Whirly-gigs

May 6, 2015

This was a bittersweet Genehouse walk. I had awakened and walked outside and, as is my custom, checked on the baby cardinals. The nest was upside down. The newly-hatched chick of two days ago lay on the sidewalk, an embryo puddle. The fully-formed babies were gone. One tiny red-tinted wing rested on the ground.

Last night, I was sitting in the livingroom. More than the usual number of owls were singing madly—there are baby barred owls all around my house. A high-pitched scream came from the front yard and repeated several times. Coyotes—so I thought.

This morning, I knew what had happened. A family of raccoons raided the front yard, the mother smelled the baby birds and stood on hind legs and shook the nest, the mother cardinal wailing and flying away, the baby birds falling violently to the ground, the excited yelps of the raccoon family, the feast.

Some religious sects view animals as things on a lower plain. My mother firmly believed that our dogs would not go to heaven; heaven was reserved for humans. This is wrong, of course, sheer ego of certain patriarchal, unscientific scribes of the Bible. Cardinals and humans and amoeba are animals; humans are the highest order of apes. If your religion is strong enough to withstand that truth, pray away. If not, you are willfully turning away from Knowledge. Synonym: God.

I walked along the river path. Maple trees discharged their whirly-gigging seedpods, a crackling flotilla of helicopters crashing. The riverwater was placid, the sky filled with wispy clouds, the forest full and green and reeking of honeysuckle perfume. Buffalo gnats have reappeared, those drill-into-your-skin devils that try to walk on your eyeballs and fly into your mouth and nose and that pinch your arms and neck.

I turned onto Stanka Lane, and there was Hummingbird Man bronzed and shirtless with coiled muscles, his signature blond ponytail draped to his hips. He was replacing the front door of his house. His nine hummingbird feeders were filled and greeting customers. Chickens and chicks scurried around the yard.

I told my friend about the baby cardinals. Shit, he said, you treated them birds as children. There is no difference between me smashing a gnat, and a raccoon eating a bird, and a farmer butchering a hog, I said—death is death.

We were overcome by shadows from above. More than a hundred great white pelicans lit by the sun were swirling counterclockwise above us, formed into an enormous merry-go-round.

“It looks like a wormhole,” I said.

Wormholes, if they exist, and many physicists believe they might, could be portals from one universe to another in minutes, not light years. Space travelers in a wormhole would return to earth and be but a few seconds older. Earthlings would have aged decades.

“Cool,” Hummingbird Man said.

We watched the pelican paint un-form the merry-go-round and re-form into a disk shape, like the rings of Saturn, and whirl and whirl, the greatest of whirly-gigs.

“It is nature,” my friend said, “The living beauty, the dead birds.”

Amen.

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