A Day in a Life: Life & Death

Last week, while strolling the length of the deck in the morning sunshine, enjoying the last day of beautiful summer weather before the heat wave hit, I looked down into the yard below and saw a young fawn staring up at me. She seemed to have been there for a long time, just standing and observing me. I had been combing and drying my hair in the sun as I walked at a slow, meditative pace. I wondered if my white hair had attracted her, if it looked like the white on the underside of her mother’s tail, the white tail that went up and said, come, follow me.

I stopped walking and stood looking back at her, her spots large and white on her slender back, her ears pricked as she listened to the sounds around her. I saw her mother further down in the yard, nibbling at the bushes where the grass slopes down to meet the tree line. She was walking on one of the paths we’d cut through the tall grass back there, munching on the black caps that we too have been enjoying. Turning on her thin but sturdy legs, the young fawn ran to her mother, frisking about, happy, not alarmed at all. In a moment she reappeared at the top of the yard with her mother in tow. Now the two of them stood and looked up at me standing on the deck looking back at them.

We stood unmoving for several minutes, just observing each other. I sent silent messages that I would not harm them, that they were perfectly safe grazing in my yard and eating the delicious, juicy fruits. I sent energetic feelings of love and compassion to those two wild animals, allowing it to pour out of me and float down upon them in a wave of appreciation for their presence on this day, my birthday. I asked them to stay awhile and just enjoy this moment with me.

The fawn, bored with staring, began to nurse. The doe, feeling safe enough too, began licking her fawn, cleaning her as the fawn bucked and pushed against her. Occasionally the mother would prick up her ears at the sounds in the neighborhood, a car door slamming, a hawk screeching, a saw buzzing down the road, but she stood her ground, not fearing, just alert, aware.

As I watched this little vignette of nature in action, I knew that through all the disasters that mankind does and could put Mother Earth through, the earth and nature will continue. We are not so powerful as we think we are, for here is something that will go on long after we are gone, I thought. Here was life itself, having birthed anew, letting me know that nature will survive, that life will continue with or without man’s interference or man’s participation, that nature can go on just fine without us. And this doe and this fawn did not fear me, for although they were in my yard, eating my berries, they were letting me know that I did not own any of it, that the earth belongs to all living creatures. And I, in turn, fully accepted this, knowing that my own technologically advanced life paled in comparison to nature, for they were showing me what life is really all about.

Monday came and I channeled a message from Jeanne. When I had finished typing and posting the message on the website, I decided to do as she suggested and take a few minutes of quietude before I started my day. I went out into my sunny studio. It was early enough that the room was still cool, the morning sun not yet pouring through the skylights, and the open windows around the room let in a gentle breeze. It was the perfect time to be there because by the afternoon, with temperatures expected to climb into the nineties, it would have been almost unbearably hot. I sat in a comfy chair, settling in for a quiet fifteen minutes of peace when a racket arose outside the window.

Our yard is full of nesting birds this year. It seems as if almost every bush and tree is occupied by robins, blue birds, phoebes, doves, nuthatches, catbirds; you name it. In a small bush outside the window a pair of robins were nesting. They had been busily tending and feeding their young for many weeks. Now they began squawking and screeching, dive-bombing at their own nest, flying to the gutter above the window I was sitting beside and then back at their nest again. I wondered what the heck they were doing. They were acting crazy, their voices shrill and piercing. Over and over again they flew directly at the bush, as if to knock something out. My first impression was that maybe this is how they get their kids out of the nest, perhaps they force them out, but it didn’t appear very likely, not at all like nature, which in my observation is much more gently nudging.

I noticed that other birds were also getting into the act. A pair of catbirds flew to the base of the bush and mewed and snarled, flapping their wings. Blue jays circled around in the yard, cruising like blue and white patrol cars, their voices like sirens sending out calls of distress. A tiny wren perched on a branch of the bush and chirped loudly, fluttering up and down, having a hissy fit. What is going on, I wondered, why are they all attacking this nest? And then it dawned on me that they were protecting it, or trying to, and then I saw it: a long tail hanging down. A cat? It sort of looked like our cat’s tail, but how could a cat get up into that tiny bush? Then it moved and I saw that an enormous snake was entwined around the bush, obviously after the baby robins.

As I ran out of the room, first to grab my camera, and then to go outside to get a better look, I remembered don Juan admonishing Carlos Castaneda to let nature take its course, to not interfere. In The Second Ring of Power, on page 301, Carlos says that don Juan told him that, “every effort to help on our part was an arbitrary act guided by our own self-interest alone.” Don Juan once laughed at Carlos as he removed a tiny snail from a sidewalk and tucked it under some vines because he was afraid the snail might get stepped on. Don Juan suggested that perhaps the snail had spent all day getting that far across the sidewalk and here came this idiot putting him back were he’d started from. Perhaps he was escaping sure death by poison from the leaves of that very vine, or perhaps he had enough personal power to cross the sidewalk. I knew I would not interfere in what was happening, but I also was intent on observing it. For some reason this was what was unfolding before me on this day when my intention was to simply sit quietly.

I stood a respectable distance from the bush, trying to get close enough to get a shot of the snake but also far enough back so I did not interfere in the attempts of the birds to unseat this most uninvited guest. The noise and fury coming from the robins was intense. They flew back and forth numerous times, sweeping the top of the bush, their extended wings like knives cutting into it, but their attempts were to no avail. As many times as they dove at the snake in the bush it was not going to cease the hunt. The other birds, come to help this family in crisis, set up a loud lament, crying and screaming, a Greek chorus pouring out there sorrows.

I am not frightened of snakes but I find them unpredictable, unknown entities. This snake had obviously crawled up into the bush while the robins were out foraging. By the time I saw it, it was well entwined around the bush and, from the lump a few inches along its length, it was obvious that it had already swallowed at least one baby bird. I could see its head moving around in the area of the nest. Suddenly it swung down, a gray snake about four feet long, a tiny bird clamped in its mouth, the small feather covered creature half consumed already. Its yellow legs dangled limply, surely already suffocated. The snake held firmly as it began swinging and unfolding itself from the bush. The birds continued to fly at it, but it would not drop its prize. As I watched, it dropped from the lowest branches of the bush into the ivy below and disappeared.

The robin parents continued to wail and express their deep sorrow at the invasion of their nest, their children taken by this creature of nature, death coming unexpectedly. The other birds soon disappeared and only the stunned robins remained. I sent energetic sympathy to these two birds, feeling their grief, as they cocked their heads in disbelief, keening and pining for their young. And yet I knew that this too was nature in action, the other side of life.

Death is as natural as birth; it is part of the natural order of things. Indiscriminately selecting, coming like the snake in the grass, it will spare none of us. This is what modern man has chosen to ignore, that death is a natural part of life. We must all take our definitive journey as the seers call it, but I feel we have lost our reverence for and our curiosity about its transformational process, and we have forgotten that we are as innocent as those baby birds in the nest, all of us.

Eventually, the mother robin returned to the bush. When I peaked in at her she was sitting perched on the edge, guarding the last of her babies. She voiced a gentle protest at my intrusion, though by now she knew I would not harm her. On Tuesday, each time I looked into the bush, she no longer feared me, but sat silently, just the thing I intended to do before death came so unexpectedly to my yard. I knew she was waiting for two things, for her young fledgling to mature enough so it could leave the nest, and she was also waiting for the snake, for it would soon be hungry again. Death will come again.

If you wish, feel free to respond in the comment section below.

Wishing you all a good week,

NOTE: The book mentioned in this blog is available for purchase through our Store.

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