Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Silence is That Much Greater After All That Singing

The chattering and singing outside our bedroom window was astonishing. It was delightful. I routinely woke up with a smile on my face, comepletely out of character. The chirps and tunes from the two swooping little tree swallows that had taken up residence in one of our birdhouses were nothing less than wonderous.

Inexplicably, the birdhouse -- with itty bitty eggs in a full, cozy nest -- has been abandoned. A. and I are truly befuddled. The male sparrow always kept an eye on us when we were doingyardwork in the front, but he didn't seem anxious. We all cohabited in the front yard for weeks, each minding our own business. Why did they leave? Did an evil minion of the devil cat get them? Maybe a larger bird of prey? A snake? Did they decide they really couldn't raise a family with neighbors the likes of A. and I?  Did our driving by their house every morning become too much?

I know I am secretly worried that our activities around the birdhouse may have driven them off,and I have a hunch A. feels the same way. Randomly, while in the middle of a project, A. will pause, look up and ask aloud: "I wonder why they left? I really wish I knew." I feel tremendously guilty that my insistence on living so close to that birdhouse drove them away. I know this reaction is a tad ridiculous and a bit melodramatic, but it is how I feel.

I feel the same way -- that my insistence on living the particular way I do on this land and in this landscape has destructive consequences on our non-human neighbors -- every single time I see a dead (or, worse, injured) animal on the side of the road. My insistence that there be a road right here, right now, and that I have unlimited access to a vehicle that can (should?) travel upwards of 70 miles per hour endangers these non-human neighbors who are simply trying to live. They aren't asking for much. They are trying to find food, water, care for their young. They generally respect our space though we don't return the courtesy.

Does the highway I travel to town have to be right here? Right in the path of that mama and baby fox? That antelope? Raccoon? Badger? Snake?  Isn't there a better way?

Frequently, sometimes daily, I experience this crisis of a lack of imagination and guilt. There has to be a better way for all of us to live together.

(Personally and on a super nerdy note: I think overcoming the bifurcated paradigm of Us/Them is the place to start, but that is kind of a Big Thought. I my mind is wee little. So, that's all I have to say about that.)


A. takes this even further, or at least, differently. (I think. This is what I understand him to think and feel and I am (foolishly?) carrying on with sharing it anyway. I know I won't do so with the eloquence or subtly his thoughts require, but here I am - typing away anyway. Maybe I'll ask him to guest post about his thoughts, but I don't think he will go for it.)

My understanding is that A. does not think that when it comes down to the right to life of a human or an animal that the human automatically trumps the animal. Think that through for a bit, follow this train of thought through to some of the logical extensions and you will start to understand the daily quandaries and struggles A. finds himself in. At times, with every detail of our daily lives. I don't say that with sarcasism. I say that with awe and respect. The philosophic battles can be mighty, indeed. It also gives some insight into just how seriously and carefully he takes hunting. It is not a carefree jaunt in the woods for this man.

(Also, how thoughtful, generous and just all-around-amazing is this guy? Holy hell, I love him.  Also, he not a brooding party-pooper. He is a helluva lot of fun to be around. No, really!)

A few weeks ago, A. drove by a female antelope that had been seriously wounded by a vehicle not long before A. passed her. He called me after he had pulled her off the road. He didn't have anything with him to take her out of her misery (which, though the compassionate thing to do, I think it is illegal). He was very upset. (A. doesn't get hysterical or anything, but you can just tell when he is upset. It is gut-wrenching.) He said she was hurt, frightened and screaming. It was him relaying to me that she was screaming that stuck. That he was there, wanting nothing more than to help her, hearing her scream. God. I have real, full tears in my eyes as I type this.

He was on his way to a class and couldn't stay any longer and he was going to be out of cell phone range within a mile or two. He asked me to contact the highway patrol or game and fish department so they could come help her (kill her). He gave me his location with the mile marker and highway.

I made the call. The highway patrol contacted the area's Game and Fish warden and they tended to her immediately.

It took days for A. to come back from that strange, distant funk he gets in when he encounters something like that. In his words, "It is one of those things that never leaves you, you know? I'll just always carry that with me."


I carry all of this with me when I gaze through my kitchen window, out on the silent birdhouse.


  1. This was so well-written, Artemisia. I got tears in my eyes reading about the antelope too. Both you and A. are kind souls.

    I hate seeing animals dead on the roadside. I know it is inevitable, especially next to a busy freeway where cars speed by going 70 mph, but it is still sad.

    We have a lot of deer near us, even though we live in the middle of 3 major highway entrances, and it always makes me both happy and sad to see animals nearby. I always wonder where they came from, how they live, how they crossed the roads to get to their implausible locations.

    We have so many rabbits in our backyard that actually live under our deck, and I get so concerned if I don't see them for a day or so.

    I hope your birds come back.

  2. This is beautiful. You are beautiful, and so is A. You are so right for each other. I'm sorry about the birds.

  3. P&D and Jess - thanks, but speaking for me, I can be a real jerk sometimes, to! A. not as much. He IS pretty sweet.

  4. Really thoughtful post. I really see what you mean -- I am not ever sure about man's right to live above the animals. As we take down the planet, we take them with us. So sad.

  5. Wow. This post is beautiful, Artemisia. I'm so sorry about the birds. One of the biggest challenges of being sensitive in this world (I think), is actually **acting** on that sensitivity. We struggle with the size of the footprint we're leaving behind, and how to make it smaller without actually pulling ourselves OUT of the world.

    Lots to think about.

  6. This is beautiful and heart-wrenching. It's nice to be reminded that there are people in this world who care so deeply. ~LA

  7. I think that story is something that is never going to leave ME. How awful. I don't understand how people can do that to an animal and just leave. If I were to ever hit an animal I would turn right around, regardless of the location or whether it was a one-way street, and check to make sure it wasn't mortally injured but alive. How sad.

  8. Okay, now I have real, full tears in my eyes.


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