The Yellow Starlings

The Yellow Starlings
Location
Oregon, USA
Bio
We are Zooey and Franny, sibling starlings who have been living with our mama and daddy since we were fledglings. This blog is Mama’s record of our adventures with us, beginning in May 2006.

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JULY 10, 2009 6:42PM

When They Were Orphans

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Bird in the Hand

 

 

Orphans run in our family. Michael, my husband, was three months old when he became one. His mother’s heart exploded as the car she was riding in skated off an embankment on Christmas Eve. The only evidence he ever saw of his father was the photograph he once found hidden in a drawer—it showed his mother’s swollen, eggplant-colored face, the work of his father’s hand. His grandparents, griefstricken shells at the loss of their only child, made a passing effort at raising Michael. Then his grandmother died of a heart attack. He was nine.

 

After that, Michael lived with a series of families, some more dysfunctional than others. The most profound impression was made during his shortest stay—a two-week stint with Mrs. Love, a kind but firm black woman who welcomed the twelve-year–old Michael into her own family when a school counselor encouraged him to flee the abusive relationship his grandfather had married into.

 

There’s far more to that story, but this isn’t really about Michael—or me, for that matter. It’s about the creatures who came into our lives, unbidden, choosing us as their family when we had no intention of adopting. As much as we loved animals, we had decided to wait until we could afford our own home—which means we would have still been waiting to this day. We live in a book-stuffed, claustrophobically cluttered two-bedroom apartment with the hope of owning our own home as distant a possibility today as when we married seventeen years ago.

 

When the first orphan called to me, we were living in southern California. It was in the mid-nineties, and I was completing my college degree while working full-time in the English Department. One evening after work, I decided to walk down the road and intercept Michael on his way to pick me up.

 

That’s when one of the defining coincidences of our life occurred. I would usually sit on the steps under the wisteria, waiting for our little pickup to zip around the corner into the parking lot. That evening, however, I inexplicably decided to walk away from my office to catch Michael as he was driving in. And he inexplicably decided to take a different route to our meeting spot.

 

As dusk descended and the air grew crisp, I waited for Michael to arrive. And waited. While waiting, I started to hear a familiar sound, so faint I thought I might be imagining it. I became still, listening more intently.

 

“Mew . . . mew,” I heard. “Mew . . . meow . . . Meow, meow! . . . MEOW!”

 

I decided to walk in the direction of the cries. The meows grew more insistent as I approached the campus art gallery. The sound was louder, but I still saw no sign of a cat.

 

 

Boland Closeup

 

 

Suddenly, I looked up. “Meow, meow, MEOW, MEOW!” came excitedly from the wooden rafters. A long-haired kitten with a Santa Claus beard belly and fiery cinnamon-orange ears, back, and mustache dashed over to the edge of the rafters, gazing down at me. Our eyes locked. I stretched up my arm to him, unable to reach.

 

The rafters were eight, maybe ten feet high. I glanced around to find a way up. Climbing onto a round stone sculpture of a woman, I balanced myself on her back and leapt onto the railing that encircled the gallery entryway.

 

“Meow, meow!” the cat enthusiastically greeted me as I reached up and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck. I tucked him firmly against my chest and hopped down to the concrete below.

 

“There you go!” I told the several-month–old cat, petting him as he curled around my legs, fixing his grateful eyes on mine. “All better. You can go home now.”

 

I started walking back toward my building. So did the cat. I stopped, pointed him in the opposite direction, and continued on. I glanced back. He was shadowing me again.

 

“It’s time to go home now,” I nudged him in the direction of the residences fringing the campus and started walking away more quickly. I looked back. He was trotting behind me. “You are stubborn, aren’t you?” I laughed.

 

By the time I reached my office, it was nearly dark. Michael, it turns out, had been waiting patiently the entire half-hour or so I had been waiting patiently to intercept him on the road. If I had waited for him on the steps like I usually did every evening, this cinnamon-and-white kitten could’ve been stuck on the rafters all night, and we never would have discovered this member of our beloved karass.

 

I ran up to the driver’s side of the car and told Michael what had happened. “He won’t stop following me. I think we might have to take him home,” I said.

 

We had both resisted the temptation to adopt a cat for years, and we worried taking this one with us would prevent him from finding his real home. Michael got out of the car and picked the cat up, walking him over to the lawn and away from the truck. He walked back to the truck, but before he could get in, he noticed the cat had run up behind him. Michael picked him up again and placed him even further away. He raced back and jumped behind the wheel, turning the ignition key. The lights flashed on. Before us, in the middle of the road, an orange-and-cream–colored kitten stood firm, unblinking in the gleaming headlights.

 

We both laughed. It seemed there was no other choice but to take him with us. I opened the car door and hopped out. He ran up to me and looked up adoringly. I picked him up, climbed into the passenger seat, and placed him on my lap. He immediately broke into a vibrant purr, curling into a ball as we started the fifteen–minute drive home.

 

Once home, we improvised a litterbox with some shredded newspaper in a box. This feisty, affectionate cat preferred more cushiony accommodations. That first night, he went poop on the papasan and pee on the couch. Michael and I didn’t mind. We had already fallen in love with this gift of purring sweetness.

 

Our hearts rended a little the next morning, when we knew we would have to seek out his original owners. I brought him to work in hopes that he would head home, but he just hung outside the French doors beside my office desk, gazing inside at me until I finally opened the doors. He ended up sleeping curled up on my lap as I worked, and later, I remembered peeking into the English Department chair’s office to see him curled up on the desk. I smiled.

 

Then it was time for the hard part. I put out a campus voicemail and then walked to all the neighbors’ houses, asking if they were missing a cat. With each new “No,” a little seed of hope began to blossom in my heart, as the chances of him having owners who were missing him grew thinner. I knew there had been litters of ferrel cats on the campus. He looked about seven, maybe eight months old. Perhaps he was a campus kitten.

 

It was Friday and time for the weekend. We decided to give him one last chance to return home. We placed some food on the porch outside my office just in case. Then we started home, worried to the point of heartbreak.

 

As we pulled into the parking lot on Monday morning, we found an exuberant cinnamon latté cat waiting outside the French doors. He zoomed up to us, thrilled his new parents had returned. He knew as well as we that he was coming home with us.

 

As the days passed and the chances of someone claiming him diminished, we began to grow more hopeful that this was a permanent adoption. We bought a proper litterbox, and Boland joined the family.

 

* * *

 

Eleven years later, I was working at a different academic institution, this time a university in the Pacific Northwest. Michael, Boland, and I had been living in Oregon for nearly seven years. We had found our way home.

 

One afternoon, I was walking through the auditorium down the hall from my office. I glanced down and noticed a small black lump on the floor. I froze, thinking it might be a bat, having just witnessed a bat flying up and down the hall a few weeks prior. Slowly, I moved toward the lump. It began waddling over to the first row of seats.

 

Taking a closer look, I soon realized it was a young bird, covered with a soft gray fuzz and not enough feathers to fly. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another lump. Two gray fledglings tripped as they drew closer to one another, huddling under one of the auditorium seats. One soon wobbled off to hide under the overhead projection cart.

 

“How did you get in here?” I asked, glancing up at the decorative hole in the ceiling, where their nest appeared to be. It was fledgling season, and I could still hear chirping coming from thirty feet above. The ceilings were so high, the only way to reach them was to build scaffolding, which they had to do each summer during their annual painting and maintenance. But this was spring, and that wasn’t an option. I wouldn’t be able to return the baby birds to their nest.

 

That’s when I shifted into high-gear rescue mode. I raced down to my office to grab a box and perform a rapid Internet search. My colleagues—Greg, Stormy, and our intern Shannon—joined the flanks as I dashed back down the hall to gather them up. Greg, a graphic artist, described their beaks as “being possessed of a yellow racing stripe,” and we all admired them as the fledglings looked up at us wonderingly.

 

Stormy and Shannon stayed behind to watch over the birds, placing them in a Kleenex-lined box while I ran back to my office to make some phone calls. First, I tried the Biology Department, hoping to find someone on campus who could come to the birds’ rescue.

 

“Just put them in the bushes,” a lab aide advised me, saying that’s what the resident expert had told him to do in past cases. I got the same advice when I tried calling Physical Plant. Next, I called the Humane Society. They referred me to a local wildlife rescue hotline. I left a message.

 

Meanwhile, I would need to find something for them to eat. I wasn’t even sure what kind of birds they were. I guessed they might be sparrows and did a quick google for information on nursing baby sparrows back to health. One article recommended preparing a scrambled egg paste.

 

It was 3:00 in the afternoon. Where was I going to find scrambled eggs at this time of day? I called the dining hall and various food outlets on campus. The chef told me they were cranking on a catering project, but I was welcome to come use the kitchen to scramble an egg if I got desperate. I also tried calling some animal-loving friends I thought might be able to help, but a posse of kitties prevented one from helping while another lamented past failures at bird rescue before graciously declining. Phone call after phone call ended in disappointment. I left another message on the wildlife rescue hotline.

 

Five minutes later, a volunteer returned my call, asking me to describe the birds. “Do they have long, dark beaks, with some yellow in them?”

 

“Yeah, that sounds like them,” I said, relieved he had helped me identify them so easily.

 

“That means I can’t do anything to help. Starlings are a non-native invasive species, and state law prohibits us from rescuing them,” he explained.

 

Being relatively ignorant about the bird world until that afternoon, I didn’t even know what he meant by “non-native invasive species,” but it sounded like an awful stigma. Bad enough that the state had to introduce a law to prevent people from rescuing their helpless fledglings. Bad enough that someone committed to helping animals and birds would willingly relinquish them to their fate.

 

I was running out of options. Whatever happened, I knew I needed to find food for them. I hung up the phone and took to my feet, sprinting across campus to the student union, where I tracked down a half-day–old breakfast burrito. 

 

On my way back from the union, I stopped in at the science building, where I swept through the labs in search of a sterile eyedropper. I caught two science professors in the hallway and urgently explained my need for a clean eyedropper. One of them led me to the supply room, where he provided me with one disposable and one glass eyedropper. Shouting back a thank-you, I sprinted back to my building, where I frantically concocted a scrambled egg glop before racing back down to the auditorium, where Stormy and Shannon were faithfully bird-sitting.

 

As soon as the fledglings saw the paste-filled eyedropper, they resurrected from their groggy state and started squawking, gaping for food. I couldn’t get the egg slop into the eyedropper fast enough. It was so lumpy, the paste kept clogging the eyedropper as the anxious beaks gaped impatiently before me. Sometimes, it would take so long to unclog, they’d start dozing off before I could finish, waking just as the refilled eyedropper neared their beaks. After several rounds of feedings, they collapsed in the box corners, their appetites finally sated.

 

I didn’t know at the time that feeding baby starlings with eyedroppers is a bad idea, since one squirt of liquid into their lungs could result in a serious respiratory infection, pneumonia even. Fortunately, the feedings every twenty to thirty minutes went smoothly, and the fledglings seemed perfectly content to devour their scrambled egg formula by eyedropper.

 

The day was drawing to a close, and I still hadn’t found anyone to rescue the birds. I thought the best I could hope to do was to give them hearty feedings and then find a safe haven for them outside, where they might be rescued by another starling family. Whatever gave me this desperately optimistic notion I don’t know, save for the unconscious avoidance of the moral terror that would result from relegating these orphans to a grim fate.

 

Greg told me he knew of a quiet, lovely spot on the west side of the building. I walked downstairs and out to the warm spring evening, both fledglings still resting in their box. I fooled myself into believing this must be the right thing to do, to put them back into nature, where they belong. I entrusted them to God, my heart rending as soon as I set them down in the flowerbed. They looked a little shivery, so I draped napkins over their fuzzy bodies and placed some egg mixture beside them, first administering a few eyedropper feedings. They appeared so lethargic, I was almost certain their fate was sealed, worrying they had already gone too long without food or water to recover from dehydration. Greg came out to see how they were doing. I could barely speak. We turned around and walked back into the building, tears streaming down my face as I trod heavily up the stairs, each one cutting into my heart as I wondered what to do.

 

I called Michael, my voice wobbling with a putrid mixture of guilt and heartbreak. “Is there any way to return them to their nest?” Michael asked.

 

“No, the ceilings are too high,” I explained. “And nobody’s willing to take them. Everyone just told me to put them out in the bushes. What should we do? I can’t just leave them out there,” I pleaded.

 

“Well, of course, we’ll just take them home!” Michael said matter-of-factly, as if the solution was so obvious. Why it had never even occurred to me that we could bring them into our apartment I don’t know, except I’m sure it had something to do with worrying about how Boland would react.

 

“We will?!” I cried, ecstatic with relief. I told him to get there as quickly as he could. As soon as Michael arrived, we headed down to the west side of the building with the birds’ box, lined with fresh, soft Kleenex.

 

On the way home, we stopped to pick up some baby bird hand-feeding formula at the co-op. Again, I would later learn this was far from ideal—the heavily corn-based diet would not provide the proper protein/fat balance required by starlings, especially developing ones. I’ve since learned that canned dog food—Natural Balance liver, for example—is a far healthier alternative.

 

But the birds were starving and eager to swallow whatever we put down their hatch. We kept up the feedings every twenty to thirty minutes, allowing them to rest quietly in between. We’d placed their box up in our bedroom, closing the door to prevent the curious Boland from entering. When off feeding duty, we’d race downstairs to research how to care for orphaned starlings. 

 

The Starling Talk website was a godsend, and we soon discovered the rich subculture of starling-lovers out there. We learned the fledglings were in their imprinting phase, which meant they would come to view us as their parents if we continued feeding and caring for them. Research ultimately suggested that releasing them at this stage of their development would put them at risk of almost certain death. Having not yet been taught to forage, they would be unable to feed themselves. They were too young to fly and join another flock of starlings. They were quite helpless, and Michael and I naïvely accepted the awesome responsibility of caring for them.

 

Hailing from the mynah family, starlings possess an exceptional intelligence and can even learn to talk, as books like Arnie the Darling Starling poignantly reveal. Because starlings are a non-native invasive species, a permit is not required for adoption of this wild bird. Some people even intentionally capture fallen fledglings during their imprinting phase, since their highly social demeanor and intelligence make them wonderful avian companions.

 

That first night, we were still so ignorant, we weren’t even sure if starlings slept through the night, or if we needed to continue feeding them. Snatching cat naps in between more distanced feedings, we woke the birds several times during the night to offer them food. They swallowed it greedily, but we now realize it probably would’ve been better to just let them sleep through the night.

 

Those first couple of days were a marathon of feedings, research, and practically round-the-clock care. We placed a hot-water bottle under a cushion of Kleenexes in their little nest-box, making sure they would be warm enough through the night, since they didn’t have all of their feathers in to protect them from the cold.

 

On May 18, 2006, I made my first bird journal entry:

 

     Sitting with the Starlings

     Franny and Zooey

 

Five days later, I made these notes:

 

     Zooey, then Franny

     first hop, perch, jump

     onto edge of bin

     then to Michael’s hand

     & again . . .

 

     Coming home, feeding time

 

     Zooey hops to edge,

          into my hand.

     Feeds, falls asleep against

          my breast.

 

Every morning, we awoke to the grace of these tiny bundles of life, gaping their racing-striped beaks and calling for us to feed them, to nurture them. There was no question about their belonging. Our family of orphans had expanded to embrace two more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: This is the first chapter in an ongoing series. New chapters will be added to the left-hand column if you wish to continue reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Type your comment below:
Boland has lovely markings. Saw your comment over Zerry's place. Good luck with your project.
I loved reading this. When my brother was 6 [?] he adopted a baby robin. He cared for that bird until maturity called it away. But I remember sometimes playing wiffle ball in the yard and out of no where a robin would fly near my brother, land on his shoulder and chirp hello. rAted!
@Mrs. Michaels:

Honored to have you as my first guest, Mrs. Michaels! Thank you for flying through.

Oh, I forgot to mention—Franny and Zooey are curious about your avatar :-)

@Mr. Mustard:

Dear Mr. Mustard, how kind of you to pay a visit—and to share that delightful story, no less! Now every time I see a robin, I’ll think of your brother’s chirping friend . . . and of you playing wiffle ball in the yard :-)

—Melissa
What lovely stories.

Love Boland's mustache. How do he and the starlings get along?

That you have started as second blog (right?) is exhausting to even contemplate. But a treat for readers
Those are beautiful pictures of your babies and a lovely story.
The full photo is here: http://open.salon.com/blog/mrs_michaels/2009/05/13/because_i_am_a_sheep_on_joining_the_faceworld

They were some "wild" parrots in Jamaica. I wanted something that was colorful and would stand out among all the other icons. And I'd used it before.
What a wonderful story. My daughter has been bringing home orphans for thirty years. This really warmed my heart adn reminded me that I miss my daughter and need to go see her.
Very enjoyable reading :-)

Galaxyfolks are respectful of animals, but not too partial to pets. It's good that your stories seem to deal with the former.

In this field Konrad Lorenz, the Austrian zoologist might be king of the hill, although few Earthlings heard of him in these parts of the Universe. His book (King Solomon's Ring) is pure nonfiction, yet absolutely poetic. So much so that this is the only book I am aware of that (1) "won the Nobel-prize" (well, Lorenz had to invent a whole discipline, ethnology, along the way) and (2) would bring tears to the eyes of everybody between 9 and 90. A fundamental must-read, that you might enjoy (link below).

I am looking forward to hearing the rest of the starlings' story.

http://www.amazon.com/King-Solomons-Ring-Routledge-Classics/dp/0415267471/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1247274674&sr=8-1
Ah, if I started telling you about the number of orphan animals I took care of as a child and adolescent, and now in my home with my husband and children. I totally understand your care and love for those tiny creatures needing a home. Oh! And I found you here over Kerry´s blog, excellent!
Rated!
Kisses,
Marcela
I think I am partial to Zooey becasue of the name, lol.

Seriously, what a warm story; hugs my heart. I rescued a bird when I was 14 or 15 years old. I remember feeding him rice water as a fledgeling and having him wake me as he got older for his feedings. *beak beak beak beak* all on my neck. It tickled :)

I have to say, I am glad to see you posting on another post outside meta - it gives meta yet another level of dimensional drift. Love you guys!

peece,
dj
What a great idea, starting another blog to showcase your birdies (and sneak in Boland at the start, to boot)! I didn't even realize it was you, Melissa, until I got to Jimenace's comment above. And I absolutely agree about the layer-enhancement. How innovative you are! I look forward to more. (More about Boland - and perhaps where you got his name? - would be great, too! You know how I luvz the kittehs.) :D
What a sweet start to your starling posts - I loved the last line about expanding the family of orphans. I must go to bed now btu I will dream of birds...
@Hawley:

What a wonderful surprise to see you here, Hawley! Thanks for being among the first of our dear friends to put out the welcome mat.

“How do he and the starlings get along?”

It’s hard for me to answer that without giving too much away, but I’ll just say swimmingly and keep it at that for now.

“That you have started as second blog (right?) is exhausting to even contemplate. But a treat for readers”

It’s mad, I know, but thanks for the vote of confidence :-) Even crazier, I’ve already got plans for more! I need a catchall for my miscellaneous writings, but I’d also like to start one for my Grandma’s letters, short stories, and autobiographical essays. And we need one for our music and documentary work, as well as a few others I won’t go into now. I’m already getting ahead of myself here.

@Delia:

“Those are beautiful pictures of your babies and a lovely story.”

Thank you, Delia. They are indeed our babies. And Franny and Zooey haven’t forgotten about that dialogue they promised you over at metaness—we’re just a little backlogged right now and haven’t had a chance to transcribe their conversation for you yet :-)

@Mrs. Michaels:

Thanks for the story behind the pic!

@micalpeace:

“My daughter has been bringing home orphans for thirty years. This really warmed my heart adn reminded me that I miss my daughter and need to go see her.”

Sunflower sounds like such an extraordinary person. Please send warm greetings to her and her partner from Michael and me. And hugs to you, as well, good friend.

@GalaxyMan:

I certainly appreciate your traipsing across the universe to pay a visit to our merry band of orphans!

“Galaxyfolks are respectful of animals, but not too partial to pets. It's good that your stories seem to deal with the former.”

Yes, exactly. This whole idea of “owning” animals is really quite offensive. They are our roommates, they are our surrogate children, they are our friends. But pets? If anything, it would be more appropriate to say they own us. We certainly spend enough time serving them!

“(King Solomon's Ring) is pure nonfiction, yet absolutely poetic.”

This sounds absolutely fascinating and is now on our Amazon wishlist!

“I am looking forward to hearing the rest of the starlings' story.”

Thanks! Now I’m committed and have to start working on the next chapter. If only I hadn’t handwritten everything for the first year and a half . . .

@Marcela:

“Ah, if I started telling you about the number of orphan animals I took care of as a child and adolescent, and now in my home with my husband and children.”

Ooh! Please do! Perhaps a future blog post?

“I totally understand your care and love for those tiny creatures needing a home.”

You clearly are a tender-hearted soul, Marcela. I’m glad so many critters found their way to your home.

“Oh! And I found you here over Kerry´s blog, excellent!”

Oh, good! I haven’t had a chance to send out a message to our friends yet, but it looks like many of you have already found your way over :-)

Besos to you, as well, Marcela. (I’ll respond to your PM when I have my metaness hat back on and Michael’s available to join me.)

@dj:

“I think I am partial to Zooey becasue of the name, lol.”

Hehe. Zooey does tend to be the more extroverted, affectionate one :-)

“Seriously, what a warm story; hugs my heart. I rescued a bird when I was 14 or 15 years old. I remember feeding him rice water as a fledgeling and having him wake me as he got older for his feedings. *beak beak beak beak* all on my neck. It tickled :)”

What a sweet phrase, “hugs my heart.” That’s how I feel about your fledgling story. And they do indeed know how to tickle!

“I have to say, I am glad to see you posting on another post outside meta - it gives meta yet another level of dimensional drift. Love you guys!”

Thanks for the encouragement, dj. We continue to be grateful for your love and inspired by your talent.

@keenoctopus:

“What a great idea, starting another blog to showcase your birdies”

I’ve been talking about doing it for aeons and finally got around to it! I’ll be glad when I’m caught up to the present moment and can start writing fresh ones—this is getting a bit tricky starting from the beginning three years ago while still trying to keep up current ones in my journaling. More burning the candle at both ends.

“I didn't even realize it was you, Melissa, until I got to Jimenace's comment above.”

I’m thrilled you found your way over here so quickly!

“More about Boland - and perhaps where you got his name?”

I can give you the short answer right now. All of the people who’ve heard me recommending poetry right and left probably already know his namesake is Eavan Boland, an Irish poet (a woman, lest anyone be confused) who has maintained the honorable title of my favorite poet for about fifteen years now. Pretty impressive!

@mamoore:

Ah, Melissa, delighted to see you here!

Sweet dreams of flight and fancy to you.

—Melissa
What fun! Gorgeous website!
you, your post remind me of my father and sister...
and what you did for Boland (that his name?), Franny, Zooey, the law, the professors helping you find a dropper instead of walking away, your going door to door to ensure you could adopt B, gives an awesome insight into your country. curious paradoxical world we live in :)
country n your culture I meant to write, like the font and the header here
ooh - you have an elderly relative's writings to go through? Me too! It sounds like your grandmother was very prolific. My 92-year-old great aunt died last year and left me all her writings - there's a filing cabinet and two plastic totes full. I'm honored she thought of me, but there's so much! She actually specifically requested that I work them into a publishable state at some point in my life. Hope it's sooner rather than later, before I get a "real" career and time is even tighter, for her sake ... maybe you could lend me some of your obviously overabundant energy?? ;)
@o'stephanie:

“What fun! Gorgeous website!”

Thank you, Stephanie! Best of wishes as you care for your little one, and we will eagerly await news about how your fledgling’s furcula is healing.


@Rolling:

“you, your post remind me of my father and sister...”

Very intriguing! Would love to read a post about your father and sister someday.

“gives an awesome insight into your country. curious paradoxical world we live in :) . . . country n your culture

Michael and I are so enjoying learning more about your country—and culture—through such sensitive eyes as yours. And yes, paradoxical indeed!

“like the font and the header here”

Thank you, Rolling! Fonts and colors are among my greatest loves :-)


@keenoctopus:

“ooh - you have an elderly relative's writings to go through?”

Yes. It’s been nearly two years since my grandma departed, but I am still getting to read new writings by her. My Uncle Bobby, who lived with her, is gradually working his way through her old computer files (and I mean old, as they were written over the course of 17 years on a PC purchased around 1990!). He’s been emailing small batches every few weeks, so it’s been such a gift continuing to learn more about her when I thought it was too late. She was a wonderful writer but too shy to publish. We also have tons of documentary footage of her we’ve already turned into one feature-length piece, with enough leftover for at least one more documentary (the latter with a more historical emphasis). All of this could feed into a blog if and when we can find the time to work on it. I know she would be delighted to finally share her work with an appreciative audience, so I feel strongly compelled to do so.

“My 92-year-old great aunt died last year and left me all her writings - there's a filing cabinet and two plastic totes full. I'm honored she thought of me, but there's so much! She actually specifically requested that I work them into a publishable state at some point in my life.”

Wow! That is an honor—and an awesome responsibility. Knowing you, I’m certain she made a wonderful choice :-)

“maybe you could lend me some of your obviously overabundant energy?? ;)”

Ha! If only I had enough energy to keep up with the truckload of projects we’ve already buried ourselves under. It would help if we never had to sleep. Or eat. Or work. Or all that nuisance life stuff ;-)

I’m really looking forward to seeing what you do with your great aunt’s work. Perhaps you could start an OS blog for her, too? Then my grandma and your great aunt could be friends in the sweet hereafter.

—Melissa
Just wonderful . . . a delight.
thank you for doing all that you did. when I learned what a reader can do, came here to add a tag for this piece that I think is characteristic, typical of American culture.

I mean one gets to hear or read about the crime rate and politics and aggression and blunders and over reactionary repression etc but this, is essentially what the culture is about too. even our urban Indian friends, once they go there become sensitized, more responsible about such things

I will always remember how the professor gave you two droppers, one disposable and the other a glass one, it is a tiny, insignificant to your eyes, but it is of huge import/act (can't decide which is the word I need here, whta do you think is the right word am looking for?) - his willing participation in the act of humanity that you decided to engage with speaks volumes about the ways he has been brought up, what a set of people value etc
Wow - that's an idea. A blog for Great Aunt Eolene. She would be thrilled! I kept her up to speed on my thesis about blogs as I was researching and writing it, and she, even at 92, had no trouble keeping up and even asked some great questions. She was always so curious about everything - so hungry for knowledge her entire life. And I only knew her for the last two years of it - she was a Hurricane Katrina refugee who moved up to be near her niece and nephew, my mom and her brother.

I like the idea of my great aunt and your grandmother being friends in the sweet hereafter - maybe they're in some sort of Whimsical Would-Be Famous Writer Heaven. :)
As a bird lover, I really appreciated this and am hoping for a happy ending! Are you familiar with "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill," the book (later made into a movie) about the flock of feral parrots living in San Francisco? I think you'd find it very inspiring.
@Owl_Says_Who:

“Just wonderful . . . a delight.”

Why, thank you, Owl! It’s a delight to see you over here. The starlings appreciate having another feathered friend around.


@Rolling:

“thank you for doing all that you did. when I learned what a reader can do, came here to add a tag for this piece that I think is characteristic, typical of American culture.”

Thank you, Rolling! I’ve since begun to wonder if those reader tags are actually visible to the editors or anyone else. I went back to your post while logged into a different account (metaness), and I could no longer see “open call” under the “Your Tags” section. I’m really disappointed because I thought that was a great way to call the editors’ attention to a deserving piece when the authors don’t tag it way themselves. Hmm . . .

“I mean one gets to hear or read about the crime rate and politics and aggression and blunders and over reactionary repression etc but this, is essentially what the culture is about too. even our urban Indian friends, once they go there become sensitized, more responsible about such things”

It’s encouraging to hear that visiting the States actually has a positive influence on people, despite eight years of the BA destroying international goodwill toward America. But as you pointed out, that’s the difference between the government (what gets covered in the media) and the real people who make up this country.

“I will always remember how the professor gave you two droppers, one disposable and the other a glass one, it is a tiny, insignificant to your eyes,”

What a fascinating detail to single out, and one whose significance I failed to appreciate until you highlighted it! Thank you, Rolling. Your attentiveness enriches my understanding of my own experiences and puts them in the context of the larger world.

“but it is of huge import/act (can't decide which is the word I need here, whta do you think is the right word am looking for?)”

Hmm . . . “significance”, maybe?

“his willing participation in the act of humanity that you decided to engage with speaks volumes about the ways he has been brought up, what a set of people value etc”

Thank you, again, for calling my attention to something I would’ve otherwise taken for granted. It teaches me more about each of our cultures and gives me a greater appreciation for both.

—Melissa
@keenoctopus:

“Wow - that's an idea. A blog for Great Aunt Eolene. She would be thrilled!”

Oh, goodie! Perhaps we can encourage each other in our efforts. I’m certainly excited about reading some of Eolene’s writings. (What a great name!)

“I kept her up to speed on my thesis about blogs as I was researching and writing it, and she, even at 92, had no trouble keeping up and even asked some great questions.”

My grandma was the same way. I think that’s one of the many reasons I miss her so much. She was a reader and actively read all of the writing I shared with her. She was my biggest fan—and in such a subtle, ungrandmotherly way, so when she did say she was proud of me or liked something I wrote, it really meant a lot.

“She was always so curious about everything - so hungry for knowledge her entire life.”

Again, that sounds so much like my grandma! Always curious, always trying to figure out how things worked or learn new ways of doing things. I think that’s one of the reasons she stayed so sharp.

“And I only knew her for the last two years of it - she was a Hurricane Katrina refugee who moved up to be near her niece and nephew, my mom and her brother. ”

Wow, that adds even more dimensions to her experiences. Do you have any of her writings about Katrina? I think it would be fascinating to hear her reflections on what it was like to lose her home, to undergo that sense of displacement and find a new home among people who appreciated her. I think this is the first time I’ve encountered a positive outcome of Hurricane Katrina, since it’s possible you never would’ve gotten to know your aunt without that disaster causing her to move near you and your family. How amazing to contemplate the blossoms that can emerge from tragedy, renewing our hope and love and strength to shoulder on in the face of adversity.

“I like the idea of my great aunt and your grandmother being friends in the sweet hereafter - maybe they're in some sort of Whimsical Would-Be Famous Writer Heaven. :)”

That sounds absolutely believable to me! Everybody’s famous in heaven. Except for the people who were famous here. Or maybe there is no such thing as fame. But there are writers, and there are artists, and there are composers and storytellers and surfers. And there are those who are all or any of the above and a bunch of other things their inner souls were most passionate about, even if they never got to practice it on earth.


@Laurel, not Lauren:

Thank you for stopping by, Laurel, not Lauren! It’s lovely to hear from you.

“As a bird lover, I really appreciated this and am hoping for a happy ending!”

As you’ll find out from perusing metaness, Franny and Zooey are well and thriving :-)

“Are you familiar with "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill," the book (later made into a movie) about the flock of feral parrots living in San Francisco? I think you'd find it very inspiring.”

Yes! I watched the documentary last year, and it was enthralling. I haven’t been able to get Michael to watch it as he’s very sensitive about anything depicting animals. If there’s the least hint of sadness or cruelty, it’s almost unbearably painful for him. But I’m glad I finally watched it. Our best friend gave us the book a few months ago, and I’ve been waiting until I can carve out some time to read it. Maybe this summer.

—Melissa
Greetings from another cat and starling lover! We had our starling Curly for many years - he traveled with us from KS to WA to TX and back up to NE and we miss him still. Can't wait to read more about your wonderful family!
A wonderful tale of the power of animals to bring out the finest humaness in us.

Big thumb!
@bluesurly:

“Greetings from another cat and starling lover!”

Greetings to you, bluesurly! I don’t know how you found me, but I’m so glad you did. I’m always thrilled to welcome a fellow animal lover. Thanks for your wonderful work with the horse rescue organization, too.

“We had our starling Curly for many years - he traveled with us from KS to WA to TX and back up to NE and we miss him still.”

That is amazing! Starlings are notoriously difficult travelers (like autistics, they become agitated when their routine is disturbed, as I’m sure you already know). I remember reading in Arnie the Darling Starling about how Margarete built a miniature version of Arnie’s cage for traveling. It sounded so adorable. How did you travel with Curly? Did he have a special cage or did he just perch on your shoulder or something? We’ve never attempted to move Franny and Zooey, so we’ve often wondered how we should handle this if the need arises.

“Can't wait to read more about your wonderful family!”

Thanks, and I’m looking forward to reading more about yours, too! Perhaps a post on Curly in the upcoming future?


@Brinna:

“A wonderful tale of the power of animals to bring out the finest humaness in us.”

What a lovely statement, all the more appreciated considering the source.

Welcome, Brinna, and a big thumb back at you for your good work on such a significant cause.

—Melissa
This is lovely...and the title for your blog is perfect!
@Robin:

“This is lovely...and the title for your blog is perfect!”

I really appreciate your saying that, Robin, as the title has been a topic of mild contention, and I still haven’t quite fallen in love with the subtitle. I’ve been tweaking it over the months, and this is where it finally landed. So it’s nice to know it may just work, after all :-)

Thanks again for taking the time to comment, and welcome!


@scupper:

“a good story”

Thank you for dropping little seeds of encouragement as you fly through the neighborhood, scupper. Nice to see you over here after our brief introduction at metaness. Or should I say “cool” to see you ;-)

—Melissa
Great piece. We are cat people and have had great companionship through the years. Starlings are neat intelligent birds. They get a bad rap for no particular reason.

Glad you two are good parents to this unlikely family.

Monte

rated
i love this!!! you know me and animals, m. but i want photos!!!! lots and lots and lots of photos!!! did i miss them? sorry, high fever today. :) love love love and gratitude for that KITTY and the birdies too.
I'm glad I "found" you! What a touching story....a story of gererosity and love.
Bindi, Indie (Indiana Jones) Rajah and Mika. And now we live in the house that the 4 cats own. :)
@Monte:

Lovely to see you, Monte. Cat people are always welcome around here, especially ones who are smart enough to appreciate starlings, too!

“Glad you two are good parents to this unlikely family.”

So are we :-)


@Theodora:

How sweet of you to come by, Theodora. Sorry about the disappointing lack of photos. We’ve been in the middle of a computer transition, so I haven’t had access to most of our files. Hope to remedy that situation soon.

“sorry, high fever today.”

Still?! You poor dear. Hope you’re feeling more chipper now. Has the A/C arrived yet?


@Patricia:

“I'm glad I "found" you!”

I’m glad you found me, too!

“What a touching story....a story of gererosity and love.”

Those words mean a great deal coming from you, Patricia, considering how well you demonstrate generosity and love yourself.


@Traveller1:

“Bindi, Indie (Indiana Jones) Rajah and Mika.”

Great names, Traveller1!

“And now we live in the house that the 4 cats own. :)”

Hahaha! Very well-put.

—Melissa
Thanks for sharing all of this and for making me a favorite. Ignatz and I have five cats, all of whom are either shelter cats or street rescues. May all orphaned creatures find such blessing and love...
@Eva:

Thank you for your kind words, Eva, and I’m glad to know as many as five dear cats have found a loving home with you and Ignatz (great name, BTW :-)

Hope your opening night was a smash!

—Melissa
What a beautiful first post for this manifestation of you. I would love if you would check out a post I did called "Kitty Names - a list" which is now a compendium of amazing feline companions and a few dogs via comments from the OS family.

Ilove the title and "The Yellow Starlings" as your moniker- it's sometimes what I seek here - a post and a person(s) who draw you into a place that is filled with metaphors, imagery and magic.
Thank you.
@aim:

“What a beautiful first post for this manifestation of you.”

And what a beautiful comment, aim!

“I would love if you would check out a post I did called "Kitty Names - a list" which is now a compendium of amazing feline companions and a few dogs via comments from the OS family.”

That sounds delightful. I’ll pop over as soon as I can find two consecutive moments :-)

“Ilove the title and "The Yellow Starlings" as your moniker-”

That’s great to know. The title comes from one of the later essays, but I wondered if it would cause confusion out of context. Glad to know it still works.

“it's sometimes what I seek here - a post and a person(s) who draw you into a place that is filled with metaphors, imagery and magic.”

Thank you, aim. Those are the sorts of sites I’m drawn to, as well, so how encouraging to hear you feel you’ve found such a place here.

—Melissa
I had always had a soft spot for starlings, ever since I was a little girl and saw them keeping the blue jays company in Kruger National Park in South Africa. They have very complementary habits, shrieks, and both are beautiful to look at. My feelings changed, however, after moving to Seattle and watching them squeeze so many song birds out of whatever neighbourhood they moved into! If only they would not choose to hang out in gangs. I will think fondly of your orphans and pretend they will not join gangs when they turn teenagers.
@Hazel:

“I had always had a soft spot for starlings, ever since I was a little girl and saw them keeping the blue jays company in Kruger National Park in South Africa. They have very complementary habits, shrieks, and both are beautiful to look at.”

What a lovely memory! Thank you for sharing that, Hazel.

“My feelings changed, however, after moving to Seattle and watching them squeeze so many song birds out of whatever neighbourhood they moved into!”

I haven’t had a chance to conduct a thorough investigation myself, but I have read a number of articles indicatings that starlings may actually be getting a bad rap in this case. There is a page over at Starling Talk dedicated to this topic, with a list of related articles. One of my later chapters will address this topic in more detail, but I thought I’d share these resources in the meantime for anyone who’s interested in exploring.

“I will think fondly of your orphans and pretend they will not join gangs when they turn teenagers.”

They don’t appear to have any intentions of up and flying the coop, so it looks like they’ll remain an indoors gang of two :-)

—Melissa
aww, babies are so necessary and good
@Julie:

“aww, babies are so necessary and good”

Thanks, Julie. Good to see your smiling face over here :-)

—Melissa
I can't believe it took me this long to get here. Story of my life lately.

I don't know anything about starlings, but they're quite pretty. Reading about the beginnings of your happy home for lost and wayward waifs was a pleasure. I'm happy to know those invasive, non-native interlopers have adjusted to their ignominy and flourished.

I can't wait to find out why this is called The Yellow Starlings, a lovely name that unfortunately reminded me of that mean, nasty guard in "The Birdman of Alcatraz."
I can hear Franny and Zooey from here. Talking to and understanding wildlife is just a part of my dna. I truly enjoyed reading this piece, TYS.

Thanks for the Starling link.
@consonantsandvowels:

“I can't believe it took me this long to get here. Story of my life lately.”

Once again, I hear myself in you. So I will offer you the gift you have given me in the past: don’t let this become another todo for you to feel guilty about. I’m grateful for your presence, whenever you happen to wander over.

“I don't know anything about starlings, but they're quite pretty.”

I didn’t know anything about starlings either before F&Z! I remembered a couple of years before Franny and Zooey came into our lives, Michael asked me what those striking blackish birds with yellow beaks pecking at the grass behind our apartment were. I didn’t know, but I agreed they were lovely.

“Reading about the beginnings of your happy home for lost and wayward waifs was a pleasure. I'm happy to know those invasive, non-native interlopers have adjusted to their ignominy and flourished.”

Yes, they seem quite happy with their roguish reputation :-)

“I can't wait to find out why this is called The Yellow Starlings, a lovely name that unfortunately reminded me of that mean, nasty guard in ‘The Birdman of Alcatraz.’”

Oh no! Now we’ll need to watch that again. It’s been too many years for me to catch that reference.

Thanks again for being here,

Melissa
@Blue Roses:

“I can hear Franny and Zooey from here.”

How did you know they were so loud?! I sometimes worry the neighbors will complain when Franny and Zooey are rocking out to their music, but since they still sound like wild birds, we’re hoping people will just think there’s a nest nearby :-)

“Talking to and understanding wildlife is just a part of my dna. I truly enjoyed reading this piece, TYS.”

Thank you, Blue Roses! Delighted to welcome another wildlife lover.

“Thanks for the Starling link.”

You’re welcome! Now you’ll be fully educated if you ever need to perform a rescue mission :-)

—Melissa
What a wonderful story. You have my total admiration.

Maggie
Two charming stories! I can't wait to find out how Boland and the starlings get along.
@Maggie:

“What a wonderful story. You have my total admiration.”

And what a wonderful comment, Maggie! I have a lot of respect for you and the work you do with animals, so your words mean a great deal to me. Thank you.

—Melissa


@Faith:

“Two charming stories! I can't wait to find out how Boland and the starlings get along.”

I appreciate the encouragement, Faith! I just finally got a chance to start working on the second chapter, so I hope to be posting that soon. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your kind words.

—Melissa
You and Michael are beautiful people. The world is better because of people like you.
@JRDOG:

“You and Michael are beautiful people. The world is better because of people like you.”

Aww, Robin, you’re going to make me cry. Thank you for your beautiful words and your generous heart. I also appreciate your taking the time to come back and not only read, but also rate and comment on this older post. That means a lot to me.

—Melissa
I love your writing style, and the fact that yours and Michael's hearts are so big! Fascinating read, and I can't wait to read more.
@wind in my wings:

“I love your writing style, and the fact that yours and Michael's hearts are so big! Fascinating read, and I can't wait to read more.”

I’m so happy to see you here, wind in my wings! Thank you for the sweet words, and I hope to satisfy your craving for more soon :-)

—Melissa