If you garden with real engagement (more than mowing and retreating to the emotional safety of your four walls), you sometimes see things you would prefer to have missed. I confess myself to be guilty of sugar coating what goes on in my garden because I love it and would not have that experience diminished by the grim things that happen there from time to time. And yet, to cultivate a relationship of real understanding with it, you sometimes have to face the harsher truths.
Last evening I went out to check on water and provisions for some of our garden guests (we live on a wooded easement, so we get an astonishing variety) when I found someone had helped themselves to an appetizer: the ground near one of our bird feeders was covered with feathers.
The temptation, of course, is to remonstrate against this. I love the birds who visit us. I took time to contemplate the scattering of feathers, though, and to count backward through the food chain in just my own small plot: a bird that eats the dragonflies, a cat that eats the bird, the owl or the coyote that eats the cat. Nature sometimes confronts you with its reality, where life may be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” If you cultivate a place for Nature to happen, those realities get included.
A few years ago, I was listening to a panel discussion regarding child labor in the Far East, and one of the participants who is a child protective services worker in that arena shockingly observed that in spite of the harshness of the working conditions and the disconnect with what we in the West visualize as what childhood ought to be, such labor was in fact preferable to the alternative of many of these same children being sold into prostitution, an economic alternative to which their poverty-stricken parents might resort. She recommended improvement of the working conditions, not elimination of the work. This was a way of looking at what the realities were that stretched far beyond what I had previously experienced. It was uncomfortable.
When I saw those fallen feathers, my mind turned to those children. What sacrifices the world requires at times!
I took a picture of the feathers and have looked at them repeatedly. I have not moved them from their place. Sometimes, in spite of the discomfort, it is required that you Find. One. Thing. to examine from more sides.