Wheel of Life

Wheel of Life

A young American robin.

Naturally, I was horrified. Anyone would’ve been. A couple of days ago, I witnessed one of the more unpleasant realities of nature. A neighbourhood cat was tormenting a young robin, its breast still an array of raggedy brown, black and tawny spots.

The bird had been weakened by preliminary attacks, I could only imagine were intended to incapacitate. So, it could only open its beak wide, as if awaiting food from its parent. I could only assume, at that age, it was the only way it knew to interact with the world. It was agonising. To my mind, it seemed little more than a silent scream, begging for mercy, pleading, for the love of god, to leave it be. I don’t know. I ran outside, my aim to intervene.

The cat tormenting the bird belongs to a neighbour and often comes to my house during the mid-morning. Appearing at my window, she opens her mouth, a silent meow, requesting and now largely, expecting to be allowed inside. And so I happily do so.

But all cats are the same. Wildness is innate. Their ability to be loving, purring while being stroked sits calmly and casually alongside their ability to be exceptionally proficient hunters.

I hastily ran over to where the little robin was laying. The local cat somehow recognised my intention and then backed off. She actually ran to come inside and so, I let her in. It was almost like she wanted to distance herself from what she was doing, wishing to somehow flee from it’s reality—even though she was the main protagonist. I’m likely imposing some fragment of morality I wanted to see in a cat who was simply obeying her keen instincts.

When I went over to the bird, it could no longer fly or even move. I knelt on the ground and gently rubbed its side. It didn’t seem to resist or to my mind, show any fear. Perhaps there was something in its mind that knew I meant it no harm. We were locked, eye to eye, in a moment of peace and tranquility.

I gathered it into my hands determined to place it out of harm’s way. It did wriggle at that point, naturally in fear of its life. We are all innately bound to even the tendrils of survival. My hope was to somehow leave it on a branch. That way, no creature on the ground, at least, could do anymore damage.

It was a foolish endeavour. As soon as I tried to perch it on the branch, it fell into the broad leaves of the plants down below. I didn’t attempt to retrieve it. I simply hoped it could meet a peaceful end.

It was heartbreaking. There was every chance, this bird had only hatched a mere two weeks previously. Most likely, it hadn’t even built the strength to fly. Yet, here it was, soon to lose its hold on a world it’d only just entered. Questions of fairness are never applicable in nature. Still, there was a wrongness with which I wrestled.

Invariably there’s a feeling of inadequacy and impotence that hovers over one’s shoulders. What else could I have done? Truth be told, what I wanted to do was to somehow prevent the death of this creature. It’d just been born and the journey to death was supposed to be a long one—as long a possible. After all, life’s supposed to be punctuated by those poignant junctures of procreation, nurturing, and simple survival. Here it was cut short abruptly.

The next morning dawned and I looked at the brush under the tree where the little robin lay. I was fairly sure it would’ve died by then. The goal is to find small justifications, trying to emphasise the rightness or at best the acceptance of it.

Later in the day, I was looking out onto the road and there was a small lump. In a moment, I realised it must be the body of the small bird. One of the cats in the neighbourhood must’ve followed the smell and found it, pulling its carcass out of the protection into which I’d placed it the day before.

I was pondering the realities of the situation when a gull suddenly flew in and settled. Now, gulls don’t often land on the street unless there’s an obvious payoff. I’m not saying they’re mercenary. But I do know they follow a more, shall we say, intense path to survival, one that often yields fairly rich kickbacks.

On this particular occasion, that small lump was the focus of the gull’s attention. The gull proceeded to lift the lump from the ground and bash it against the road—again and again. I didn’t realise what it was doing, until it managed to gather up the lump in it’s beak. Method in its madness, the idea was to soften the little lump of bones and feathers. I thought it was going to then fly off. Instead, it threw its head back and into its gullet went the small lump. Gone.

And so there it is. The end of that young robin was really only its first step toward a new beginning. By the time I’d noticed the little lump on the street, the essence, spirit or consciousness—whichever accords with your perceptions and beliefs—of that little bird had already moved on. It had departed, re-joining the energy of the universe. As it is with all of us. At some point, we’ll all see our world again, new and as yet unknown. Likewise, the bird’s biological body, the one it had spent an all too brief time inhabiting, was about to return to the beautiful cycle of life.

Life is an eternal journey interspersed with the cardinal moments of life and many more—sickness, joy, struggle, elation, sadness, surprise, death. No beginning. No end.

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