I sing the song of a caged parakeet…

Written by  //  February 19, 2011  //  MY LIFE  //  No comments


Written March, 2007.

 As I sit in my upstairs apartment, pecking at the keys of my laptop, I can’t help but notice the faint rustle of a caged parakeet pecking at his birdseed in the apartment below. And as I perch here, I, myself, can’t help but rustle in my chair. While this is Hawaii and I can hear the song of many tropical birds through my window slats, all of which have been flung wide to welcome in the ocean gale, there is one bird’s song, in particular, that I find most delightful and most soothing. He seems pleased with himself, that parakeet, and pleased with his situation, down there in that closed-off world – safe away from all the disasters of nature. Life is comfortable for him and he is sure to live to a ripe old age. Every so often he lets out a chirp of pleasure, as if to remind me that he is there and that he is contentedly happy. Admittedly, the song of a caged parakeet easily wins out in pleasantness over the incessant crowing of dozens upon dozens of our neighborhood’s country roosters.

This is Hawaii, and country roosters seem to be more abundant than would be expected in a tropical paradise. In fact, it’s not unusual to see a troupe of giggling, young Polynesian boys chasing after a whole flock of chickens, yard through yard. Every so often you’ll see a haole boy running with them, along for the ride. From what I can tell, the boys are usually just after one of the birds in the flock – most often a big healthy rooster with a magnificent comb and great colors. I think that the other less vibrant, and therefore, less sought-after chickens just run along in the pack for enjoyment’s sake (or maybe out of confusion’s sake). Either way, they run along, darting here and there in a scramble and flurry, unmatched by even the most upbeat riot. This scene, one of the more exciting Hawaiian experiences, is not an image advertised alongside a box of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts or a bus tour of Waimea Canyon, but is a uniquely Hawaiian experience, nonetheless. And as for those, it should be noted: uniquely Hawaiian experiences are in abundant supply.

I can stand at my kitchen sink and take in one of the most breathtaking mountain vistas. The tropical mountains start just two houses down the street and rise abruptly, like the massive form of sleeping green giants, blanketed by the cloud-speckled sky above them. National-Geographic ought to come to take pictures from my kitchen sink window; they would sell more magazines.

I can walk ten paces across my little apartment from my kitchen sink to a large bay window in my living room (I sit below it now, as I type), and take in an equally breathtaking view, this time in the opposite direction. Out of this window, one can see those same mountains rolling down through our small village and spilling past the beaches into the ocean below. The view of the sunrise out of this window is particularly magnificent; huge, rounded ocean clouds are colored by the rising sun below them, which dances across the billowing waves in a narrow path of dazzling golden light, pointing itself directly at my bay window. This is a scene all arrayed in splendor bright, but a sight that lasts just minutes (not more than five) and is easily missed by the impatient. The entire view, from either side of the apartment, is a truly magnificent instance of God’s creation. And though the mountain’s path is inviting – it starts not two hundred paces from my front door – and though I’m constantly petitioned by peers to go down to enjoy that beach (they seem to crow worse than the roosters), I find that I am most content rustling in my chair and pecking at my keyboard, simply enjoying God’s creation in my own small way. Unusual, I know, but I sing the song of a caged parakeet.

There is a poem by Maya Angelou that shares its name with her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The caged bird in her poem, with its clipped wings and morbid overtones, sings nothing more than of its longing for freedom. Maya’s bird aches to be released, out on the open winds, dipping its wings in golden sunlight. The poem is wonderful, to be sure, and I think that it brought some tears to my eyes the first time I read it. I felt her song, the song of that caged bird – a song of freedom. But I do not hear those morbid overtones in the trill of the caged parakeet in the apartment below. His tune is quite different, and I feel to sing along with him as I sit here and type, looking out my large bay window. Unusual, I know, but I sing the song of a caged parakeet.

Several months ago I left my home in Las Vegas and came here to complete my degree at Brigham Young University-Hawaii. I did this in order to escape the dregs of an education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which lost credibility in my mind by choosing to offer several classes in both exotic dancing and alcohol consumption (no joke!). In order to come to Hawaii and obtain a more meaningful education, I flew through a whirlwind of decisions and constructed a cage of financial, occupational, and personal commitments that, at the time, I wasn’t so sure I’d be able to fulfill. When I moved in to this particular apartment I knew there would be drawbacks – restrictions even. For starters, rent in Hawaii is anything but forgiving (not to mention the price of groceries – milk alone costing $7 a gallon). Additionally, not being able to afford a car and being so far from campus, I knew I would often have to take the bus – Aloha~TheBus, its official name. Now, besides there being an inordinate amount of weirdoes on TheBus (a fact that I find adds to its overall ambiance and charm), riding TheBus daily means adding an extra 1 to 2 hours of travel time to my schedule. I find this constricting, but the time I spend waiting at the bus-stop gives me a chance to just sit and think – an activity I’m actually fond of. Never mind the weirdoes (like the unintelligible old lady, tattooed and toothless, who decided to kick at me from across the aisle the other day), they will usually leave you alone if you just ignore them. I actually fervently enjoy riding the bus, as restricting as it may be. Unusual, I know, but I sing the song of a caged parakeet.

When I signed up to take 20 credit-hours this semester, I knew there would be drawbacks. Partly, I think I did not expect to have an active social life, having been recently engaged for marriage. As it has turned out, I probably spend just as much time with friends as I do in the books (and certainly more time than I spend with my fiancé, who stayed back in Vegas while I finish school). The time I spend with friends crowds in on my time for study, and vice-versa. Beyond that, I think I kept adding classes to my schedule like they were pieces of pie on an all-you-can-eat dessert cart – a little apple, a little razzleberry, a little pecan, and some vanilla ice-cream to go with. I love to learn and just couldn’t pass up Essentials of Conducting with Jerold Ottley (former conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir – amazing, I know) or a creative writing class that will do nothing to satisfy my graduation requirements. None of this makes my schedule any more flexible; none of this frees up any of my time. And still, I rather enjoy that I spend 20 hours of the week in class and that I spend countless hours more working on various class assignments (though, they seem to have no end). Sometimes it means turning down dinner with friends, or missing the Friday-night movie, but it is the lot that I have chosen. Unusual, I know, but I sing the song of a caged parakeet.

When I exacerbated the situation by signing up as a 20-hour-a-week tutor in the Reading/Writing Center, I knew that there would be drawbacks. To be honest, I needed the money. To be frank, when I maxed-out my two credit cards into $4,000 debt, I had no idea just how many drawbacks there would be. Thus, I need the money. And so I work an extra 20 hours a week in effort to try to remedy my situation. But, wouldn’t you know it, I’m pleased with the fact that I am 21 years old, own a fully paid-off vehicle back in Las Vegas (paid-off with my own $7,000 cash, I might add – no help from mommy and daddy), and that I am putting myself through an undergraduate education. Twenty extra hours a week on a job (devoted to the good cause of peer-tutoring) keeps me from feeling overwhelmed by debt. Though it crowds in on my daily schedule, I appreciate my time there. Unusual, I know, but I sing the song of a caged parakeet.

As I’ve mentioned, I left my beautiful fiancé back in Las Vegas for these six months of school. I knew there would be drawbacks. She stayed back to fulfill her responsibility-filled position of running a large day-care center in the Las Vegas valley, which she would have given up save for the fact that there is no one else that could run it as well as she does. She is truly amazing that way, and I miss being able to hear her wonderful stories of each day’s events. Many times, I can’t find even a small moment free to flip open my cell phone and punch in her speed-dial (333 – her favorite number). When we do talk, it often seems as though we are communicating across a Grand-Canyon-like void, desperately trying to capture each other’s ideas, made faint by the wind (she’ll tell you that sometimes that wind is just me, absent-mindedly breathing into my phone’s mic). Being so far away from her, having spent an entire year and half at her side, is difficult and confusing to say the least. To say the most, at some point I considered that moving away from her might break us up all together. Thankfully those considerations have been completely obliterated: we are sublimely happy with one another and will be married before summer’s end. Though I miss her terribly, I know that I am here for a reason and that makes it easier to enjoy my time here, even if it is time spent away from her. Unusual, I know, but I sing the song of a caged lovebird.

 To those on the outside, I live perched in a cage of bus rides, classes, homework, real work, and long-distance romance. Indeed, I may. Others will chase after their roosters, here and there in a flurry of giggles and excitement – or perhaps they are the ones being chased. And, I suppose for them, it is a bliss-filled life, whether for enjoyment’s sake or out of sheer confusion. But, perched in my cage, I have my mountain vistas and ocean sunrises, a promise of a beautiful wife, and my laptop, at which I peck away. Rustling from here to there, I sing my song. And it’s not always the happiest tune, but it is my tune, and I shall sing it well. Unusual, I know, but I sing the song of that caged parakeet below. It is a song of gladness and a song of contentment.

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