I recently asked for help naming my cockatiel…and I got a lot of suggestions. From Vito…which I was told means LIFE in Italian, to Angel which I learned was a male name in Spanish….the suggestions were many. It’s been two weeks now since New Bird became a part of the family and in fairness to everyone who submitted a name, I’ve been trying them out on him. He cocked his head a time or two at a few of the names and said “pretty bird” in response to others. I knew I didn’t want to name him after anyone I’d dated just in case traits of people with certain names could be transferred to birds. There was only one relative’s name I considered, but no one seemed to think Willis was a good name for a bird. Nothing really seemed to fit so I decided to give him the name I originally considered and it works. Meet Henry Yes…Henry A. Bird Lawson, to be exact.
I wrote my Master’s thesis about Walden by Henry David Thoreau. As a student of literature, I was enthralled with this book and all the many quotes from it that have been used since its publication. There was something romantic about the idea of going into the woods to live a simpler life, or as Henry Thoreau so beautifully said…”to escape living that which was not life.” I had my entire life ahead of me at the time and above all did not want to end up living a “life of quiet desperation” as Thoreau believed most people lived. But back then, the last place I really wanted to live was the woods. Fast forward a few decades, I am in the woods, I love it, and if seems so perfect to name my bird Henry after an author whose words have been a part of my life since those student days.
From what I know, this Henry’s life was one of definite desperation before he came to the woods to live with me and my dog Sadie. Unlike the other Henry’s dwelling at Walden Pond, we have creature comforts. Henry David Thoreau may have only needed a small shack and a few meager possessions, Henry A. Bird Lawson has a luxury bird cage and doesn’t have to gather his own food. Thoreau went alone to the woods to live simply; I came to the woods for my own reasons, and brought along Sadie. She loves it here. Sadie, however is her Mom’s daughter, and while she is happy anywhere I am, she too appreciates nicer quarters than those of Thoreau’s on the shore of Walden Pond. Although, she has real dog duties out here in the woods like chasing squirrels and sniffing out raccoons at night, she likes lying in front of a fireplace that provides warmth with the touch of a remote control and a soft down feather=topped king sized bed. I also love the woods, but not sure Thoreau would understand that I needed a Jacuzzi and a gourmet kitchen. These are parts of my simple life here in the woods I’d rather not be without.
So Henry is now part of our life out here in the house nestled among very tall trees. When Henry’s out on the deck he looks longingly at the wild birds who fly to the very top of the tallest trees and he seems wistful. I let him out of the cage in the house and he flies to the top of the window ledge, but I know it’s not the same. He accepts his domestic status and sings as he walks around on the floor and weaves in and out around the dining room chair legs. He’s here because he needed a home and we needed comfort and the presence of another bird after the death of Abi. Thoreau’s words are still part of my life and those words guide my actions even though I don’t live as materially simple as he did. We live in the moment; we appreciate the value of each day; and find delight in all the aspects of nature around us. Like Thoreau we grow beans, but we also have pizza delivered. It’s simply wonderful…even if not wonderfully simple.
Only one person so far had a less than enthusiastic reaction to the new bird’s name. My sister Bonnie’s reaction surprised me…”Why would you name him that?” she asked irritatingly. I mentally searched the names of her former husbands and for the life of me couldn’t remember if she’d been married to anyone named Henry. No one could blame me if I couldn’t remember, because recalling the names of Bonnie’s husbands is not an easy task. “That was Hank’s name,” she exasperatingly told me. Hank? Yes, I remembered the airline pilot Bonnie married not once, but twice. He was so cheap he took turkey wraps in a cooler when Bonnie accompanied him on an overnight layover flight to
Barbados. Hank is the only airline captain I ever heard of who mowed grass for extra money when he wasn’t in the cockpit. Hank ordered one appetizer and nothing else for six people including my parents at my nephew’s graduation. Seems Hank…is a nick name for Henry or maybe Henry Lane just wanted to also conserve syllables like money and gave himself the nickname. I don’t know. I reassured Bonnie that Henry would not be called Hank. Then I explained all of this to Henry who interrupted his sunflower seed eating long enough to say the bird equivalent I believe of…”Don’t call me Hank.” No danger there Henry. Your namesake although frugal, was never cheap. His life was rich with insight, knowledge and appreciation and somehow, I already know you have those traits and are a very wise bird who will thrive in your new environment. The only thing you have in common with Hank is that you both fly.