Cats, birds, and nature don’t always – or maybe ever – mix. We get busy and distracted in our important lives – starting a new practice, entertaining and improving my level of fitness and oops. Right now I’m grateful to a tiny baby bird, who reminded me about the courage to begin again and again, to make space for practice.
Here’s what happened
Two days ago, a baby bird came into our lives and reminded us about moral clarity. I was pulling weeds in my garden, stood and came around the corner of the house and there it was – a naked egg-shaped baby bird between the paws of my two-year-old cat Bandit. Clearly alive. Clearly struggling.
My beloved and I live atop a hill overlooking an undisturbed field (no spring cut). There are too few uncut fields anywhere these days. A type of bird in New England nests in fields – I don’t know its name but I can show you two of them right now, perched in the tall grass courageously watching their nest and babies – I believe they are endangered.
I scooped up the hatchling so it would not be eaten alive, showed Craig, brought it inside, and made a little nest out of cotton and leaves in a flower pot. I thought I would just make it comfortable as it died and I tried to forgive myself for said death. I googled, made calls and started to find my way to people who could help with information or maybe even save this little one. That might take me off the hook for this possibly endangered bird that my cats have been feasting on while making me feel as though I was doing my part – check!
Fearless fighting Freddie lives
I found out that you can feed them softened cat food. It was clear this little one was not going to die immediately, his neck strained and little beak opened wide for the dropper. He grabbed that dropper and sucked with force. Wow. Impressive.
Through that first night, with (fearless fighting) Freddie cheep-cheeping every 45 minutes, and me rolling over to feed it, it was clear that 1. he might actually live and, and 2. we needed to – as every bird-oriented wildlife person will tell you – keep the cats in to give the other babies a fighting chance. Maybe weeks. Or forever.
Freddie dies but lives on
Freddie died the next day after a valiant effort – he spent much of a day and a half in that upstretched open-mouthed position that is so cute. He/she died for a hundred possible reasons including that he was too warm/cold/over-hydrated/underhydrated/had internal injuries/the wrong food/or handled too much. I loved that little bird. I could recognize his/her voice cheep-peeping every 45 minutes. Craig loved him too – we decided, after he made it through the night, that we would roll him into the family – do what we had to to take care of the little fellow. This in spite of the mess and stink and the fact that I really do not like bird-pets. We also have 3 cats.
Through the experience, we were reminded that once in a while doing the right thing comes and smacks you in the face. We have to keep the cats in, regardless of how cute they are as they scamper to the door when we make the slightest move in that direction. Maybe for weeks. At least until those two parents are no longer guarding their nest. Maybe indefinitely.
It reminded us, too, that as conscious beings we have to practice – we can’t just wander on and let nature and life take its course. We had a lot of house guests around the time Freddie came into our lives and had stopped practicing. We were less connected to nature than usual. Tending the land comes with responsibility – now that we know those birds are there, we can’t let the cats out. If a little Freddie shows up because we didn’t know or weren’t paying attention, we try to rise to the occasion. Peep peep!
Now what? The answer is always practice
Freddie is now resting-in-peace near his nest. I am grateful to that little fellow and to the practice of mindfulness that allows me to slow down enough to learn from all the crazy things that are unfolding around me.
A good reason to think about joining our online group – to begin (or begin again) to practice mindful living.
Last year I had an explosion of gorgeous chocolate sunflowers. Deep red petals in the sun, true beauty in their dark faces. So I saved them because I am the mistress of my garden and I believe in participating in the cycle of nature. I have a city of seed saving in my garage – white cosmos, zinnias, bachelor buttons and a collection of other things.
This morning I’m absorbed in the only somewhat painstaking task of flicking the seeds from the floppy dried heads of chocolate sunflowers, and there it is. A small worm, fat but only half the length of the nail on my pinkie. Then another. And another. They are crawling everywhere, and I notice that most of the seeds have one clean and tiny hole in them. Gross. Flower after flower, seed after seed after seed are crawling with baby worms.
And I think, here it is. As it ever was.
Humankind will not go down in a dramatic firey flame. It will be a little worm, or a small bug that gets in and eats away at that one essential element that we don’t know is the essential element until it’s gone. This is how it ever was.
We collect seeds for the next year, and the bugs and worms eat them. We pick them out, eagle-eye our beautiful seeds, and maybe if we are lucky we’ll have enough to plant. And maybe if we are lucky we’ll have a few come up. If we have nearly enough to eat then it will be worth it.
I’ve been thinking lately about the relationship of pain and bliss. One of my most beautiful friends recently died of an excruciating disease well before her time. She died with courage and compassion, awake. To what degree does the struggle in my life make my happiness sweeter, and to what degree does struggling just get me into the groove of suffering? Impossible to know, perhaps, without help or perspective.
My seeds aren’t my only garden struggle. My frangrant tulsi in organic cold pressed jojoba oil this year got moldy. I tended it daily but no mistaking that acrid smell of my lovely expensive oil gone rancid.
And yet, I will do it again.
I will practice – collecting seeds, making oils. Because in this crazy cyber-world, it ties me to the earth. It ties me to the history of those who went before, when the food went bad, when the seeds were eaten, when the earth determined in its impersonal yet I guess perfect way who lived and died and how that might unfold.
My heart breaks for people who are getting depressed because everyone’s Facebook page looks so much more interesting than theirs. Come on. We all know it’s not real. We all know that we are presenting a goofy, shiny, off kilter version of who we are.
Be authentic but look cute doing it, I call it. Life just isn’t like that.
So what do we do? We comfort each other. We save seeds. We make oils and share the best of ourselves as best we can and maybe, maybe not we actually touch one another. Look to nature. It’s messy and muddy and achingly beautiful.
You are nature, thus you are messy and muddy and achingly beautiful too.
(translation: “How it is”, in Navaho)
Shawna Coronado’s enthusiasm is contagious in her latest offering, 101 Organic Gardening Hacks: Eco-friendly Solutions to Improve Any Garden.
She’s going on a journey to reuse, reduce, and recycle in the garden in some wonderfully inventive and a few wacky ways, and she’s inviting you to come along. Overall, this 4-color 160-page guide is a very handy and appealing one for this spring. Every time I open it I get excited, and I learn a little something new.
A hack, notes the author, is just a great idea that’s come to life. It’s the short path to the desired result. Hacks in the book are organized by type (maintenance, edible, seedlings, tools) and they really are great ideas.
Here are a couple of my favs:
- Hack 43 – Pet tender seedlings to keep them strong and stocky (put thigmotropism to work for you). I’m all over this one and had forgotten that. Grateful for the reminder.
- Hack 61 – Regrow food from cut kitchen scraps is a great reason to enjoy leeks, celery, or herbs in spring. You can plant them in your garden after dinner! Step by step instructions for increasing your likelihood of them taking are included. I really haven’t done this successfully, but am grateful that a gardener more enthusiastic than I has. I’ll try it again!
There’s a secret about gardens – they don’t have to be hard. You can practically toss seeds at the ground in spring and they will pop up amongst the weeds (and will pop up even better if you take a little time to pull the weeds). But you can keep it very very easy and simple.Pinterest
That’s why I love Shawna’s new book – it’s in that spirit of whatever you can do. It’s not fancy, not precious. It’s a get-out-there and put-your-hands-in-the-earth (which I swear is a nutrient – hands in earth nutrient) sort of attitude. It’s reuse that plastic container attitude. It’s begin where you are attitude. I love me an expert who has that type of DIY (do it yourself) attitude – not what I call a guru “only I know” attitude.
Happy digging, be it containers on your windowsill, a square in your back yard, or the whole wide world.
Would you like to connect with me in the tropics in February 2018? Check out my Pura Vida Retreat. It’s filling up, so if it sounds like your cup or tea, reach out!