Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Freeform Magazine, plus Trees and Jays

A few minutes ago, I e-mailed answers to a long list of questions sent to me by an editor of a Thai art and comics magazine called "Freeform." It was actually quite a detailed and exhaustive interview: my background, my family, my writing and drawing technique, what I've learned, the best and worst parts of the job, etc. I'm again boggled by the idea of people in Thailand reading about me and my work. I'll try to mention it when it appears, although I'm pretty sure it won't be published in English.
We just got some trees in our yard professionally trimmed. We don't have a large yard but we do have some foliage too big for me to handle myself. As a result, I've learned a few new things.

First, regardless of who you hire to trim your trees--no matter how professionally certified or well recommended--they will always tell you that the last professionally certified, well-recommended guys you hired completely botched the job. You're just lucky the trees lasted long enough for these new guys to rescue them from the brink. I've heard it before but this was the first time I noticed it to be a universal constant. I think the same might be true for house painters, car mechanics and plastic surgeons, but need more data.

Second, I learned I am able to keep baby birds alive for two days. Traumatic childhood experience had convinced me otherwise. No, the arborists didn't disturb their nest. In fact, we noticed the two fuzzy fledglings on the ground under the trees a couple of days before cutting began. They're scrub jays, members of a common, aggressive, foul-tempered species with a grating squawk that I nevertheless resolved to protect. Their parents were still tending to them on the ground, feeding them and fending off predators. But what to do about the heavy-booted tree trimmers?

We considered and quickly rejected postponing; it took time to get the appointment, and the arborist already had his crew lined up. We called a veterinarian friend of ours (the same one who blessed our lives with Amber the Simple Cat) and were advised that we could capture the birds and try to raise them ourselves by hand-feeding them mealworms (not bloody likely), or corral them in a safe corner of the yard where their parents could still get to them. We tried that. The risk was that we'd disturb them so much that the parents would abandon them. The tree guys took two days, so each day before they came I laid a towel in a box too deep for the chicks to hop out of, supplied a shallow bowl of water, caught them, stashed them to the side, and left them alone.

And what do you know ... it worked! They're alive! Mom and Dad Jay made themselves scarce while the crew climbed the trees and rrrrevved their chain saws, but the moment the guys broke for lunch or left for the day, Mom and Dad swooped down for a cheepy family reunion. I let the babies out of the box at night and then recaptured them next morning, braving parental scolding and swooping and pooping.

I was struck by how fast baby birds develop, visibly different from day to day. Their wings are coming along; I wouldn't be surprised if they went from furry tennis balls to full fliers very soon. The first day, they were easy to catch, pretty much sitting indifferently while I scooped them up. A day later they were wailing and skittering like little road runners, and their capture took some effort. If I'd had to catch them a third day, I'm pretty sure I would need an anvil, a giant magnet, and a pair of rocket-powered roller skates.
Should they survive to fly, I expect my reward to be a couple of new bossy scrub jays who hog all the bird seed and squawk outside my window at the crack of dawn. But maybe, just maybe, deep in the recesses of their bird brains, they'll think kindly of the big pink monkey who tried to keep them out of harm's way for a couple of days.


Mike said...

aaaaw ... And think of the warnings they'll give their kids -- "You stay in this nest until you can fly! When I was your age ... "

ronnie said...

Add "hairdressers" to the list of people who will tell you that the last person you dealt with was a disgrace to the profession.

Which, as it happens, is a little more unnerving, since you've apparently been walking around with an absolute disaster on your head for three weeks.

Fortunately, this stops if and when you can find one person you can go back to over and over. Then all you have to do - if you go to a place that accepts drop-ins, like mine does - is submit to the burning glares of the idle hairdressers while you wait for your stylist of choice to get to you.

The story of the birds is amazing and made my day. And this week I am in some need of things to make my day. So thanks for that.

And congrats on the Thai interview. A friend of ours went to Thailand and brought Husband back a copy of Thai Penthouse (no kidding!) The written language is visually very beautiful, so even if you haven't a clue what the interview says, it will look pretty (albeit presumably without the cheesecake photography).


Kid Sis said...

Plastic surgeons ARE the same.

I have about 300 crows that begin squawking every morning at 4 am. My plan is to buy a BB gun.

Julie said...

Hello, I'm not sure this is the right place to write this but you can remove it if it's not, It won't disturb me. I'm french, so please excuse me for my english. I read Mom's cancer a few months ago when I learned my dad had a brain tumor level 4. He's been operated and has now a very strong treatment, we'll know in a few weeks if the beast has reduced!
I just wanted to thank you so much for your book, it helped me, and still helps when I feel desperate and anguished.
I keep strong hope even if it's not an easy thing to do every day.
Thanks again,

Brian Fies said...

Julie, thank you for your gracious comment. I am very glad you took the time to write.

I'm sorry for what you are going through now. I think the best you can do is take every day and problem as it comes, and do not be too hard on yourself if you are not always as strong or patient as you think you should be. You will do the best you can.

Best of luck to you and your family, I'll be thinking of you.