the force of love

Oahu, June 2020

We are in the middle of the production of our Earth Family Calendar. A friend tells us about a man hanging out with wild pigeons, every single day,  where the river meets the sea, at Kailua Beach. We google: ‘pigeons kailua’. First result: Rick Gardner, aka Kailua Birdman. Spontaneously we write Rick and meet up a few days later for this conversation. His connection with the pigeons is a profound example on the possibility and philosophy of inter-species communication.

Whether the skies are blue or grey, no matter what time a day, you know as soon as you pull up the parking lot of Kailua Beach you will be greeted by your free roaming friends. What does this routinely genuine greeting evoke in you?

It’s comforting to go to a place alone, but you know that when you get there you will be greeted by a flock of feathered friends. It’s kind of like going to your favorite bar or restaurant where you know most of the staff.  It’s a feeling of belonging. The only difference is that the “staff” are the local birds, nature is my elixir, and bird seed is the cover charge. I rarely feel alone because of all their attention. I give them kindness, respect and love. We dance to the rhythm of ocean breezes and crashing waves. They dance in the sky and I get to take part of the choreography. It’s a spiritual feeling of freedom. It’s a performance. It’s a play. I lose myself in the relationship and my focus is on them. The end result is a symphony of feathers and smiles and I come out with a grateful and joyful heart!

To witness your unconditional love without ‘ownership’ is inspirational. Do you express this generous quality in other parts of your life? And do you think this is why you chose to care for wild birds rather than, let’s say a cat or dog?

Unconditional love is a choice. It is given in hopes that it may be magnified and multiplied, but it’s not the reason you give it. You give it because it grows when you give. It grows inside of you. And when it returns to you it’s because they have chosen to give it back to you.

I try my best to show this to others and have given substantially to the poor and the suffering. My experience has been that it truly is “better to give than to receive.” It’s an amazing feeling when you are able to help someone have food to eat or a place to stay, and to help them provide for their children. My only advice is to give with a thankful heart. If you can’t give with a kind and thankful heart, then don’t give at all. This has been one of the hardest of life’s lessons for me and I still struggle with it to this day.

Wild birds are fun for me and it doesn’t carry with it the responsibility of owning a pet.  I think for many owning a pet is the one thing that makes them feel connected to nature.  As for me, I choose more personal freedom and have chosen not to own a pet.  But it’s mostly because I don’t own a home, and am not sure where I’m going to be living any given year… LOL.  Owning a pet is a commitment for their entire lives.  You are responsible for their food, shelter, and health...for life!  In return they bring you love, joy, and companionship.  At this point in my life, bird seed is a small price to pay for the benefits of such a relationship

Our human language can feel limited at times. We often forget that we communicate through the language of frequency. Do you think that inter-species communication might help us to tap back into the language that connects us all — the language of love?

That’s a very deep and powerful question and one that requires a lot of thought. Can you imagine if we were to land on Mars and we find that the only life on Mars happened to be a pigeon?  Sounds ridiculous right?  I would imagine after spending billions of dollars to get there, we would want to know how to communicate with them. Animals and humans respond to emotions before words. Love, fear and anger are all emotions expressed by body language. People and animals are drawn toward the emotions of love and energy, and driven away by fear and anger. 

All living creatures depend on energy for existence. To simplify this, I like to say that “the currency of all living things is food.” Without the food as an incentive, I would not be able to elicit such amazing behaviors. But it goes beyond that.Humans associate nourishment with love.  Since we were breastfed babies cradled in our mother’s arms we have been fed with love.  That love is one of the most powerful expressions on the planet and it is the basic principle of how I communicate with the pigeons.

Whether exploring different cultures, or other planets, the principle remains the same: energy in exchange for love. The key is to give from a loving heart!

Unconditional love is a choice. It is given in hopes that it may be magnified and multiplied, but it’s not the reason you give it.


Being in the pigeon’s presence is your mediation, your spiritual practice. Do you sense that the pigeons understand your temperament of the day?

I definitely feel that my time with the birds is a spiritual experience, like the Bob Marley song... “Love is my Religion.” If I’m having a bad day they help me to get outside of myself, and lay my ego aside to connect to a greater purpose. I realize that most people haven’t ever seen anything like this before and it’s important that I focus on the relationship and become transparent to the process. I started this practice because I wanted to be closer to God. I wanted to be connected to the Greatest Artist of all by getting to know His artwork. Everyday is a learning experience for both me and for the birds. It has taught me to listen to my heart. I feel them and they feel me. It has taught me to tap into positive energy and to be aware of the energy vampires.

There’s so much to observe and learn from nature and all its forms and manifestations. From the perspective of pigeon to human, what do you think we could learn from them?

Life is truly a competition. Animals compete for food. Humans compete for money. Nations compete for energy. Do you see the relationship here? We are all competing for energy in its various forms. To survive as a species, animals, and humans need to find a balance between the competition and the community. Competition can produce leadership, but leadership is futile if it doesn’t protect and provide for the community. Community without good leadership will end up in disaster (starvation).

For everyone out there, desiring to establish a caring relationship with pigeons, what would be your advice?

One word: “Trust.”  That’s it. The best way to be trusted is to be a trustworthy person. Start to build that trust with just a few birds… Make it easy for the birds to have access to food in your hand and remember that the harder you try, the less likely they will eat from your hand (the Law of Detachment). Having three birds or more creates a competition and the bravest will be the first to test your reactions. Once they are comfortable eating from your hand, you can increase the difficulty to get the birds to land on you. Risk versus rewards. Always remove as much risk as possible. They can sense danger but they are motivated by the reward and the reward has to outweigh the risk. Trust is the bridge between the risk and the reward. Once trust is established, reinforce it with positive affirmations and food. Together they will build a bond between you and your feathered friends and you will share in the joy of your wonderful new relationship.

Art Direction & Model / Marisa Papen
Photography / Michael Chichi


To learn more of Rick, ‘Kailua Bird Man’, visit his website & instagram