After a long, long day, I returned home from work last night to something. Something quite amazing. On the sidewalk, not far from the door to my apartment, was a snake constricting a small songbird. I did not witness the snake taking the bird into its coils, but watched as it continued to squeeze the life out of it. My wife, of course, went out of her mind when I told her about it, but we both knew better than to interfere with it. So, I continued to watch the scene unfold before me.
I will give you the scene in detail in a moment, but this morning I had a thought that I wanted to share with all of you…well, really a couple of thoughts…
We have a tendency to romanticize nature, basking in its splendor and beauty. We photograph sunrises and sunsets. We watch as deer or rabbits cavort in fields and backyards. We attempt to bring a little nature inside with us by the use of aquariums or terrariums. Often, the calmness of nature, the sweet melodies of songbirds at sunrise, the endless and gentle bubbling of a nearby brook or stream, the repetitive rhythm of the tide on the seashore, or the evening serenade of chirping crickets and bellowing frogs, brings us peace and serenity. With all of that, we tend to forget how vicious nature can be, and how quickly the serene can become terrorizing, just as it did last night for the unfortunate songbird and its mate.
These two songbirds made the support beams beneath the second floor landing of my apartment building their home. They could be seen huddled together at night after a busy day or in the morning, early, before the day began. They could be heard singing sweetly as songbirds do. In a word, they were adorable.
Then, last night, as one lost its life to its hungry predator, the other was shrieking harsh and panicked tones. I could hear the panic it must have felt. I do not know if birds experience fear as we do, but last night it experienced something dreadful and truly awful. Once it realized there was no hope for its mate, the lone bird became quiet and, in my mind, sorrowful.
After the snake ate its prey, I brushed it away with a broom, attempting to bring my wife some level of comfort. I’m still not entirely sure that worked, though.
The next morning, I woke early, I mean early for work. 3:30am early. Yeah…early!! Usually, when I’m up and out that early, I can look up into the woodwork of the landing above and see my two melodious friends. It was not to be this morning. I took a few more steps and saw my lonesome friend tucked snuggly into the corner, on the steps going up to the second floor and against the side of the building. It happened to be the same step from which it watched its mate disappear into the coils and then mouth of its reptilian predator.
At that moment, the romanticization of nature set in and I felt a profound sense of sadness. I felt a little sadness last night, but this morning, seeing that little bird huddled in the corner, in solitude as if placed in time-out, I just could not imagine the sorrow that I was sure it felt.
I don’t even know if birds feel sorrow or love, but I’m pretty sure I saw love last night. I saw something tragic and beautiful at the same time. Beautiful because the bird did all it could do to free its mate from its captor. The anger and panic in the bird’s tone was present. There was fear as well and desperation, but there was nothing the bird could do. Eventually, the sense of desperation visibly and audibly became a sense of despair as the bird came to know that there was no way to save its friend. The moment the bird came to that realization was powerful and instantaneous. One moment it was screaming loudly, beating its wings furiously, and jumping here and there in sheer panic. The next moment…nothing. A mournful, almost pleading series of gentle chirps, no beating wings, and no jumping…just watching as it realized that there was nothing to do. Its friend was dead.
Neither of those two birds knew that Wednesday morning would be their last morning together. They had no idea that one of their lives was going to end that night. I imagine that they went about their day as usual. Chirping a little here. Flying over there and then chirping a little more. Eating a few bugs, perhaps a worm or two. Such is a bird’s life. No doubt they keep their eyes open for predators, for not even a songbird can be naive enough to think that dangers do not exist. I guess the hard part is knowing from where they might come.
In a previous post I stated, “People will not know what happens next, as much as we pride ourselves in believing we do know,” and it’s true. 100% true. When something does not go in the way in which we expect, panic certainly sets in at least until the unpredicted situation is realized and a solution or a conclusion is reached.
Nature shows us again and again that as predictable as we think the world is, there are no guarantees. Just take a tally of how often the weather man is spot on with his daily forecast. Human ingenuity, logic, and reason can be used to explain so many things. There is one thing, however, that they will never explain, and that is the natural element of surprise. I admit it. I don’t handle surprises very well. Especially the bad ones. I often times do not make lemonade when life hands me lemons. I would prefer to throw the lemons back at wherever they came from. I do not like to roll with the punches. I don’t even like getting punched. I would much prefer that the punching just stop as quickly as possible. There are a ton of these I could go through, but I won’t. I’m thinking you probably understand what I’m saying. I hope so anyway.
Knowing all of this, however, I am still going to do my best to live life and not allow the fear of the unknown stop me. Regardless of what danger may lurk around any corner, it’s best to just keep on keepin’ on. The world would be a pretty boring place otherwise.