A Lesson About Compassion

I learned something disconcerting about myself.

Regular readers may recall my post about mourning three bird eggs that had been knocked to the ground when a severe storm destroyed their next. I had compassion for their death, but there was nothing I could do.

When I was out moving sprinklers in my yard I was horrified to see three too-young baby birds on the ground. They couldn’t fly and one couldn’t even hop; as I approached, they opened their mouths in hope of some needed sustenance. Again, I had compassion, but was frozen in a state of inaction. A myriad of thoughts rushed through my mind: Compassion without action is worthless. Click To Tweet

  • I don’t know what to do.
  • They’re going to die anyway.
  • I’m too busy.
  • What if they carry disease?
  • I should let nature take its course?

I would periodically check on them with each move of the sprinklers. I continued to feel compassion and tried to justify my inaction. A couple of times I saw an adult bird on the ground near them. I convinced myself that their parents were tending to them. Yet each time I approached, they turned in my direction and opened their mouths.

By the next day, the weakest of the three wasn’t looking too good and he later died. Would I likewise be witness to his siblings’ demise?

On the third day, one of them was clinging to the side of a tree and later he was gone. I never saw him again and assume he was able to fly away.

On the fourth day, the remaining bird was hopping with a bit more vigor and for the first time was instinctively flapping his wings. An hour later, he too was gone.

I should be happy that two out of three made it, but I wonder if I should have tried to help their weaker brother.

What I do know is that compassion without action is worthless.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

A Lesson From Birds

A Lesson from BirdsOne Friday we received some much-needed rain—1.8 inches in just a couple hours; it was a downpour.

The following day, to my dismay, I noticed that a Robin’s nest had been knocked out of my crabapple tree. I was saddened to see three unhatched eggs on the ground. They had been deserted; it was too late to do anything about it. (Even had I discovered them right away, the chance of keeping them warm enough to hatch would have been a long shot, not to mention nurturing them if they hatched.)

Interestingly, the nest was intact. The problem was that it wasn’t adequately anchored to the tree. I could see where it once was attached and though it was at a “Y” it was surely not an optimal one. Additionally, since Robins often lay eggs twice a year, these parents will need to build a second nest if they intend to try again. Be careful on what foundation we build—make sure it is a firm one. Click To Tweet

As a nature lover, I derive great joy through the life of animals. Although dead animals are a real and natural part of nature, it is a side that I prefer to overlook. Yes, I know about natural selection and the survival of the fittest. Unfortunately, these babies didn’t stand a chance because their parents didn’t build a stronger, better nest. It is a small consolation to know that this particular trait is being effectively removed from the gene pool.

The lesson in this is to be careful on what foundation we build—make sure it is a firm one. Rarely in the US does this have literal life and death ramifications, but in other parts of the world it does, primarily the third-world parts. In other situations, the wrong foundation could be living in a bad neighborhood, sending your kids to an ineffective  school, starting a business without a plan or enough capital, investing in a shaky opportunity, and so forth.

Just as with building bird nests, it is important that we find the right foundation and carefully build upon it. The consequences of not doing so can be dire.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

My Reaction to Reading Past Posts

I’ve been reading my past posts on this blog, not for any nostalgic reason, but to see if I can merge some of them into a book, codenamed Woodpecker Wars.

Though some posts are dated and others are not good, I generally like what I’m reading. Some posts are entertaining and others are insightful. Many are interesting – at least to me. Occasionally I’ll read a post I forgot about and be impressed.

However, when it comes to the details, I’m mostly dismayed. My past work contains a number of errors and too many typos. The perfectionist in me wants to go back and fix them, but that would be too time-consuming.

That impulse to edit my past work reminds me of the book Flowers for Algernon. It’s about a mentally challenged man who undergoes an experimental process that catapults him to the genius level. Along the way, he’s encouraged to keep a journal. At first it’s hand-written and a mess but gets better over time. He learns to type and seeks permission to edit and type his past entries but is told to leave them as is – they are part of his history and shouldn’t be altered.

While I am neither mentally challenged or a genius, I’ll also leave my old posts as is – or maybe I’m just lazy. Regardless, the content that does end up in Woodpecker Wars – along with some new writing – will undergo careful editing and scrutiny. After all, I don’t want to make the same mistakes twice.

Puppy Therapy

Last week our daughter came over for the day. Her intent was not so much to see us but to enjoy our air conditioning. Being pregnant and midway through her third trimester, she had added reason to seek relief from the heat.

She didn’t come alone, however, bringing with her Zane, an adorable bundle of energy and delight

Read the rest of this post at its new location.

What I Learned From Rabbits

Although I live in a rural area, my immediate surroundings are not; I reside in a subdivision. Even so, wildlife abounds. During the non-snowy months, I can, at any given time, look out my office window and see at least one animal and usually more; I’ve spent the last five months verifying this to be true.

The most common sight are birds. Squirrels come in second; sometimes they’re in pairs: darting, jumping, chasing, climbing.

I also see rabbits; they are common, but not a daily sight (though I don’t spent my time gazing out my window either.) When I see a hare, it’s always alone, which is a bit sad to mention.

But today I saw two: hopping, playing tag, hangin’ out. Then a third one appeared. One hops to my left, the other scurries right, while the third goes in a circle. They were on the smaller side, perhaps siblings from this year’s batch.

Then to my delight, a fourth one hopped into view. A bit larger and more deliberate in movement. I surmised this to be their mom. For quite a while I admired their comings and goings, their freedom and their life.

I’m glad I took the time to watch them frolic; it was good to slow down — and to marvel.

What do you do to slow down?

Where Do Frogs Coma From?

Last night while mowing my lawn, I saw three frogs in my yard. In 24 years of living here and mowing the grass, this was a first.

Where did the frogs come from? I know the biological answer and the evolutionary answer and the creation answer, but those are the wrong answers to my question. I want to know why this trio of amphibians suddenly showed up in my yard.

  • There is no water on my property or near by,
  • We are not in a low spot,
  • My lawn is not even damp, and
  • Given the drought earlier this summer, the water table is surely lower than normal.

Where did my frogs come from?

I asked the ever-resourceful Google and was treated with 29,300 exact matches to my query, but the top four sites didn’t provide the answer I was seeking. With 29,296 still to check, I’ve already given up.

I turn the question over to you: Where did the frogs in my yard come from?

Raccoons in the ‘Hood’

I’ve blogged about squirrels in my yard, which I see on a daily basis and rabbits in my yard, which I see almost as often. This is not the case with raccoons. I’ve never seen a raccoon near my house, at least not until a couple weeks ago.

I was outside as dawn was peaking forth, setting the lawn sprinklers for the day. Not fully awake, I walked around my house, looked up, and was startled to see a raccoon lumbering across my yard, headed in my direction. I froze. What should I do?

Do I yell to scare him off? Chase him away? Ignore him? In my early morning stupor, flashbacks of comedy/horror skits flooded my mind. I envisioned him rearing up on his hind legs and running towards me. With lightening quickness he would attack, mouth foaming and eyes ablaze with anger. Before I could react, he would leap into the air, hit my chest, and pin me to the ground. Then he would…

I shuttered, trying to shake my over-active imagination from my foggy mind. It was not logical, but filled me with fear just the same.

I clapped once to get his attention. He looked up with a start; he too was in a predawn stupor. To my relief, he made an abrupt U-turn and quickly waddled out of sight. He was not full grown, but with quite a tummy on him, was apparently well-fed.

I recalled my next door neighbor catching two adult raccons in her live animal trap earlier this spring. I wondered if those were his folks. The trap was still set in her yard, ready for a third, but this lad was too clever. If he was an orphan, he was doing okay, avoiding capture and finding plenty to eat.

Mr. Raccoon, I hope you have a long life and happy life — just do it in someone else’s yard.

Trolls Under the Bridge

I don’t actually have trolls under the bridge or for that matter a bridge, but what I do have is rabbits — rabbits under the deck.

It’s a good habitat for them. The deck floor provides somewhat of a roof and the lattice surrounding it serves as a means to keep larger animals out, while allowing the rabbits to pass through. It makes for a safe hare lair.

However, as the bunnies got bigger, the lattice became a tight squeeze. But rabbits are rodents and they’re good at gnawing, so they simply chomped a larger entrance. And it’s not just their front entrance, they have a back door, too.

I suspect these were the same rabbits who were enjoying the bean plants in our micro-garden this spring. (By the way, human hair is an effective hare repellant.)

The other day I startled a rabbit from under the deck and then he startled me with his hasty departure as he crashed through his back door. With blazing speed he darted away and into our neighbor’s yard. He circled behind a pine tree and poked his head out from the other side to keep an eye on me.

I had a momentary impulse to give chase and then considered chastising him. But the lattice has already been chewed and he’s leaving the beans alone, so I guess it’s okay for him to stick around. At least he gives me something to blog about.

Squirrely Behavior

The squirrel population around our home seems to be on the increase. One of their favorite pastimes is gathering nuts from my neighbor’s trees and relocating them to my yard. For years this has been happening with acorns, resulting in me pulling up tiny oak trees each spring.

Now they’ve added hickory nuts to their menu, as my bare feet frequently encounter empty half shells in my lawn. Though they try to bury their treasures, my sod is too thick for them to have much success.

These squirrels are increasingly comfortable around humans, too, no longer scurrying away as I approach. Last week, while moving a sprinkler, I saw one squirrel furiously pawing at my grass attempting to dig a hole at the base of a Maple tree — and having some success in doing so.

I approached him to scare him off. He was not deterred.

Forty feet away and he stopped digging to give me a long look, not fearful, but amused.

Thirty feet away and he paused to give a long and vigorous scratch to the back of his head; I think he was grinning at me.

Twenty feet away and he rolled over on this back, but not in a posture of submission as some animals do. He shimmied from side to side, rubbing his back on the hole he was boring, feet flailing in the air with unabashed jubilation. I’m sure he was laughing at me, daring me to come closer.

Ten feet away and he scampered around the tree trunk, poking his head out to watch my approach.

I circled the tree and he did the same, climbing up several feet so we could look each other in the eye. I think he was enjoying this.

We played hide and seek for awhile and then I couldn’t find him. Eventually looking up, I spied him perched on a branch, looking down on me from a safe distance.

I instructed him sternly to stop digging holes in my lawn. I think we have an understanding.