Casanova with patriotic bandanaby Marilyn Tokach

Casanova spread his angelic white wings to catch the water misting over him. He leaned forward with his body and bobbed his head down and then stretched it forward as if in flight. His large, liquid-black eyes had a far-away look in them.

He was no longer in my shower. He was flying high in the rainforests of Indonesia. His tail-feathers spread out behind him revealing their beautiful yellow underside. As he dipped and swayed from side to side soaring on the wind currents of his imagination, he lifted me, too. My heart opened and I felt the freedom of love and life spill over me.

Companion parrots are highly interactive beings. They prefer to be in the presence of other flock members and love to play and interact with their humans. I share my home with 3 large companion parrots. Everyday we rotate showering together. The birds have a PVC perch mounted on the back wall of the shower while a compression sprayer mists water on them from the shower rod. The steam from the shower is a poor replication of their natural habitat, the rainforest, but it is the best I can offer these wonderful creatures.

Casanova is a beautiful Umbrella Crested Cockatoo, hatched into captivity on December 24, 1995. He lives with me now, the fourth human home in his short life (an Umbrellaís life can span 50+ human years). He is a bird by birth, a healer by spirit.

Casanova has never known what it is like to soar above the trees, land on a branch swaying in the wind or bathe among the leaves ñ not in this lifetime. In fact, it was only this past year that he learned to fly. Teaching him to fly was easy - it came pretty naturally; teaching him toCasanova navigate obstacles in his flight path and to land softly is another story. And yet, through all of these experiences he has never forgotten who he is.

He is a powerful spirit and Iím honored to share the experience of the shower dance with him. I feel as though I, too, could take flight. His movements although he remains on the perch are majestic and unrestrained. His spirit soars, his imagination uninhibited. In his mind, he is liberated. When his journey ends, he hops with his feet, side to side. Wings still outstretched, dancing his freedom dance.

How is it that this bird can be so free? He has lived in captivity all of his life. He lives in a large metal cage with man-made toys and processed (organic) food pellets. He lives in close proximity to several large-breed dogs, a cat and human - all predators to this prey bird. How much further from natural can he get? And yet he teaches me about freedom.

"Do you really see yourself as free, Casanova?" I asked.

"Absolutely," he replied, "We are all free. But we can all be captive, too, - if that is our choice. We must remember that we are the creators of our lives here on this Earth, at this time. We have the opportunity to be free by just remembering who we truly are. We must reconnect with Spirit and with others of all species, races, faiths, genders and so on, with love and non-judgment."

"That is a beautiful sentiment, but do you think it's possible," I asked the 13 inch bird. Beads of water formed on his white feathers, making him sparkle in the light.

"Of course it's possible. Anything is possible. Look around. What animals do you see that enslave another? Only Human animals. There are hierarchies to be sure, but the hierarchy in a flock is to the benefit of the flock and the individuals within it. Look at all the species on this planet and consider that only one species - humans - enslave other races and species, there is most definitely hope. In order to enslave another there is a judgment that one is better, more intelligent,or more entitled than another. It is in this judgment that slavery takes place. One can only truly be enslaved if they allow themselves to be judged as lesser than their captors, because freedom lies in the mind, in the heart and in the soul. A body can be shackled and beaten and forced to work, but if the mind is free and connected to Spirit and love, then it is not enslaved. Both masterí and slave are two sides to the same coin.

"There are many of us here to help humans to move out of this duality. Although, like humans, some animals are caught up in the duality, but most of us understand the power of love. So we give it unconditionally. That is not to say we don't have feelings other than love, but we are here to show that unconditional love can free you." Casanova blinked his blue eye-ring twice to punctuate his statement.

"So an example might be like the last time I felt absolute love for another being not based on what they can do for me, but just because they are them and I am me," I mused.

Casanova "Right. It's an appreciation of another for who they are. It's when you watch a baby trying to feed himself for the first time. You marvel and the little hands working so hard to find the open mouth. And you are filled with love for this perfect little creation. Itís when you watch the cat play with the terry-cloth mouse, so entertaining and oblivious to his surroundings. It's when you watch the dog repeatedly fetch the tennis ball and wait expectantly for you to throw it again. All of these are moments of love. All are moments of non-judgment. All are moments of absolute freedom. The biggest challenge for humans everywhere in the world is to live in love and non-judgment, which ultimately means living in freedom, regardless of the physical environment.

What an interesting paradox to receive such a powerful lesson of freedom from a bird hatched in captivity. Thinking about all of the conversations Iíve had with animals, I realized what Casanova was sharing made sense. Animals live in the moment. They donít bemoan their situation, even those that have been abused. The animals see the connectedness to all life. They donít view another animal as lesser or better than they are. They seem to understand that we are all on this Earth to learn and to better ourselves. We might start by seeing the commonalities with other people, animals and the planet. We must also live in the moment, enjoy each breath, revel in our imagination and occasionally enjoy a shower dance.

©2003 Marilyn Tokach