Friday, August 12, 2011

Acceptance

beautiful predator
There are those who believe that nature is benignly beautiful. If one is merely looking at it from a window, it appears that way. But there are days when one simply cannot ignore the brutality that lies just under the surface. Yesterday was one of those days. 

Before the sun even rose fully, I was awakened by a frantic piping. I recognized it as the "Danger! Watch out! Fly now!" cry of some frightened bird parent. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and looked out the kitchen window. Hopping along the crossbar of my clothesline was a beautiful brown thrush, its spotted breast glinting gold in the growing light. It flew suddenly to the patio fence, joining its mate who was making sorties over the head of the neighbor's cat lying in the grass. There in the cat's paws was a baby thrush. I grabbed the broom and made a beeline for the cat. Startled, it leapt up and I thrust the broom between it and the gasping baby bird.

Hearing the commotion, my neighbor B came out, scooped up his cat, deposited it on the porch, and in a matter of seconds had the baby bird in his cupped palms. The parents flew madly from one end of the yard to the other, screeching and scolding. B Carried the little bird to a tree at the edge of the woods and settled it on a branch. The parents flew into the same tree, keeping up their shrill warnings. As B and I stepped away, they grew silent.

We kept our respective cats indoors for most of the day despite their protests. No more sounds came from the tree, either encouraging or frightened, so B and I assumed the birds had made their way deeper into the woods and safety. That is not the way a cat's mind works. The moment B's cat was released it headed with unerring certainty to the woods and came back minutes later with the baby in its mouth. This time there would be no rescue. The small head lolled, the wings were still. The parents were silent.

Last night at dusk there was no evening song from the thrushes. The part of the woods from which they usually sang was silent, an empty space amid other bird voices calling good-bye to the day. I was made to understand once again that the hunt and the kill are as much a part of nature as the beauty and the song. If one keeps cats (and what farm doesn't?), one has to accept the cat-catches-bird relationship as readily as the cat-eats-mice relationship. The reminder did nothing to keep my heart from aching.


Photo from naturesound.com

16 comments:

Brian Miller said...

we can not take the nature out of the animal...these rythms were established well before us...it is sad though...

Linda said...

It is sad indeed, and reminds me of how there is really no deep thought needed to figure out how life works.

June said...

I know. It makes me sad, too. No logical reasoning (most birds hatch more than one egg for precisely the reason that the babies die so easily) makes the faint ache go away. I have to believe that these things happen the way they're supposed to...

Star said...

Yes, I've been there many times. It is hard to accept but you have to do it. My heart bleeds for the poor birds, like they're at the bottom of the pile always but of course they're not, not really. Pity the poor worm in the grass too perhaps! Oh my.

Molly said...

Every parent wants to protect their young from life's harsher realities. We can screech and scold all we like, but sometimes the cats win.

Barbara Shallue said...

Acceptance is exactly right, even though my heart dropped when I heard the baby didn't make it. A guinea fowl adopted us a few years ago and became a part of the family - unfortunately, the new puppy didn't understand and I found my lifeless Frankie on the front porch one afternoon. I scolded the dogs but soon forgave them despite my broken heart. It was just their nature, not evil. Still makes me sad, though.

Pauline said...

brian - those poor parents birds were so distraught my heart ached for them

Linda - how true. We live under such a thin veneer of civility ourselves

June - I know it's how nature operates but those cries of the parents made me feel frantic myself!

Star - yes, everything is eaten by something else!

Molly - I know just how those parent birds felt. I would be frantic, too, if anything as awful as that happened to one of my kids or grandkids and yet awfulness comes to someone all the time...

Barbara - that sadness is not assuaged by knowing that nature's set up the way it is; perhaps the sorrow is a necessary part of our mental makeup. Sorry about Frankie

Barbara said...

I suppose it's just the cycle of life and those cats were doing what their instincts told them to do. But the death of a baby bird is indeed a sad occasion. I hope the thrushes will lay some more eggs.

Pauline said...

Barbara - too late in the season for more. They've disappeared. Normally they sing here only in early spring, then head for the deeper woods to nest. This year a family stayed close. Bet they rethink next year. I miss their lovely evening songs.

Anne said...

Jerry and I recently watched a series of lectures called the "Science of the Self" in which the lecturer, Professor Lee Silver, began by saying that all life on earth originated in a single cell billions of years ago. All life is part of the same fabric, us, the birds, the cat. We are all related and connected. Predation, sickness, struggle and death are part of that fabric. So is love and grieving. Your story of the bird the cat and the human reflects the essence of life's web.

Pauline said...

Hi Anne - yes, I've read of the web... and I can agree with it logically but my emotions often contradict my sense of practicality. It's interesting. I can identify with the cat when it's hunting mice and with the bird parents in their anxiety.

Judith said...

"Nature red in tooth and claw" wasn't written as an easy cliché. We forget that.

All LIFE is also DEATH, eating, being eaten, living and dying. They are inseparable, as you say.

I find for my sanity, It's best not to dwell overmuch on this.

Hilary said...

Sigh. I feel your sadness and share it. Yet, it's so true that it's only a tiny part of what's going on all day, every day, everywhere. Life and death goes on. Still... sigh!

Tabor said...

Visiting from HIllary's side of the blog. I have been in this sad situation...although with snakes and not cats.

Pauline said...

J- I know the two sides well but still the sadness comes in and sits down in my head. Perhaps it's because I am a mother and grandmother that I identified so strongly with those screaming parents and not with the cat doing what cats do.

Hilary - it does go on as if there was one coin, two sides, constantly flipping. Accepting death seems difficult for all species, not just humans.

Tabor - once when I was small I came home from church to find my kitten half swallowed by a big black snake. I remember asking my mother why God let that happen and she had no acceptable (to my mind) answer. I still struggle with the horror of everything being food for something else though I long ago gave up the idea of God!

Reya Mellicker said...

I've been reading lately about how many birds outdoor cats kill. It's alarming, indeed!