The weight of words

Wildlife volunteering started up again last Thursday. They have a new system where the animals don’t have timers or sheets near their stations, their food and meds are coded onto a white board, and their feeding logs are much simpler now and live in binders, away from the birds and mammals. It’s an excellent new system, as we get out of there much earlier now, and this trend will probably continue into the season. In addition, we spend alot less time handling the animals, which is very stressful for them.

I learned an interesting fact about humans and wild animals the other day. When a predatory animal is killing its prey, it looks it in the eye. So, when we are feeding the animals, we have to try to look at them very little, because looking at them in the eye puts fear into their little hearts, and we are considered predators to them.

I helped a new volunteer feed the baby birds and squirrels that night, a kid named Adam. He’s a biology student at Foothill, transferring to SJSU in the fall. I decided I would take him under my wing and teach him how to properly feed the squirrels. He was so funny, looking lost but wanting to be helpful. My take on care is that if you can be shown the right away, you should begin right away. As he fed a few squirrels I kept telling him, “you’re doing great,” and he seemed to relax a bit. I just really wanted to encourage him to keep coming back. I guess it was my first foray into mentoring someone about how important this is. That we are the animals best chance for freedom. And, it’s important to start young. Adam is most likely 19 or 20 years old.

I recalled tonight a conversation I had with a coworker of mine some years back about animal rights and human responsibility. I was feeling very high-horsey about how cruel people can be and said to this person adamantly that I would always give my money to animal rights organizations. Then he said something that I will never forget. That we do need to support “human growth,” meaning if a person didn’t grow up learning the importance, fragility, and beauty of animals, all your time and effort into saving those animals is moot if you don’t put some of that time and effort into educating humans.

Let’s hope there are a lot more Adams out there.

Not so silent spring

The last few months have been hard for me and my little family here in California. But, throughout our little trials there has been some growth, some rebirth, some change. At least there was some forward motion, that’s always good.

We lost our little cockatiel, Mr. Charms, on Feb. 22nd. He was 27 years old and had an inoperable tumor on his esophagus. Putting him to sleep was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I was crying so hard as we petted him and talked to him that I thought I was going to leave my head. Maybe I did a little. I didn’t like the way they put him to sleep before they euthanized him, but there wasn’t anything I could do about that. It’s how it’s done. Wild animals don’t always get the same caring, humane treatment when we euthanize them, but I believe that’s beginning to change, at least in the wild circles in which I socialize. They had to stick his tiny little head in a chamber where they administered the gas drug, and he went to sleep right away.

So much has gone through my head these last few months. I have many ruminations, all of which come and go as I’m walking out in the hills, pondering the tiny little moths, the way the wind moves the grass, the wildflowers that have no name to me; just that-neat-purple-one, that bush-of-yellow-ones, that white one up on the hill that is so full and beautiful but is too far away to get a close look. You can only look longingly or fleetingly, like at the mockingbird that sings to you from among the oak, or at the cicada (or was that a cricket?) camouflaged against a nameless tree.


I’ve mostly been a bit beaten down, and trying to get my head clear again. I’ve had two or three bouts of the flu/cold nonsense over the last 6 months, I almost wacked off the tip of my finger on a stainless steel trashcan (it’s almost healed), and then, to top it all off, I had a stint in the emergency room just a few days ago for what is probably peptic ulcers. I’m trying to have a sense of humor about all of this, I really am. But this is the glorious thing about it all…

I’ve learned to slow down. Did you know that it takes the same amount of time to get up, shower, eat breakfast, feed your critters, etc. at a slow pace as it does if you go about it in a harried, quite unfashionable way? I’m thinking I might even take up reading the Wall Street Journal, I have so much leisure time in the morning.

The other thing that I’ve enjoyed in my sick/healing time at home is observing what critters I can from my little apartment porch. There’s the resident Anna’s Hummingbird at my feeder, the occasional house finch and phoebe, and then there are the crows. I just happened to be lucky enough, on two occasions, to see two or three crows defending their nests and young. Now, I actually didn’t see their nests or their young from my vantage point, but I knew what was going on because of their <call>. It’s a frantic call, and fast flying comes soon after. One crow starts flying frantically to the west, CAW-CAW-CAW. Then, I see another one coming in from the south, CAW-CAW-CAW. Then I see it, actually I see them, a Hawk and a Raven, being dive-bombed by the crows. They looked to be more concerned about the Raven, each taking their turn flying straight up and then diving at the Raven. The Raven was obviously flying away, it had either been dissuaded by the murder of crows or had already got what it came for. What a glorious thing to see, a little glimpse of a small war close to home.

It’s been a not so silent spring. I think throughout this all I’ve emerged a bit of a victor. It’s like nature said, take time to look at me, where’s the fire? Nature healed me, and I hope it continues to be my personal shaman.