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Wings Set Us Free

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

Roxana was finishing up dinner when all of a sudden the water came up fast from both the old and new riverbeds that separate Guatemala from Honduras. Hurricane Iota was packing a bigger punch than any had ever experienced in this area before. She ran, as did her children and spouse, to place everything in and around their home as high as possible. They tried to bring to safety as many animals as they could, including their dogs, who they secured in the higher community building. One dog escaped and joined them in their flooded house. The others did not and they were never seen again. In fact, this lone dog was the only dog to survive from the entire village. I wondered if he remembered this loss, because when we got into a boat to leave his village in late April 2021, he cried to come with us. Floods can do that to anyone, for they leave behind so much traumatic debris in our memories.

On our way into the Guatemalan village that had been flooded, with the lone surviving dog

Roxana’s family and their surviving dog had to spend the night in a flooded house, waiting to be rescued the next day. Her husband, Miguel, never did sleep that night, as he was busy helping people to rescue their belongings, all to no avail. They lost everything.

Roxana's family awaiting rescue

Their house the day of their rescue, hammock under water

Five months later their home is mostly recovered, and my hammock is dry where it would have been under water. Thank you to this family for giving me a safe and comfortable place to sleep and a refuge for the parrots we all love.

The family was transported via boat to town, but then they had to be rescued from the town as well, and were finally taken to a high spot in the road where they spent a couple of days until a more permanent shelter could be found. When they returned to their village months later, the remains of cows and horses dotted the fields. Roxana told me that the houses were in horrendous shape, and mud and decayed animals’ bodies made the stench intolerable. Her son, Erick, said he really needed to go to the USA for work, for there was nothing for him in the devastated village. “But my family and the parrots need me, so I will stay.”

Erick out patrolling and protecting parrots

And he did, as did several other young people who together make up the parrot rangers of this village on the border. (I purposely am not mentioning the name of the village to avoid giving international illegal poachers and buyers any more information than they already have.) Erick leads this group of rangers, including the hero Evelyn, who I wrote about in a previous blog. Roots to his place hold him close, and what he said reminds me of the lyrics of the song, “Spirit of Life” that we sing in our Unitarian Universalist Congregations: “Roots hold me close, wings set me free.”

Evening craft time making wing jewelry

I believe that the parrot work does set them free, and us too. Not only does it provide some income that gives them the chance to help their families and go to school, but it gives them meaning and a way to help their homeland. To honor their work, I brought them beads in the shape of wings with hearts, and embroidery twine. I presented this to them during my last night there, and suddenly we were engaged in a craft activity, with the rangers quickly making various kinds of adornments to hold their bead wings. Wings, both of the jewelry and the wild kind, hold all our hopes.

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