Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The night shift

Kurt Vonnegut once said, "Life is no way to treat an animal, not even a mouse."

I thought of that last night as I lay in bed listening to the high, thin shriek of some animal -- perhaps a mouse -- being eaten by some other animal.

Our house is at the end of a dead-end, smack in the middle of a small island of wilderness surrounded by other homes and streets. We share this urban greenbelt with a remarkable variety of wildlife: black-tailed deer, raccoons, squirrels, opossums, skunks, and many species of birds. During the day the neighborhood is idyllic, alive with birdsong. But at night, a different reality emerges as the sounds of predation come in through the windows. Cries of fear and terror as attacks are launched, nests and dens invaded, young carried off. Sometimes the sounds of night are unbearable.

I put my hands over my ears, bury my head in the pillow. And there, I realize, is my fundamental problem. How can I embrace the birdsong and reject the messy, perpetual banquet that is life on earth? Death is the necessary condition of life, nature's operating principle. I know that nature is impartial, that all must eat or be eaten. I know that without night there can be no day.

Still, I cover my ears at night when I hear the desperate cries. Because even a mouse yearns to live another day.

4 comments:

The Querulous Squirrel said...

This is beautiful, haunting and poignant. It's so painful to think that to be born means to die as well, for every creature, even us.

Rick Ray said...

Nice observations, Tai. Continue to love your blog.

Rachel Neumann said...

Yay!! You're writing again. Oh, but too bad for the mouse. Plum is with you in still thinking there must be a way around this eat or be eaten thing.

Tai said...

If anyone can find a solution to this dilemma, it's Plum. I look forward to hearing her thoughts on the matter.

Thanks, Rick -- and I love your photographs of India.

QS: Just so. Everything as ephemeral as a firefly. At least we're all in this together. A small comfort.