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.