10 October 2012

A Weaver-Bird Story

One of the most vivid memories I have of my childhood is of a visit to Kumana.  There were elephants, deer, wild buffalo and lots of birds.  Of the elephants I remember a lone male calmly walking across what would have been a good half a kilometer stretch of grassland.  That’s nothing compared to the Minneriya herd, of course, but we are talking Kumana here.

There were two other things I return to often.  Kudumbigala, an ancient monastery, literally stand out, rising from the shrub jungle.  I’ve visited once, since that first time, twenty years later and at a time when armed groups roamed almost all jungles in the North and East of the country.  Didn’t come across any, though.  Kudumbigala was silent.  It was so quiet that it was as though the rocky hill was cocooned by the collective breath of all those who were resident through millennia, as though protecting the sanctity from human beings fascinated with lesser pursuits.  

And then there was an ancient tree covered with birds’ nests.  There were dozens.  It was a weaver bird colony.  We didn’t pick any, didn’t touch, and didn’t check to see if they were occupied or not.  We were simply fascinated by the number and more than this the elegant craftsmanship. 

I’ve seen such nests in the homes of friends and relatives.  They never fail to amaze me.  Weaver birds’ nests, like most non-human constructions, remind me that we don’t invent but only elaborate and that for all human braggadocio, non-humans have done better.  Like trees, which, according to an old friend, are the most evolved species: they don’t pollute, they don’t indulge in destruction, don’t harm any other creature and have perfect waste-disposal mechanisms. 

Weaver birds’ nests came to me just now, again, when I was going through the text of a collection of poems I had written some years ago.  The title of the collection is ‘Threads’.  I noticed a dedication that I had forgotten about: ‘In celebration of weaving’.    The ‘thread’ of the collection referred to the pirith noola, the thread of protection, let’s say, chanted over and tied around the wrist of Buddhists.  It referred to a chanting incident and was metaphor for a single line common to all poems in that text, a tenet that runs through the Buddhist canon: impermanence. 

And I thought of birds and weaving.  Elegance and craftsmanship.  Safety and protection.  The kind that is done consequent to practical considerations and those for show, those for simple survival reasons and those for complex ‘survival’ reasons. 

Construction, in other words, is not always innocent.  Indeed, in human things, one could even say that innocence in rationale is the exception and not the rule.  This is why the word ‘spin’ has meanings that have more twist and bite than the full range of options employed by Ajantha Mendia or Akhila Dhananjaya. 

It’s not the weaver bird only that takes trouble over weave.  There are others that feign and frill.  Birds weave, but the human weave is sinister.  We weave with word, with dress, eye-liner, powder-puff, polish, embroidery, entourage, vehicle convoy, mis-saying, non-saying, diversion, gift, venom, bullet, bomb and drone. We weave with easy-answer. We weave by alluding to policy. We use the thread of selectivity and citing universality.   Even sleep feigning is weave.  Newspapers are weave-made. Radio too.  There is as much ‘society’ as there is puppet string in social media.  We even weave when we don’t think we are weaving. That’s subconscious weaving, some might say.  Or conditioned weaving.  Perhaps there is some virtue in nudism, figuratively speaking. 

Weaver birds are fascinating creatures.  They are as naked as anyone in a nudist colony.  Even in their home-building, the purpose is transparent.  I’ve seen weaver birds among humans.  Few, I admit.  They are beautiful.  

And that’s my weaver-bird story.  Written thirty years since that visit to Kumana. 


sajic said...

Weaver bird nests are one of the many miracles of nature-almost beyond belief. There's another miracle-a spider's web! Different purpose.
What would you say about that?

h. said...

this article is one of the nicest things someone has ever done for another person in a moment of personal tragedy. not enough words to explain the gratitude for this.

Anonymous said...

Weaver Bird ! Weaver Bird !
I know the secret,
woven so many
to satisfy she ,
Yes, she is choosy
she lays eggs
in most beautiful and in the safest .... :)