wings and things

Feathers and figs

Well the whole lawn is strewn here and there with the feathers shed by our peacocks. Periodically I go around picking them up and last week Dina (my decluttering expert) tied them into bunches to be sold and she bought 20 herself, so I made $20!


Don’t worry. I don’t keep a display like this on top of the stove ordinarily; I just put them there for the picture.


As you can see, peacock feathers are varied. The above picture shows the underneath feathers.

The lawn underneath the two ancient fig trees is also strewn – with dead figs. Tip: never step on a dead fig and, if you do, clean the sole of your shoe immediately. Dead figs are like superglue!

I have been picking and giving away as many figs as I can because the heat is killing them off fast. This morning was a bit cooler so I picked heaps and they are now in a sink full of water to drown the ants. I’m taking them into the guys at the restaurant Ming works at. They go very well with blue cheese.


Picking figs always reminds me of Gar, Anthony’s mother. She would always want me to try to pick the topmost fig by hook or by crook and, yes, we usually used her walking stick to do so.


So, with the figs and feathers, I am feeling quite rich!


The elusive parrot


I bet you can’t even see him! Every morning I wake up and through my bedroom window I see these guys all over the giant pear tree but as soon as I venture outside with my camera they hide!

I’ve never seen this variety of parrot here before but then again my observation skills are not well honed and it may be that I have mistaken this breed of parrot for the very common ‘Twenty-eight’ parrot. Here is a link to information about the 28

Unlike the 28, this elusive parrot is multi-coloured – greeny blue at first glance but with an underside of red, yellow and sometimes a red cap – absolutely beautiful! I’m going to keep on trying to get a decent photo but it is difficult to see them in amongst the pears.


It feels like a bit of an adventure to me – figuring out what kind of parrot this is, and training myself in the art of observation (and getting up early again, early-bird-catches-worm and all that!)

Once upon a time I would have been shocked at the idea of bird-watching, picking flowers, noticing the sunset, growing tomatoes (okay well I grew two before they died), cooking a curry from scratch, listening to music without doing something else at the same time. I would have thought what a waste of time! But now all the wing flits, the snow of wattle blossoms on the lawn, the aroma of a simmering curry, and the constant squawking of the crows, peacocks and this elusive parrot – all of of this life stuff, simple, small, daily details – makes me appreciate every single moment I have left with Anthony.


The peacock dance

Every morning at around the same time, King and Prince do this incredibly synchronized dance next to the water tank. Usually I watch them from the bedroom window but today I went out to take some photos and when they saw me they seemed to put some extra effort into their routine. A couple of the females came up to me in the hope of bread but when they saw I had none, they turned up their beaks as if to say ‘well you’re just as useless as those two fools flirting with the water tank.’

The peahens’ indifference to the peacocks’ efforts is hilarious to watch and it is a wonder to me that any chicks are produced at all! Anyway, I watched the peacocks dance for about an hour (yes they can do their routine for well over an hour; it must be exhausting), then I came inside with a big smile.

I will take the photos in to show the women in the dementia wing of the nursing home where I volunteer on the weekends between 3 and 4pm, and to show Anthony of course.



What a peculiar blog!

I have just looked back to discover that tomorrow will mark the third anniversary of this blog. The reason I was looking back was because I want to find, in amongst all of the bird stuff, everything I have written about Anthony and Parkinson’s disease and how he, Ming and I have coped. I thought it might be useful to compile these entries into one document and see if it works as a whole, maybe as a book. Apart from the wonder of all the friendships wrought via blogging, it has also been wonderful to find that I have a record of these past three years because I don’t think I would have remembered otherwise, except as a kind of blurry fog of joys and sorrows – mostly joys.

The birds, and the wings idea, have punctuated the last three years in real and metaphorical ways. Many have now been lost to fox attacks, I have given the emus away, and all three of the original caged birds have been set free. We now have a dozen peafowl, nine guinneafowl, five geese and one duck. The casualties have been heartbreaking and I have decided not to acquire any more due to their vulnerability to fox attacks. Gutsy9 is still thriving and one of the two peachicks hatched last year has survived and I think there will be more chicks soon. I have stopped interfering in the way natural selection works. All of the birds still take bread out of my hand and give me enormous joy (except Godfrey, the gander who likes to bite me!)

But everything changes and now that most of my daytime hours are spent in the nursing home, the birds and I don’t commune as much. Hence, when they hear my voice, they come running AT me with a mixture of love and greed (for wheat) that it is hilarious to watch. And even the birds who are gone continue to live on via Anthony’s hallucinations. Almost every day he points them out through his nursing home window. The outdoor tables and chairs become turkeys; the lawn is speckled with chooks and guinneafowl; and the flowerbeds are parrots. I can see them too.

It seems a rather peculiar blog in its higgledy-piggledyness and some of my entries make me cringe, but hopefully I will be able to draw out enough of the love story to compile a coherent record that might be helpful to others who live with Parkinson’s disease.

Here is a picture of the nearly grown up peachick, still very much attached to his mother (in foreground)!


A white peacock twirls: a haiku (or two)

A white peacock twirls
in an old, red dairy shed,
his dance ancient, new.


He wrestles the wind
and the dust of the old shed,
to be absolute!


Gutsy 9 – my fantastic bird-in-hand

For those who don’t know, G9 is a peachick who, for some reason (maybe because she was half blue/half white) was abandoned by whoever hatched her. I caught her as she was scuttling, terrified, into the old dairy and pretty much raised her with the hands of Ants and Ming.


Today, I decided that I would come home earlier than usual from the nursing home. I told Ants I had to go and feed the birds and dogs, and then said I would see him later.

Ants: You won’t come back.
Me: What do you mean? I always come back!
Ants: Not, yes, what car?
Me: Our car, silly!
Ants: How many calves? I need those people for the fireplace
Me: Only ten left to feed. Ming will do it. I know who you mean for the fireplace.
Ants: Are you sure?
Me: Yes, should we ring tomorrow?
Ants: You do it – something is wrong with me.

When I got home, I went straight out to find Gutsy and, as usual, she was waiting for me:

I’d like a word, Julie


You’re always out and about and I feel ….

Oh I think I’m going to cry – how embarrassing!



Five seconds

Today, I experienced, for the first time, five seconds of what I always knew was inevitable. For five seconds (and I know it was exactly five seconds because I kissed Anthony five times – three on the nose and two on the forehead – all in quick succession, to remind him….)

It’s me – Jules!

A syllable for each peck of a second.

This is the first time Anthony hasn’t recognized me and, even though it was only five seconds, it is good to have had that little taste of forewarning/arming because I still have time to develop some tactics and hopefully some wisdom.

When I told my mother about the five seconds of unrecognition (yes, ‘unrecognition’ is a word – I checked) she squeezed my hand but I quickly reassured her that I was fine with this first of what will be many unrecognitions. (It’s kind of weird being comforted by your 79-year-old mother about your 78-year-old husband!)

In what I think will be the near future, the challenge for me will be in how to reassure Anthony that I am indeed Jules, his wife, without embarrassing him. I know this because lately he asks a lot for his mother and many others of his family who are now deceased. Sometimes I say they are all well but very busy but sometimes (for example if he is distressed, as he was for his mother again the other night), I will gently remind him that she is gone.

I was thrilled today to have a conversation with a friend of mine, Ann, who now works as a clinical instructor at the nursing home (she and I both left our jobs at the university at around the same time). Ann told me that she has been showing all staff, including domestic staff, a DVD about Parkinson’s disease that explains, among other things, why someone with PD can sometimes walk, and other times be totally unable in which case encouraging words are useless. Interestingly, the DVD also explains why a person with PD may not respond to a greeting, and therefore appear to be unfriendly. Ann told me that she pointed out to the staff that people with PD need time to process the greeting and should, instead of rushing past with a “Hi Anthony!” and disappearing, wait for his response.

After all, it only takes around five seconds for Anthony to say “hi” back.

On the other hand it only took one second for Anthony to say “Rubbish! Throw it out the window” about the cupcakes I made for him last week!

The kiss Yes, I know I’ve posted this photo before but I love it!


Simulating home

photo (1)

As you can see we are still experiencing a wintry spring after its false start last week. The weather alerts for Western Australia are a bit alarming with winds of up to 100 kph so I came home a bit early from the nursing home yesterday.

I have begun to arrive at the nursing home by 11am most days now because, with the volunteering, I need plenty of time to wear both ‘hats’. It is working out so well but more about that in another post.

Over the two and a half years since Anthony entered the nursing home, his room has become as close as I can get it to our real home: freshly picked flowers (although I never did this when Anthony lived at home – he did!); daily food treats on plates and a cutting board I keep there; familiar shows on television via the DVD; a well-stocked bar and our own glassware and so on.

photo (4)

photo (6)

And (my latest idea!) Ming’s 2.5 kg weights. I didn’t expect Anthony to be quite so enthusiastic about this but I was wrong – he did around 20 for each arm with me cheering him on and cracking up laughing at the same time!


weights 2

Despite my intention to take Jack, our Irish terrier, in to see Ants, I couldn’t find either his leash or collar that day so I will probably take Blaze instead for the time being.

photo (2)

Even I am beginning to feel more at home at the nursing home than I am at home, which is really weird! Well, at the moment, it is a lot warmer there.


The littlest peachick

Yesterday morning, just outside the back door, you took bread from my hand for the first time,
even though you are the littlest peachick.
Surrounded by your peacock father and his brothers, surrounded by your peahen mother and her sisters,’
you raced all of them and won each piece of bread I tossed onto the ground,
even though you are the littlest peachick.

Your big sister didn’t stand a chance and you gobbled all of her bread bits until I gently brushed you aside,
littlest peachick.

This morning, just outside the back door, I saw you again, but this time you were all alone.
I thought you were a pile of leaves blown together by the wind,
until I saw your little legs pointing upwards like the bare, autumn branches of a bonsai.
I went outside and approached you cautiously, not wanting to see what I already saw, that you were very dead,
my littlest peachick.

Your mother, big sister, and all of the others, came over very quietly to look at your dead body.
Then, just as quietly, they all stepped back, turned around and went away,
my littlest peachick.


This morning, the farm is strangely silent. Your family, usually so noisy and boisterous, has withdrawn from the vicinity of your death.
Out in the paddock, they nibble halfheartedly at the grass, looking up and around frequently, as if sensing danger, bewildered, as I am,
at your mysterious death,
our littlest peachick.

I see you now, from the corner of my heart’s eye,
high up in a tree that is so beautiful that it has no name.
You are no longer little; you are huge and your rainbow wings span the sky as you fly in and through the marshmallow clouds
of where you are now.

The littlest peachick.


The Land of Blah

For several days now I have been in and out of the Land of Blah – you know, that place where, even when you stub your toe badly, you can’t be bothered saying ‘ouch’. It’s a funny sort of place, this Land of Blah, but not in a way that makes anyone smile; smiling is kind of frowned on here because it depletes energy and you need energy to get out of the Land of Blah.

I never choose to visit the Land of Blah but sometimes I accidentally wake up there (nightmares can do this), or else I am sitting with Anthony in his room in the nursing home and I am transported into the surreality of his confusion so much so that his blank expression becomes mine.

Sometimes I meet people I know in the Land of Blah and it shocks me. ‘What are you doing here?’ I feel like asking them but of course I don’t because it is a place of such silent mystery and private misery – a paradoxical place of in-between.

I don’t like it in the Land of Blah so I usually manage to clamber out and up into my normal life. And this is what I see: a beautiful peacock family.







Robyn's photo

And the Land of Blah once again recedes into its own grey nothingness.



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