Early Saturday morning I ventured outside to the crow-feeder to put out the morning spread for the birds, squirrels and crows. Blair’s unique design for this feeder has served us all well for almost ten years now. After hunting the last squirrel-chewed feeder from the woods behind our house, we got serious. Blair grabbed the posthole digger and installed two metal mailbox posts upon which he built a four foot by two foot tray upon the outstretched arms that would normally hold mailboxes. Now everyone gets in the pool so to speak. Even the raccoon and the wild cats occasionally climb up the posts to see what is being served at our back yard buffet. The down side to this buffet is that the predators are constantly casing the feeders on the feeder. Feral cats that used to be starving were frequently jumping up and taking our songbirds in a single leap six feet high and G.O.N.E! Once we started feeding them through the humane trap/spay/neuter release program, they got too fat to jump fast enough to catch anything. Yet, once the trees shed their leaves, the hawks have free reign upon the feeder. One Sunday morning I sat at the dining room table having tea with a girlfriend as we both stared open-mouthed gawking at the Red-tail Hawk who swept in, grabbed a squirrel, twisted its life away in a split second and took off into the sky with breakfast, heading home to feed it’s family perhaps. It’s all good in nature, it’s all in balance. So, on this morning, feeling one with the beautiful woods, so much that I must have blended in perfectly when a sharp-eyed Cooper Hawk didn’t realize I was emerging from the trees as he was flying in to grab a snack. He stumbled in mid-air, just two feet from my face and fell into the garden, scurrying like a big dog taking a quick turn on hardwood floors! Talons full of leaves and a stick, he flew off, happy to not had a closer encounter with me, I’m sure. Close enough to see the yellow of his eyes, the only sunshine we’d seen all week. Today the sun is shining again and I think of my Cooper friend, wondering if he is feasting uon a songbird missing from our backyard. If so, I’m glad he eats. Things are not so much in balance with the people part of nature in our world. At a time so close to Christmas, my heart hangs heavy for those who do not have food to eat, presents to open and families to love them. I live in the city yet my backyard keeps me grounded to Mother Earth. Keeps me sane when so much is out of balance.
Last night, we saw a raccoon in the back yard that was sick, he could barely get around, very shaky on his feet. I took some fruit out for him and when I got back inside, a possum had come from the woods to take the prize. Or so I thought. The little raccoon couldn’t get up on the garden wall, so the possum scooped up the fruit in his mouth and took it over to the raccoon and shared. This is an amazing act of compassion when you realize that wild animals never know where their last meal is coming from. They sat together and dined beneath the moon like two old friends. I think they probably knew it was the raccoon’s last meal. This morning, I went out to find him curled up in an old blanket down by our fence as he was unable to climb back over to go home. He looked up at me with eyes that melted my heart. He came out and began waddling around and I knew what I had to do. Yes, we had to call in for him to be caught and taken away forever from his home in the woods behind our house. Did he have a family? We do not know and even though we were told it was the right thing to do as he had signs of distemper, my heart broke as he was carried away on the end of a stick, his little paws wiping his eyes as if he were crying. I cried for him and asked St. Francis to escort him over the rainbow bridge. We were glad we didn’t chase him away and were able to give him some food and a safe place and a death that would be less painful had he been left on his own. We have lots of animals come to our back yard sanctuary to die, crows, birds, squirrels and now a raccoon. Nature never stops amazing or humbling me. If only people could be as tender with each other when they know someone is in need. A little kindness, a little food and a little compassion go a long way.
The day is done and it has been quite a day of disappointment, frustration and tears. My Mom used to say that if you couldn’t say anything nice, not to say anything at all, but she didn’t have a blog. I birthed this blog to spread a little light and even on the darker days like today, I will stay true to my intentions.
My dog, Kayla was such a card sometimes. She could really crack you up. Even though she was a highly intelligent Australian Shepherd, she had her goofy side as well. She used to be so inquisitive and when I didn’t “get it”, she’d turn her head left and then right and then left again as if to ask “why?”. I’d eventually have to smile.
I would say that if you want a dog to do what you tell it to do, maybe get a lab, they are such loyal companions. Aussies on the other hand are perfectly clear about what you want. They just like to see how they can turn what you want into something better.
Kayla was only three months old when I first experienced her trickster side. It was a cold January day and it was very icy outside, so we had been playing ball inside the house. After a long session of fetch in the hallway, I picked up a book to read and had a seat on the couch. Kayla wasn’t ready to stop playing (Kayla was never ready to stop playing). She kept bringing me the ball and stuffing it into my hand. I finally gave in and tossed it backwards down the hall. She was delighted, off she went and back again, ball in mouth, stuffing it into my hand. She had found yet another way to keep the game alive. This went on for a while until I got sloppy and the ball hit the bedroom door and must have rolled out of her reach. Kayla came to the couch and looked at me with those “I really need your help” eyes and cried “oooh, oooh, oooh”.
I got up to go see where the ball was. She followed me into the bedroom and went over to the end of the bed and looked under it, panting, mouth open, eyes excited, clearly letting me know “its under the bed, it’s under the bed!” I knelt down on my knees and looked under the bed to see that it was all the way under the bed, up against the wall. I crawled under the bed, got the ball, walked back to the couch, sat down and there were those “throw the ball! throw the ball!” eyes looking at me. So I did. This went on for a while, every once in a while, I would hit the bedroom door and get up and go crawl under the bed to retrieve the “lost” ball. Once, when I heard it hit the bedroom door, I was just getting ready to get something to drink anyway, so I got up and looked in the bedroom just as my precious Kayla was picking the ball up from the floor in front of the door. She put it in her mouth and walked over to the end of the bed, laid it ever so gently on the floor and kicked it under the bed with her nose. She quickly turned to run back to let me know it was “lost” under the bed. When she saw that I had seen what she had done, she quickly looked away, head down, sheepish grin, eyes looking up at me and back at the bed, like how did that happen? She still didn’t want to admit to being caught. From that day forward, I knew what I was dealing with and the fun began.
Kayla developed Chronic Immune Disease at six months of age. She had a great life, but she had a lot of health problems. One thing she taught me in her fifteen years was to keep the faith, to never give up. When you are at the bottom of the barrel, the only way out is up.
Thank you my beloved Blue Gypsy Spirit, Kayla for all your fun and love. It is three years ago today that I had to set you free. I still miss you and one day I will get to share all of your stories so you can live again in the hearts of many. Your spirit lives on in my heart forever.
The night before last, we had an unexpected visitor in our backyard, a new kitten, all white except for the gray tip of her tail. We wondered where she came from. We had trapped Faith, the alpha female of the feral cat colony that live sin the woods behind our house. She had been spayed over nine months ago and this kitten was maybe three to four months old, if that.
This precious little one was starving and running frantically all around, looking for food. I began tossing her bits of food, crawling on my knees to get closer, hoping she would come to me so we could care for her. Such a tiny thing and she was apparently all alone. She looked up at me with those big hungry eyes and cried “mew, mew” in a sweet little voice. I spoke to her softly, encouraging her to trust me, but just as I got within a foot of her, she took off.
She ran through the chain-linked fence (she was tiny enough to fit through the chain-linked fence holes) and into the dark woods, a flash of white, maybe gone forever into the night. It was interesting that Faith had been watching her, sitting on top of the fence. I wondered if Faith had found her and brought her to us so she could be fed. Faith took off after the kitten, hopefully to protect her.
Yesterday, when we arrived home, there was a great Red-Tailed Hawk in the trees in our back yard. His piercing scream caught our attention as he dived down below the house, out of our sight. My heart prayed for the little kitten and hoped he was not after her. She didn’t come back last night and we may never see her again. It reminds me of the people who live on the streets, one day they are there and then one day they are gone. Life is hard for many and hard for me knowing that they suffer.
This Saturday, we drove to the mountains for a hike and took some time to sit and relax in a picnic area. That’s when we saw yet another wild cat, somewhat like my tortoise shell feral rescue, except you could count the ridges of her spine along her back. I recognized the hunger-fear in her eyes. That not knowing if I will eat today look is not one easily forgotten once you have witnessed it.
How did she get all the way up here? Was she dropped off as a kitten or is she the offspring of another cat abandoned in the park long ago? The answer didn’t matter. At that moment when her eyes met mine, all that mattered was that she was starving to death. I chose to acknowledge her and look at her instead of looking away. I was so happy I had packed some salmon patties. When I began tossing pieces to her, she raised her head savoring the unknown, but delectable aromas. She gathered her courage to come forward, but ran under the safety of the rhododendron bushes to eat.
As we were driving away, she showed herself again as if to say thank you. I gave Blair the last big salmon pattie to toss out to her. She quickly snatched it up. It was as big as her head. She took off prancing, her head held high with her prize, a proud huntress. We knew she was probably taking it back to her babies. Female feral cats are almost always either pregnant or trying to feed their kittens.
Today, we watched a wild one beat the odds. Today, our hearts connected to one of those unable to speak for themselves. Today her story is shared and her life matters.
Last evening, we had dinner with Blair’s family in the country. After the rain, a doe, a buck and two fawns appeared at the edge of the yard. The fawns were feeling pretty frisky, kicking up their heels in the wet grass. How wonderful to be so innocent, so new and so full of life. Our grandaughter and her grandmother watched in awe, each with that same wide-eyed curiosity.
I had a similar wide-eyed look on my face yesterday when my rather long post disappeared before my eyes. Hopefully this one will go through and then I’ll brave retyping what was lost yesterday.
August 18, 2012
This morning, one of the long lost feral kittens, Shadow reappeared. Always the loner, black as night, he stays hidden in the shadows in the woods behind our house. Today he is out in the open and has grown some – long and thin – too thin. I watch him trying to lock his claws into the fence to get back to the other side to continue his hunting. Feral cats stay starved and hunt most of the day, further depleting their resources. Watching him through the binoculars, he looks like he has been hurt, probably from fighting. As he he struggles to the top of the fence, his frail body is trembling and he almost falls, but rights himself just in time. Still shaky, he jumps back over the fence, back into the shadows. My heart bleeds for him.
I take a little food outside, approaching the fence easily and calling to him softly. He turns and looks back at me with perhaps the slightest hope for human affection, but it is too late. He doesn’t trust humans and why should he? How could they let him live like this?
Often I see nature imitating what is happening in our current reality. It makes me wonder what will happen to all the people who need the programs that are being cut today? Will they wander into the woods like abandoned cats do? Or will these people rise up against the ones who have taken their means of survival away?
These are interesting times. Most often, it is what lurks in the shadows of our minds that makes our hearts ache for what is good and fair for all forms of life. Most people don’t recognize the aching as being related to what they once abandoned or closed their hearts to. Life is like a boomerang, it all comes back around, sooner or later. Be mindful of what you throw out.
As for our feral Shadow, we haven’t given up on him yet.