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Lions Roar : January 2015
Beyond being a pretty symbol, beyond being a character in a morality tale, birds are just what they are and they can reveal to us what we are. “All I am is the birds singing and fluttering,” said the late meditation teacher Toni Packer. “Birdcalls and the songs of the breeze do not exist when the mind is full of itself.” Do you remember that dark, glossy creature that, for me, made a nest in the four noble truths? Well, almost as soon as class let out I found a friend who could tell me about my mys- tery bird, and at first I was disappointed by what I learned. It was a European starling. That is, of course, a lovely name. It has all the ancient allure of the Old World, plus—with a star—it’s almost celestial. But European starlings are worse than ho-hum common birds; they’re an invasive species stealing the nest holes of purple martins and swallows and nuthatches. They were introduced in 1890 when some hair-brained humans decided to release sixty of them in Central Park because they wanted all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s collected works to fly free in North America. Now, from Alaska to Central America, Euro- pean starlings are perched on garbage cans pecking at moldy sandwiches; they’re mobbing lawns; they’re shitting dirty white on shiny cars. But this, all the same, is the truth: Some- times—even if it’s just for a moment—they still wake me up with their unmusical song. ♦ SHAMBHALA SUN jANUAry 2015 71