Barbara Greenman

February, 2015

Where do I begin? It is one week today that I returned from a trip to the Oasis Sanctuary. I have tried for the last week to find the words that could possibly describe to you my experience there. But in the end, I cannot. Because what I experienced there was so deeply profound, personal and life changing, that the best I can do is to give you a small glimpse.

I have been a member there since it opened. I have paid my membership dues, sponsored budgies, sent toys and extra donations and faithfully read, from cover to cover, the newsletter that arrived every few months. I believed I understood perfectly well what the Oasis was doing. And maybe I did inside my head. But my heart didn’t have a clue until I got there, saw the birds and began helping to take care of them. The “heart part” is what I don’t have words for. Each of you would need to experience it for yourself. Each of us might have different reactions based on our own histories, but in the end, you would be changed, just as I am.

Everyone on the staff there helped me learn about the birds, but one person in particular, Linda, a full time volunteer, took me “under her wing.” When the rains came, she brought me a pair of rubber boots. When I was too cold and didn’t have the right clothes with me, she brought me a sweater and scarf. I was very grateful for her kindness.

My mornings were spent removing the old food and water dishes, cleaning the trays and bringing in the new food. I know all that sounds like just normal servicing but while I was doing that, I was interacting with the birds, talking to them, singing to them, hearing their histories, many very sad. Still, there was joy. Again, to try and explain to you what it’s like to stand inside the aviaries, or beside those cages with the birds, instead of just seeing them through pictures in the newsletter, was an overwhelming experience for me. I got very attached to a number of them and am still reeling a bit from the heartbreak of leaving.

In the afternoons, I went off on my own to visit the birds. I brought some treats to hand feed to those I could and with the others, I talked and sang and danced and just gave as much love as I could. So many of the cockatoos loved to sing La La La along with me. So charming and dear.

I was very impressed and touched by the commitment I saw in every member of the staff. So few people, but working together as a team to take care of so many vulnerable souls there. They work so hard and give so much of themselves. I can tell you this with absolute certainty—the birds there are deeply, deeply loved and cared for. It is a sanctuary in its truest form.

It was a hard trip because there is some of everything there, joy and sadness, tragedies and miracles. And I am left missing all these dear ones that touched my life. I feel some emptiness inside myself at being separated from them but I remind myself that I can and hope to return.