02 June 2023

Free and happy

I float through life. With no real purpose other than to feel free and happy, as birds and butterflies do. I do that best by being in the moment, and by enjoying the smallest things that are often bigger than they appear. Along the way on the scooter and stop to see beautiful flowers up close. Walking through the surf on a beach and feeling the sand slip between my toes. Having a chat with a stranger on a terrace. But also sitting on a stone, high above an endless horizon of water, writing the following story.

Animal love

It is once again quite warm in Malta, I estimate about 33 degrees. I am sitting in a park on a bench under a thick canopy of trees. I come here regularly. In combination with the wind, it is a wonderful place to get through the heat of the day. A little further on is an elderly man who, I can hear, is playing a game on his phone. It doesn't bother me, but I do notice it, because the game sound sounds like it's for very young children. Moments later, another very elderly man approaches. He carries a cage with a bird in it. The gentlemen know each other and sit next to each other with the bird between them. The bird owner is proud of his toy. You can see that in his eyes and you can hear it in his intonation with which he addresses the other. Very briefly he makes eye contact with me with a smile. I have the feeling that he also wants to tell me about his bird and probably wants to hear from me that the animal whistles beautifully. Admittedly, the animal puts on a big throat. Still, I won't be tempted to talk. Usually I am the one to contact, but this situation is different.

The cage is twenty centimeters square, with two, or three centimeters extra space in the depth, because the bars are on a tray. The poor animal barely fits in it. That image of those two men enjoying the screaming bird - yes, the whistling now sounds like screaming - makes me sad and angry. In the meantime three other men have joined, which makes it seem as if I am part of the group of “bird lovers”. I therefore get up and the men thank me with some friendly nods for my seat.

A little further on is an empty bench, where I sit down. I begin to muse, hearing the chatter of the men and the scream of the bird. It's a sinister image. It stings me and I wonder why I didn't say anything. I know that Maltese culture is about who has the best whistler, but why didn't I ask why they keep birds in such small cages and whether they realize that, in addition to the space humans have on earth, birds also have the entire airspace as a living space? Is taking away all that space animal love and if so, why is it also a custom in Malta to shoot birds with shotgun shells from specially built ambushes, while those killed birds are not even collected, because it is only about shooting them? I didn't ask for it all. The men have the highest word and the whistler keeps screaming to get above it.

There is something curious about the Maltese and their love of animals. Because besides proudly showing and hearing your whistler, or shooting them for kicks, entire villages are built here for the countless stray cats out of boxes and crates, to shelter from the heat and the occasional little rain shower. Even with blankets and they also get clean water and cat food

daily. Animal friendly and caring, but apparently they don't want them in the house, which doesn't apply to the dog owners. The ladies prefer to put a jacket on their yappers and I also see them with glittering gemstones in the collar. Then a bow in their hair and they are the princes and princesses who are not under appeal at all. And then you have the men with their pit bull-like dogs. Owner and dog with thick necks. These dogs are also poorly under appeal. Fortunately, they are often muzzled.

Night falls and that goes very quickly here. So suddenly I'm musing in the almost dark. I still feel the strong need to approach the group of men and share my questions and considerations with them. Is it cowardice, or out of respect for their culture, or is it perhaps the feeling of powerlessness and the pointlessness of confronting them with my feelings? I don't know and I want to get up to walk home, but suddenly I get a hunch. I want to walk to the cage and free the bird. It's almost compulsive. Just in time I change my mind, get up and start walking home. Friendly, but above all polite, I greet the men's group. They smile back.

As my reverie dies down as I walk, I wonder which animal I would like to reincarnate as in Malta, a dog, a cat, or a bird? The cat looks good to me. Free and happy, that smart, solitary animal wanders through no less than 9 lives.

© Markant / TrefMij 2023-06

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