Friday, August 18, 2017

A moment of silence for one of the host

Sparrow eulogies
Yesterday, I found a visitor in my garden, crouched beneath my tomato plants. She was a gorgeous white cat with black patches and very blue eyes. I was delighted to meet her, as it's been a few years since Chloe, my previous cat-in-the-garden companion, moved away.

But my visitor wasn't actually interested in hanging out with me. When I picked her up and carried her to my back step to introduce her to my daughter Suzanna, she jumped from my arms and sauntered to the back gate. Slipping through it, she rolled on the driveway for a good back scratch and disappeared around the corner of our fence. So I shrugged and headed to the pea patch to collect a few snap peas for supper.

Within moments, a huge hullabaloo arose from the host of sparrows in the bush across the alley, with one of them wailing loudly, over and over. I went and looked over the fence, and there was the black and white cat with a small sparrow in her mouth, wings akimbo. "Did you have to do that?" I said. "It's hard to be friends if you kill my other friends." She slunk off down the alley with her prize, and I had to wonder if she'd silenced one of the little voices that I'd been hearing in my birdhouse before they fledged last week. If only her owner had put a bell on her collar!!

The flock of sparrows (properly known as a quarrel or host) returned to the bush for a time of reflection on their friend's life, I kid you not. What had been a noisy group -- hence the choice of the word quarrel by whomever decided on bird group names -- was extremely still and subdued. They sat in near silence, barely moving, and it seemed as though they were taking turns offering a few words of remembrance about the one killed by the cat.

As human beings, it's too easy to think that we are the only truly sentient beings, able to reflect on the meaning of our lives and other big questions. But the truth of the matter is that we don't really understand the thought processes of other creatures, their feelings, communications, or aspirations. We assume they are less intelligent than we are, and we assert our will over them all too easily, especially when they cause us some sort of inconvenience. But what if every life is just as valuable as mine?

Just asking.

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