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The Sassy Sandpiper: The Wild Order of Things

Birds | Circle of Llife | Sassy Sandpiper

 The Sassy Sandpiper considers how living close to the natural world affords both joy and sorrow.

By M.R. Wilson, Columnist, TB Reporter

This morning’s cats, coffee, and contemplation ended abruptly with sounds of struggle. A sickening feeling in my stomach told me community cat, Peaches, snatched a bird.

A beautiful blue jay, wings spread wide, struggled in his jaws. I dashed outside and yelled. Peaches stared back defiantly. Cats are born predators, after all. Bare-foot, still in my nightgown, I chased him across the yard, thinking foolishly I could save the jay and nurse its wounds. Peaches bounded over the fence with his quarry.

Moments later, a “Frosty sighting.” Frosty is now a year-old white cat, apparently the lone survivor of a raccoon attack.

I know. A Circle of Life moment.

I still hate predation.

Years ago I read about interaction between predator and prey at the moment of death. Perhaps it was Native American wisdom. Or perhaps it was a National Geographic photo essay. I remember the frenzied eyes of a water buffalo caught in the jaws of — a big cat or an alligator? Forgive the haze of memory. What mattered was the animal spirits’ communication of surrender and gratitude. The prey animal “forgave” its killer, offering up life and energy as the predator “thanked” its victim for sustenance.

It’s a comforting thought, and how could we humans know differently, anyway?

What I do know is that Earth is a place where a brutally efficient energy exchange system holds sway.

Frosty | The Sassy Sandpiper | M.R. Wilson

On my Paradise Planet, we all would be autotrophs—making our own food from air, water, and starshine. Beneath our skin, chloroplasts (think microscopic solar panels), giving complex life forms lovely olive complexions. Contrary to Kermit the Frog, it would be easy being green.

Peaches | Sassy Sandpiper | M.R. Wilson | M.R. Wilson

In the meantime, Peaches is not ready to be an indoor cat, so I’ve taken steps to curtail his hunting expeditions by moving the bird feeder. Now it hangs from a hook on the garage wall well above a mess of garden stuff that clutters his pouncing range. Blue jays like dry cat food, too, so the bowl is now situated under a deck chair near the house. Only an extremely nervy bird would venture so close.

You may shake your head and think “it’s only a blue jay,” but to me, all life (except cockroaches, lubbers, and mosquitoes) is sacred. I’ve raised many orphan jays, knowing they are kin to crows and when they grow up, share many nasty crow characteristics. Like swiping newly hatched nestlings. I’ve seen in-flight silhouettes of doomed baby birds dangling from blue jay beaks.

I hate predation.

But it’s nesting season for blue jays, too, and if the one preyed upon by Peaches wasn’t a youngster, it may well have been another’s parent, leaving the surviving mate alone to care for its offspring.

What does it matter?

It reminds me I am part of a much greater Order. A Wild Order.

Photos of Frosty and Peaches courtesy of M.R. Wilson.


Sassy Sandpiper | M.R. Wilson | Circle of Life | Tampabay News

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