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Kissing the Birds

She was a young lady with short hair, sitting on the quad, wearing a nice little black dress. She was having her lunch: a sandwich, chips, and soda. She caught my eye because as young ladies eating lunch on the quad go, the little black dress was more fashionable than the tees and shorts or dowdy office uniforms worn by most of the landscape. A little black dress and relaxed black loafers, complementing pale skin and a doo that was unusual not just for being short on a woman.

What caught my attention, and hers, were the birds. One perched near her and peered up, have you any crumbs? She certainly did, and she certainly shared, and she certainly enjoyed the sharing.

A few crumbs later and her friend flew off. Both our heads tracked its flight out of range. More birds came and went, more crumbs she shared. She was finished eating now and pulled out a magazine. Scientific American! But her reading was interrupted when the birds returned. Two, then three, and before long she was parcelling crumbs out to a half dozen admirers.

< I love watching people feed birds.

> umm ok

Feeding is intimacy. We are, after all, mammals who have breasts to form that first important connection with our young: the act of feeding. Perhaps that is why housewives and chefs and waitstaff are undervalued by capitalism: it doesn’t take much for the human engaged in these activities to groove to the meme that food is good, and that serving food to others is deeply satisfying.

Kissing, this most revered expression of kinship, affection, and desire between lovers, is enjoyable because our mouths were formed to touch flesh, to caress the things that we most value, to try and ingest the things that we love, at least symbolicly. I have frequently noticed that when the little birds approach me, and look up and ask for food, that their mouths are open, at least a crack. I suspect that the real reason for this is to help cool these aviators in the humid heat of Illinois’ summer, but I can also see that open mouth asking the question first asked in the nest – will you put food in me?

Birds are not mammals. They have no soft lips seeking the milk of mother’s breast. All the same, parents prepare and share food into the waiting, plaintive, open beaks connected to hungry, growing stomachs. When a human is feeding birds, they are stretching a handful of crumbs out across the space of time, to that moment when human and bird is the same. It is a statement of shared sentiment from one corner of the animal kingdom to another, that we are all together, however temporarily sharing existence in this fantastic experience that is our world.

/danny

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