Velda, the Hummingbird Moth

Priorities

Returning from errands, we heard a bright buzzing at the head of our driveway.

If this was a bee making this sound,we were in trouble.

But no, not a bee, only Velda, the Hummingbird moth.

Hummingbird moths aren’t common where we live. For that matter, we’ve seen several species appear that were once unknown in these parts. Some species are opportunistic invaders; they come along in cargo ships, in wooden crates and lumber, they hitch rides with families returning from foreign lands. Some such species take hold, others don’t.

Some once-common species move on, some are moved out, some can’t deal with the invading hordes and die out.

I the past twenty years we’ve seen lots of all of these, and Velda The Hummingbird Moth is only the latest.

As beautiful as she is, she’s an indication that language is powerful.

I suspect if Global Warming and remained Global Warming, Velda would have a tougher time here. Bush II’s administration did an incredible job changing language on us. Global Warming became Global Climate Change; much less threatening, almost something to look forward to, hence off the table, hence Global Warming got pulled from the agenda, pushed aside (much like some species), and (for many) forgotten.

People prefer to stick their heads in the sand, me thinks. No idea why. Taking action is…difficult? Well, it’s definitely more difficult than sitting on one’s couch. More noticeable? Well, anytime you do anything someone will notice. People tend to act only when there’s a personal stake involved. I remember laughing at a “Save the World” rally.

Save the World? You think the Earth will disappear or something? Earth will be here long after we’re gone. Stopping saving the world and start saving yourselves! Earth can get along fine without drinkable water and breathable air. It won’t be an Earth we recognize and it’ll still be Earth, probably a little older and a little wiser than when we first climbed down out of the trees millions of years ago, but it’ll get along fine.

Not so us. Take away our water and air and we’re gone in a few seconds, probably less.

I mean, how long can you hold your breath?

I enjoy Velda in my garden.

Not the news she brings.

 

Laws in The Wild

Applying human law to The Wild is the Ultimate Egotism

I republished Nothing Ever Dies of Old Age in The Wild last week in preparation for this week’s post.

Clarissa, a female raccoon with kits of her own (quite shy, haven’t filmed all of them yet), came out for peanuts and cookies with some of her kits and all of Hecate’s kits.

I tossed and spread food as I always do, then noticed Clarissa demurred. She may be shy with me but demure with other raccoons, especially someone else’s kits, she’s not (she’s the one by the pole on the right of the video).

I stayed out quite a while (this video is three clips made across a good chunk of time) and realized she’d hurt her paw. She could barely hold things with it and wasn’t putting any weight on it.

Naturally – or should I say as is Nature’s way – the other raccoons took advantage of her disadvantage to harass, intimidate, and otherwise steal from her.

I cut a nasty scene out of the video.

I know such things occur, I only wish they didn’t. The Wild is more like kids on a playground than diplomats at a table. Humans have laws but those laws only work when everybody agrees to let them work.

The law of The Wild isn’t one of mutual agreement so much as it’s one of balance; One suffers and another does not. One dies and another lives.

Sometimes I break the law. I put out more than enough food and separate the piles so that territories don’t matter. The This is mine and what’s yours is mine law doesn’t apply because it’s too much effort to go and risk conflict than to stay and eat what’s here.

I wish humans could learn that one; if you have enough here, you don’t need to go elsewhere.

But I also know coupled with that is and understanding of “how much is enough.” The Wild knows this in full. Extreme conditions induce aggression – what’s called surplus killing – in The Wild, and I mean extreme conditions. Major meteorological and/or climatic upheaval, for example.

That noted, humans should watch out. The Wild won’t follow your laws.

And you’re not prepared for Its.

 

Nothing Ever Dies of Old Age in The Wild

There is no pity in The Wild, only Balance

I’m sitting on my backporch working. When the warmer weather hits, this is where I spend most of my time. I can see the woods behind our house, feel the sun on my bones, watch the bluejays, robins, orioles, cardinals, hummingbirds, nuthatches, morning doves, pigeons, squirrels, chipmunks and other assorted backyard denizens at the birdbaths, feeders and water buckets we leave out for those I call The Old Ones.

I call animals The Old Ones because of my time studying anthropology. All the aboriginal peoples I’ve studied have views of wildlife that differ from those of most modern people and aboriginal views have rubbed off on me. Case in point, I’ve made friends with several generations of raccoons, turkeys, deer, skunks, opossum, woodchucks, beavers, fox and owl over the years. You can see many of them under WildLife.

Even with the animals I’m friendly with, I still know they are wild. Many take food from my hand but none of them are tame, none are domesticated. They are wild.

One of the rules of The Wild is that nothing dies of old age in The Wild. It just doesn’t happen. Animals grow old, grow tired, can’t move as quickly, can’t move as well, get injured, can’t get at whatever seed or bread or foodstuffs they can find and, in the end, even predators become prey.

Sam the Hawk

 
Even in my little backyard, backing up to many woodland acres, I’ve occasionally seen scatterings of feathers where Sam and Aris, our mated hawks, have caught something too slow at the feeders, and seen the remains of chipmunks, voles and mice in Bart the Owl’s pellets.

Bart the Owl

 
Because I work quietly and prefer to listen to the sounds of The Wild (and sometimes Bach) the animals tend to ignore me. Sometimes all those around the feeders and water buckets will jump and flee and I’ll catch site of Reynard’s (a male fox) bushy red tail as he hurries back into deeper cover. I know he and his mate have kits to feed and don’t begrudge him his time hunting in my yard.

But today I noticed a pigeon hopping among the flock that visits our feeders. Definitely hopping, not just oddly walking. I stared and noticed this pigeon had one leg, hence the hop. But there was something else odd.

There was something strange in its tail feathers. It could still fly. It was a little awkward getting airborne, true, but it could still take flight when the others scattered. It was one of the last to leave the ground, though.

I stared then picked up some binoculars I keep beside me on the table. The strange thing in its tail feathers was its other leg. Broken, twisted, how it got pegged in that position I don’t know.

I know animals can feel pain. I’ve read the studies. I know. I also noticed that the male pigeons, the ones perpetually strutting and harassing the females at their seeds, were leaving this one alone. If anything, they knocked it over in their quest to show their plumage to some other female.

This wounded pigeon would flap its wings and get back up. Sometimes that broken leg would get in the way of the wings and the pigeon would open its beak to make a sound I could not hear.

But my ears are not those of Reynard who has kits to feed.

And suddenly the other pigeons scattered, the chipmunks dashed into their holes, the squirrels scurried up their trees, the bluejays and robins and orioles and cardinals and others went to each and every compass point.

And Reynard stopped to look at me, the pigeon in his jaws, its one good leg still kicking, its head still bobbing, its beak still open making sounds I could not hear.

Reynard bowed his head, turned and trotted into the wood. I, transfixed, had stopped breathing but for how long I didn’t know. My chest was tight. I was sickened and relieved and had not moved.

A moment later and the wildlife returned. My breathe relaxed. I turned back to my computer and started to write.


This post originally appeared on the now defunct An Economy of Meaning blog and was reprinted on Discover The Practice.

I’m tolerated

More cookies, Two-Legs

Ah, children.

And parent.

I mentioned previously that the Hecate‘s kits have been out and about in daylight, a sign they’re mature enough to handle themselves to Hecate’s satisfaction.

They’ve also become quite accustomed to me.

To the point they knock on our door should I not be out there quick enough with peanuts, cookies, dogfood, et cetera.

Ever been someone’s servant?

Ever been The Wild’s servant?

I don’t mind. It’s a welcome price to have Nature close at hand.

DeHavilland

Lessons in Parenting from The Wild

Velda‘s mate, Dehavilland, has been out and about lately.

They were out together, yipping quietly to let each other know where they were, also to let their kits – we haven’t seen them yet – know where their parents are and even though not in their presence, still to listen and obey.

Ah, The Wild…

Things are so different in The Wild.

Rarely…check that. I’ve never seen human parents as genuinely concerned for their children’s development as parents of The Wild.

To say it’s a completely different mindset is to say water isn’t fire. Well, duh!

Parental care in The Wild doesn’t care about property rites, transmission of wealth, so on and so forth. No human concerns here. All there is is “I’ll do the best I can preparing you for your life without me, because my time is few and you will live after I’m gone. I will prepare you so you can share this message with your children. If I’ve parented well and you’ve learned well, you’ll have children and share this message with them.”