give herself support.  As I watched, I wondered how much vigor and energy it must take to flit around that yard with only one leg and no tail feathers, but it did not seem to bother her at all.

Sir and Lady Thrasher were quite the pair.  They woke me up every morning with their “weet-weet” contact calls.  It was like clockwork, and it was the signal that got me up every morning.  While making breakfast and the morning MASH for my African grey parrot children, I could hear the “weet-weet” sounds coming through the exhaust fan.  It was constant and comforting, and it made me feel as if everything was right with my little paradise.

Lady Thrasher stopped coming to the tree because two feral cats had started to stalk
the yard.  Thankfully, I knew she was okay because I could still hear their “weet- weet” sounds all over the neighborhood, as she and Sir Thrasher communicated.  She continued to return to the yard to drink and bathe in the bird bath, but she never returned to the Cholla tree; therefore, I assumed that she had made a new nest somewhere else.

Finally, in the winter, the “weet-weet” sounds seemed to stop.   I don’t know what happened, but I assume that one of those cats had finally gotten to Lady Thrasher and her handicap.  It made me sad and lonely.

The next spring, Sir Thrasher attracted a new mate, whom I called Mrs. Bird.  And, again, the sweet medley sounds of the “weet-weets” finally filled the air. They promptly laid eggs and a young thrasher chick was born.  I watched Sir Thrasher and Mrs. Bird feed that chick, day after day.  As the days passed and the baby got older, he started to climb around and explore.  Finally, a few weeks later, he made the leap of faith and jumped.

Weeks following, I watched as Sir Thrasher and Mrs. Bird spent day after day teaching
that baby his new living skills.  It seemed that Sir Thrasher was the main teacher, while Mrs. Bird went back to nest to prepare to brood more chicks.

I loved to stand at the window with my African greys on my shoulders and watch the comings and goings of daddy and chick.  One morning, a hawk flew into the yard and snatched the baby away, right in front of us.  I screamed and cried because this chick had become part of the family.  My greys, Merlin, Sweetpea, and Kyo, were quiet all day after this horrific scene.

Four days later, as I drove into my driveway, I noticed a dead bird.  Oh, no!  It was Sir Thrasher!  He had been hit by a car!  I blessed him and buried him.  He had been “family” and I was devastated about it.

Imagine losing your child and husband, all in one week.  That’s hard for any human, and guess what?  It’s also hard for a bird.  Mrs. Bird was beyond devastated.  She was almost despondent.  She sat there in her nest, day after day and week after week.  There were no more “weet- weet” sounds.  She only left occasionally to get something to eat and then promptly returned to her nest.  When she was away, I checked the nest and it was empty.  There were NO EGGS… NO MATE… and NO CHICK.   This depressed bird just sat on an EMPTY nest, and this lasted day after day for about two months.

I was beside myself for her.  I spent time in the yard and sent her loving telepathic thoughts.  I pretended in my head and heart that I was holding and comforting her.  I imagined that I was helping her to release the intense pain that she was feeling.  I left food for her.

Finally, I noticed a new thrasher hanging out in the yard.  Wowie Zowie!  Mrs. Bird had a new boyfriend.  But unfortunately, he only lasted one day, and then she chased him out of the yard.  As days progressed, she seemed to have more energy and she put herself out there in the neighborhood, looking for a new boyfriend.  She reminded me of my days in the single scene in New York City in the 1980s.  If you weren’t out there in the restaurants and bars, you weren’t going to meet anyone to date.  So, I cheered her on.  Once again, the  “weet-weet” sounds filled the air.

During this time when Mrs. Bird was away from the yard more often to find a mate, I
remarked to Merlin that I missed the “weet-weet” sound.  That night, Merlin started saying “weet-weet” to me.  She understood what I had said!   How smart is that!?!  “Weet-weet” became our new in-house contact call.

Finally, Mrs. Bird found a new mate, whom I called Mr. Bird.  They made their home in the Cholla cactus tree.  A few years went by and they had several chicks every year, which my feathered grey kids and I were thrilled to witness.

I enjoyed helping Mr. and Mrs. Bird feed their babies.  At first, I purchased live-mealworms that I put in a little brown dish at the root of the Cholla tree.  But, it bothered me to serve up the live worms.  So, I started to purchase freeze-dried mealworms, instead.  The Birds did not take to this very easily.  They wanted their live worms, so I had to go back to the live worms, while at intervals, switching it up to freeze-dried ones.  After a while, they found themselves eating the freeze-dried ones, and I no longer had to feel sad for the little worms being set out to be eaten.

Once again, everything was calm and happy in Doolittle Paradise.  That is, until I realized that I had to move. My house was so deep under water that my only choice was to short-sell and find a new home.  So, I sold my house and moved approximately 45 miles to the west valley of the Phoenix area.

The new home was lovely and there was a yard-full of wonderful new birds and other creatures for my greys to meet.  But, as the weeks went on, my feathered kids remained very quiet.  Merlin had stopped doing the “weet-weet” calls.  They had to leave their buddies in the yard behind and they seemed sad and depressed.  I was also very sad, as I was missing Mr. and Mrs. Bird. I was hoping that things would get better with time for my grey companions, as they made new friends with the creatures in the new yard. But overtime still, there were no more “weet-weet” in-house contact calls… and the guys remained exceptionally quiet.

Three months later, there was a swish, swish sound coming from outside of my window.   I looked out and there were two brown birds… two Curve-billed thrashers swishing yard pebbles, looking for worms.  I had heard thrashers in the neighborhood when I first moved in, so at first, I thought nothing of it.  Then day after day, these two birds remained outside my window, looking for worms.  This is strange, I thought. Then, I noticed one thrasher hiding under the Mexican Bird-of-Paradise bush, just like Mr. and Mrs. Bird used to do in the other yard.  Could it be???

Could it be??? I brought out my first test.  It was their brown bowl containing freeze-dried mealworms.  Then I put it on a rock near the Mexican Bird-of-Paradise bush, which was similar to what I had done in Phoenix.  They took to it.  They pranced right up to that bowl and ate the mealworms.  Oh, my!  They looked like Mr. & Mrs. Bird did, and now, they behaved in the same manner.  They even immediately took to the freeze-dried mealworms, which had taken me a long time to acclimate them to.  On top of that, they were hanging out under my window, day by day, which the resident thrasher had never done.

Finally, I tried the ultimate test.  I brought Merlin to the window and asked her if this was Mr. and Mrs. Bird.  She looked over at them.  They stopped swishing the pebbles and looked back at her.  Then, Merlin said, “Weet-weet!  Weet-weet!”  Then I cried.  My thrasher babies had found us!!!

Once again, the “weet-weet” sound has become the contact call between Merlin and
me.  Mr. and Mrs. Bird have made a new nest in a nearby yard, but they still hang out in my yard under the Bird-of-Paradise bush, when they are not feeding babies.  They also frequently visit their brown dish to get the mealworms for their babies.

Just today, I hid the mealworm dish for a few hours because the quail were trying to team
up against the thrashers for the mealworms. Knock! Knock! Knock! Knock! What’s that?
I rushed over to my porch to see what all of the commotion was about.  It sounded like someone hammering on my porch.  I ran over and looked.  It was Mr. Bird.  Just like a woodpecker, he was knocking on the wooden porch rail, right where the bowl was supposed to be.  knock!  knock!  Knock! Knock!   ”Maggie, where’s my bowl?  I want my food!”  Now, how smart is that!?!

Yes.  Things are wonderful here in my new Doolittle paradise.

 

 

Copyright ©2013 Margaret T. Wright.  This article may not be reproduced in any form without the permission of the author.

 

Posted in BRINGING BACK THE MAGIC | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Hey Mr. Tambourine Man,” Oh, the Memories!!!

Music has a way of soothing your soul and emotions. When I was in high school and college, music was a place where I could hang my feelings when I had a secret crush or my heart was broken.  Listening to the oldie goldies from the past ignites those memories.  It’s almost as if they had happened yesterday.

I was quiet and shy in high school… too shy to be taken seriously by any boy my age.  I was a little overweight and my face was ravaged by hormones with acne.  So, in that period of my life, I either had a secret crush on someone or a broken heart because no boy was going to show an interest in me at that time.  I was in an all-girls boarding school where we weren’t around a lot boys anyway.  But then, there were the dances with the all-boy schools… and the concerts.

One Sunday, a very popular band from one of the boys’ schools came by to present a concert to us girls.  They sang “Hey Mr. Tambourine Man” and one of the cutest guys in the group looked over and beamed a smile at me.  We were connected, just for that pregnant moment.  My heart fluttered and my face flushed.  This young man had made my day.  But, of course, I was much too shy to go up to him after the concert.  I went back to my dorm room, just like everyone else. I dreamed about him for about a year.

We never met, but that experience on that day carried me; it touched me enough to remember to write about it.  It did this because it was bound up into the music and emotion of “Hey Mr. Tambourine Man.”  Every time I hear that song, I feel myself seated in that auditorium and     re-experiencing the thrill of having that young man smile at me.   He is etched into my brain’s memory bank, even though we had never met.

Professor John Sloboda of Keele University claims that music is much more powerful than
smell and many other senses because it triggers sequences of re-lived experiences, just like my experience with “Hey Mr. Tambourine Man.”  For this reason, music is becoming an
effective tool for working with seniors.  Many of them may not be able to remember words, but they can remember a song. They become energetic and effervescent, enveloped by the memories of the past.

Neuroscientists are beginning to learn about the power of music and how it stimulates parts of the brain.  They believe that it has the potential for improving speech and movement.  In an AARP Bulletin magazine article written by Sally Abrahms, titled, ”The Power of Music,” (March 2013, vol 54, no 2, page 10), Ms. Abrahms discusses how the power of music has helped former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, after she suffered brain damage from a gunshot wound in her head. When Ms. Giffords was unable to speak, her parents played some of her childhood favorites, such as “American Pie,” “Brown-Eyed Girl,” and “Over the Rainbow.” Not only that, her therapists helped her to regain much of her speech by teaching her to sing words in phrases.  There is so much potential for the ability of music to help people who are suffering from brain damage and diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

If you have a family member who is suffering from any of these problems, or is just having
difficulty remembering words, investigate what songs they loved in their teens and 20s and play or sing them.  Cajole the person into singing conversations between the two of you.  Just don’t let anyone record them, that is, if you’re like me and sing WAY off-tune.

Please write to me and share some of your experiences that music has brought back to life.   To reminisce “Hey Mr. Tambourine man,” try this version:

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06rGW0AQGiY )

Posted in CALLING ALL BOOMERS! | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Parrot Teaches Human to Drop Fear

 

Maggie & Merlin

FEAR is one of those all-powerful emotions that everyone shares, including animals.  The advantage to fear is that it alerts us to potential danger and triggers our fight/flight responses.  For example, birds are taught by their parents to either freeze or fly away when a predator is nearby.

A problem with fear is when it turns into anxiety.  Public speaking is one of those  times when fear can wrap you up into a big ball of nerves.  I’ve spent much of my life dealing with this fear.  But, believe it or not, my African grey parrot named Merlin has helped me work through the fear of public speaking more than any technique.

When Merlin was a baby parrot, I taught her how to imitate six animal sounds: the rooster, duck, dog, cat, horse, and pig.  She was physically introduced to each animal, practiced their sounds, and then was taught to make the sounds when I asked her “What does the ______ (rooster, duck) say?”  Merlin became a pro at it.  She learned about the power and control that she could have over a small group of children, or a small room of adults,  when she made her animal sounds.  She also learned about timing and how to make people laugh by purposely giving the wrong answers.

It is easy to teach your parrot how to talk.  I love teaching them games, too! One game that I taught Merlin and her grey sister named Sweetpea is called  “Shake Your Body!” I would say to the girls, “Shake your body,” and then, I wiggled and shook my body.  They finally learned to shake their bodies on cue to my command.  This is their favorite game.

Back to the issue of public speaking… one of my problems with public speaking is that fear
makes me freeze and sometimes forget my place or what I’m about to say.  But, Merlin taught me how to work through this fear.  Here is what she taught me:

One day Merlin and I were invited to accompany Dr. Irene Pepperberg at a large
conference of bird lovers.  Merlin was going to be the model for Dr. Pepperberg, in order to help her explain her methods for teaching the famous Alex.  Alex the grey had worked with Dr. Pepperberg for over 30 years exploring avian communication and intelligence.  He proved that African grey parrots have the intelligence level of five-year-old human children. (http://www.AlexFoundation.org)

First, African grey parrots are one of the best talkers in the parrot world, but they
are also very shy around strangers.  So, there are not many pet greys that will perform in front of people. Merlin had learned as a baby to talk in front of small groups, such as at dinner parties and small meetings; therefore, I thought she would perform well at the conference.

Conference day finally arrived and Merle, Dr. P. and I arrived for the big talk.  There were over 200 people in the audience, which made me quite nervous, but Merlin was fine.  That is, until all 200+ people began to applaud.  Thirty sets of hands clapping is one thing… but 400+ clapping hands sent a loud thunder through the room.  Merlin FROZE!  Her feathers went flat, her eyes bulged, and her mouth was wide open with her tongue hanging out.  I had never seen a more terrified creature in my life!!!

So, I took Merlin off to the side of the stage and started to play the “shake your
body” game.  Both of us shook and wiggled and shook for a few minutes, until Merlin was back to normal.  Then, we went back to center stage and Merle performed ALL of her animal sounds, right in front of 200+ people.

Not only that, she had the audience right in her claw. She had the audience making the animal sounds at HER command.  Yes, my Merlin is a pro.

What did this teach me?  I learned to move around, wiggle, rattle and roll, in order to shake out my nerves before giving a talk.  Thank you, Merlin!

Please share with us ways in which you are working through your fears.

Posted in OVERCOMING FEAR | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Puff, the Magic Dragon

Peter, Paul, & Mary’s song, “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” has always touched my heart.  It was a lyrical tale of what happens… of  losing those childhood magical things… when we grow up.  Little Jackie Paper grew up and Puff, his abandoned “magical dragon,” died.  

                              “His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
                        Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
                        Without his life-long friend, puff could not be brave,
                        So puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.”

Every time that I hear this song, I think back to my childhood when everything was magical. When we were left to our own creative devices called imagination. 

As a child, I loved pansies because I could see their faces and I pretended they were talking to me.  While playing in my bedroom, I lined them up in little Dixie cup that were filled with water, placed them right beside my doll babies, and then I pretended that I was teaching all of them. Don’t remember what I was teaching, but I do remember grading their papers.

My home in North Carolina was located by a golf course and on one of the holes, there was a secret little woods area where lots of us would go to play.  There was a little creek with long vines that swung back and forth across the creek. Some of us loved looking for frogs, while others loved to swing back and forth across the creek, just like Tarzan. One day, I rubbed poison ivy all over my arms and face.  Oh my, was I sorry!      

This was a special time in the 1950s and 60s, when we could actually play outside at night. I remember the crisp night air in the late springtime and the smell of being dirty and sweaty after playing outdoors. It was a period of innocence before the tumultuous 1960s changed our lives and our society. 

I’m one of the “earlier” Boomers, by birthright, and much of my teenage and college years were spent during the explosive 60s and early 70s.  At that time, there was a bunch of us kids-at-heart that believed we could change the world for the better.  Many things have changed, some for the better, and many not. 

But the purpose of this BLOG is to revisit the magic of childhood and of our everyday lives, and to bring it back.  This is what will ground us as we embark upon the cross currents and muddied waters of the next decades. 

Welcome. Come join my journey … what are your memories from childhood?  Let’s tap into that magical pool of imagination.

Posted in BRINGING BACK THE MAGIC | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments