WARNING: If you are sensitive to animal on animal violence (otherwise known as predation), please do not read further. Instead, go to this link. It’s little penguins chasing a butterfly. You’re welcome.
If you are reading this, I am assuming you have ignored the warning above. Which is great. I love rebels. Continue.
I wish I was making this story up. (Here goes nothing…)
There is a stray cat that lives outside of my workplace. It’s sort of like having a pet at work because I look for him or her throughout the day only to find him or her sleeping in the sun, or climbing trees, or just being generally adorable.
Today was not one of those days.
I came into my office, dropped my things, and looked out the window. There was my friend, all black except for his or her chest and little paws. He or she was waiting by the door to the next office over, whose workers often leave a bowl of kibble out.
Apparently, he or she couldn’t wait for the bowl today, though. Because the next time I looked out, the cat is in a primal crouch, stalking something. When I look, I see it is a small bird, perhaps a teenager robin, sitting in the tall grass.
Now, I’ve seen this exchange dozens of times with my own dog and the rabbits in my backyard. My dog crouches down, pursues them, and wags her tail when they outrun her in about 10 seconds. She’s never caught them, not one.
Except, the bird wasn’t flying away now, like the script in my head said it should. It hadn’t even noticed the cat. And it kept on being oblivious…until the cat pounced. The bird tried to fly away, but it couldn’t get high enough. The cat batted it down like a shuttlecock, despite its attempts to escape. I thought, well, this is a no-brainer. This bird will just fly away and everything will be cool.
But it didn’t. The cat seemed to have injured it because when I had the courage to look out again, it was fluttering its wing helplessly, and the cat was simply sitting a few feet away, close enough to grab it if it tried anything stupid. The cat and I watched the bird die in the grass, suddenly going still. I turned away from the grisly scene. When I looked again, both cat and bird were gone.
Now, if you are familiar with my blog posts, this is the part where I introduce the lesson. What I learned from the bird murder I witnessed today is…
Well, I tried, anyway. I was all well, the circle of life… and then I was like, sometimes you’re the bird, and sometimes you’re the cat…and then maybe, cats are evil. That’s the lesson…or even, a bird in the hand…no, that’s not right at all…and so on.
And after trying to retrofit some kind of inspirational message, I realized that there wasn’t one. This was what cats and birds do; this is the part they play. This is the real life Sylvester and Tweety moment. But instead of dreaming up a clever hi jinx to escape, this bird died. And that’s really important to acknowledge.
Because sometimes life is ugly. It’s gruesome, bloody, and nauseating, and maybe it is time that we recognized that for what it is. I mean, I’m not saying you should try to expose yourself to the most terrible thing every day to feel as if you’ve understood life. But I think that maybe, in small doses, we’ll come to terms with our humanity, which inevitably includes our mortality, if we start to actually face it. And then, maybe we’ll stop sugarcoating animal instinct with Sylvester and Tweety. And then, maybe we’ll embrace the fact that there are going to be times where the bird doesn’t get away (no matter how much the Discovery channel wants us to think the opposite.) And maybe, we’ll start to glean some truth and meaning out of life.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t root that little bird on, just on the outside chance it gets away. Because without that hope, we have nothing.
Rest in peace, little bird. You died fighting an old fight, but a good one.
(If you are totally bummed after reading this, go to the top of the page and watch the penguins. I swear it’ll make you feel better. You’re welcome.)