Last week I noticed what appeared to be a large bird in my woods. I walked closer and saw that it was a hawk. Hawks eat chipmunks and are not welcome on my property, especially when they are dangerously close to Buster’s burrow at the edge of the woods. In animated NYC fashion I told it to get lost. Perched on a branch up high it watched my little performance, and when I was finished it flew away. There! I showed him!
My deepest held wishes to provide a safe place in my yard for my chipmunks in concert with my theatrics to keep wild predators at bay is futile. Buster has disappeared; I have not seen him since Saturday. There is no sign of him at his burrow or anyplace at all. I am so sad that he likely become “part of the food chain.” I understand that a hawk or fox has to eat. I eat meat. What I find so very hard to be at peace with, in fact I never will, is when it involves the suffering of a living little being that I adore. It’s abhorrent and horrifying to me that animals eat other animals while the prey is still alive. I can’t watch “nature shows” for that reason.
This is something I have been wrestling with since Wishy disappeared earlier this year. I have been trying to find comfort, an explanation or reassurance that somehow it will be made up to them in the afterlife; that they will receive eternal comfort, love and kindness. I have always tried to be a protector of little creatures. The thing is, and this may be hard for some to understand, is that it’s because they have been protective of me–my spirit. For some their best friend is a dog, for me it’s guinea pigs and chipmunks. I could NOT have made it through some of the roughest patches in my life if it wasn’t for my companions, domestic and wild.
Some people seem to have such an easy time with not feeling this level of empathy and in many ways I envy them. I can’t just shrug it off and say “oh, it’s just the cycle of life” or “it’s just a guinea pig” in response to horrifying abuse (including animal testing) and carry on. I have never been that person.
Last month a former friend from college posted a photo of a drowned chipmunk in a bucket after complaining about the chipmunks in his yard. I will not describe this exceptionally cruel method that causes panic and suffering but it’s out there online. In Maine and maybe where you live, drowning a chipmunk is an illegal method of chipmunk control. Don’t do it–not only because it’s cruel, but it can land you in jail in Maine. I privately messaged him and provided a link to the law, to which he responded that it was all an accident. That was and will be my last contact with him, but I hope he changes his ways.
I believe that God wants us to confront cruelty, and that it’s God in us that craves to do so. I’m tempted to create and erect a bunch of signs in my woods near the now vacant chipmunk burrow with foul language directed at the hawks. It won’t change the nature of things but I think it might help me find some levity in an otherwise depressing situation. I also have been reading Darwin, William Paley and John Stuart Mill who offer dare I say, food for thought about evolution, creationism and nature. Henry Salt’s book on animal rights is also illuminating.
Sometime, maybe soon, another chipmunk will move into what was Buster’s and before him Wishy’s burrow. Perhaps that has been home to dozens of chipmunks since I’ve lived here, or maybe hundreds or perhaps thousands since it was dug by the first chipmunk ages ago. It’s only for the past year that I’ve paid attention, and have matured in my faith.
Kindness to creatures is a good thing, even if it means we can’t “win” in the material world here and now. That I will always believe so I will continue to do my part, as tiny and inconsequential it may seem. To do that I will continue to be present for what’s around me and my home. Even if I did not, there is no true tuning out; you can’t escape from reality. This is why I believe it’s so important to have a connection to something greater than the material world.
This past year has challenged my belief systems about how things should be vs how they are. It’s only when I’m connected to a power greater than myself that I can continue to see life as it is, and continue to respond compassionately (hawk protest signage excluded.)
Update 9/7: Buster is back!!!!