Saturday, August 22, 2015


On our morning walks the kids are always fascinated with the wildlife around our home. 

A few years ago, there was a bear.

And a moose.

And a wounded deer that parked itself under our trampoline....

Anyway, so our neighbors are totally kindred spirits with me, and they have like eighty cats at their house, that all seem to live outside. 

And it all seemed to happen all at once: one day no cats, next day BOOM. 80 cats. 

We started to notice a trend after all those cats showed up. The number of dead birds laying around exploded, and my kids were morbidly fascinated with the torn and dismembered things that kept moving about the street. One day it was on the sidewalk. Another day it was on the front step of a neighbor's house. Then it was in the gutter. And then in the gravel across the street.... 

"LOOK! I found it's wing!" One said.

"UGH! I don't want to look at it! It will give me nightmares!" Another said.

"LOOK! It's head!" A little peeped.

After all the excitement ended at seeing these aviarions strewn about, sorrow entered the scene. 

"That's so sad..." came the unanimous voice of my little people. And then they would poke them with sticks, because they are curious little peeps, and can't stop themselves. 

Anyway, for some reason at our house the neighboring birds like to do two things: Eat all the bird seed we leave out for them, and fly into the windows. 

A few weeks back the kids found a bird on the front step that had apparently collided with a window and, of course, poked it with a stick. 

Eva was slightly disturbed that the poor thing's stomach erupted when she poked it, and thought it would be a great idea to bring it downstairs to show me. The dead bird was stiff with rigor mortis, and obligingly stayed nice and firm to be carried on the end of said stick down the hill do the backyard. 


After telling her that in no way did I want to see the thing she threw it in the trash.

Stiff dead bird: 0 Mommy: 1

Well, the other day, the kids were playing out in the backyard, and had wandered up onto the deck. 

Eva found another bird that had dashed itself against a window, and had tested out the laws of gravity by pushing it off the deck onto the ground below. 

And then Joshua poked it with a stick. 

Lily ran into the house, panic and drama dripping from her voice, and declared, "Joshua killed a bird!"

I dutifully went outside, since murdering birds is not an acceptable pastime, and marched outside to tell Joshua what for. I should have known better, since Lily tends to embellish the truth...and...everything else....what? She's five...

Anyway, I got the story straightened out by all the witnesses, and Joshua looked up at me with a disturbed face.

"Mom, it squeaked when I poked it with a stick..." 

I looked down at the poor thing, and since all the stories were consistent (save for Lily's), I turned to him and said, "It's probably because the oxygen was squeezed out of it's lungs, Josh." 

I told him to go run and get the shovel, and he dutifully ran off into the garage.

Moments later he was back, and I dug a hole in the large dirt area in the backyard slope. I then set my sites on the bird, and tried to scoop up it up and discovered that, geee, this was a very freshly dead bird.

It's little body was all floppy, and resisted being scooped up. I didn't want to mutilate it and traumatize the kids (and, really, myself). It's little head, lolling from side to side as I tried to maneuver the shovel under it, threatened to go all Anne Boleyn on me. 

I finally got it onto the shovel, and gently placed into the hole. The girls ran and got black-eyed Susans to put on him, and, once we were all gathered, stood looking down into the hole.

"We should give it a name," I said, looking down at the peaceful mound of blue and white feathers. 

Josh thought for a moment, and said, "Peter."

I didn't have the heart to tell him that I was pretty sure it was a girl, so I nodded, and said, "Okay, Josh, would you say a prayer for Peter?"

Josh shook his head no, and the girls all piped up, begging to do it, and in the end all took turns saying prayers for Ol' Pete, wishing him/her well on his/her life in Heaven, and hope at her/his eventual resurrection. 

"Amen," we all breathed, and the girls placed flowers over Pete.

I then squatted down to make sure Pete wasn't breathing, because one, I didn't want to bury him/her alive, and two, I didn't want to have to finish Pete off....

Pete lay perfectly still, and I felt satisfied that I could cover him/her up.

As I patted down the soil, the girls decorated Pete's grave site, and I went back inside, a little teary as the scripture went through my head: 

"Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows." Luke 12:6-7 
I sat down at my desk, feeling wistful. 
A few moments later, Joshua came in, and I looked at him with squinty eyes, and teased, "Josh, did you murder that bird?"

Horror lit up Josh's face, and he protested, "NO!"
And then a second later, his eyes filled with tears, "Yes..." 
I looked at him as he said, "Peter squeaked when I poked him..."
My heart ached for my little boy, who was filled with guilt for a crime he didn't commit.

I reassured him that he hadn't killed Pete, and sent him along, satisfied that he had learned compassion for one of God's smallest creatures. 
I was feeling at peace with life and the world, but that only lasted about .0004 seconds before I had to run outside and tell Eden to stop digging up Pete. 
But at least I had that .0004 seconds. 


Katscratchme said...

We haven't had much dead creature adventure on our property... but we do have wasp drama.. and annoying crowing hen problems.

Trillium said...

charming vignette

(A vignette is a brief but powerful scene. A good vignette leaves you wanting more.
Over the centuries a vignette has taken on different forms. Originally it was one of those small sketches you find in the front of old books, often with decorative bands of ivy around its edges (the word comes from the French vigne for vineyard).)


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