Good Intentions

I set out a few days ago to make the most of another gorgeous Florida day. The skies were clear and blue and I had a crack in my schedule that allowed me to make the most of it.

It has been a challenging time of late and finding time for things I love to do has been a bit of an issue, to put it mildly.

So heading down to Circle B and hitting a trail down by Lake Hancock, reacquainted me with myself as much as with the sights and creatures that abound there.

I took the big gun (the 600 mm lens) and even though I didn’t use the tripod, I managed to control it enough to get some decent shots.

I’ve added them here at the end of the blog along with a picture of Coco who was just relaxing in a gravy lovers tray when I got back and a first shot of TC … he is the newest visitor to come by for food. That makes eleven cats at my place (in case you’re counting).

Anyway, hope you enjoy!

So, it was a day or so later, when I found myself trying to help a little moth that had been chased by the cats, that today’s thought first occurred to me.

The little guy had been chased indoors and had taken a few paw swipes by the time I got to him. But, I picked him up and brought him outside to the evening air and put him on the railing just outside the front door.

He was walking but a bit unsteady, so I looked up online what to feed a moth and the answer was mostly liquid, with high sugar content. Being a bad eater, I had no fruit at the house but I did have syrup. (You can tell I like pancakes by my waistline.)

To cut a long story short, I poured a couple teaspoons of it onto a small piece of plastic and then helped him near it so he could have a drink.

But the poor little guy walked into it and almost drowned in the syrup. I managed to get him back out but now he had a real coating of the stuff all over him as he walked away.

I went back in home defeated and tried to console myself that I had good intentions. But sometimes, despite the best of intentions we not only fail … we can make matters worse.

I love living creatures. Try my very best to kill no-one and if I come across an injured creature, I will extend myself to try to help.

But sometimes, life doesn’t want our help and in this case (as Morgan put it so eloquently) I IHOP-ed the poor guy up nicely for someone out looking for a maple-flavored snack.

Our intentions will often fall apart in circumstances where we try to have a positive impact. For example, how often have you heard of someone trying to break up a fight only to be shot or stabbed?

I know that is a rather dramatic example, but it does happen. And we have to be ready for it.

Because inside our heads we search for things we can affect. Perhaps even control. We think that if we put the right effort in, then the right result will happen.

Unfortunately that isn’t true and life has a way of reminding us of our own triviality in how life plays out.

So much of life weaves its way without our intervention and while it finds a path that may not be one we would choose, we are really quite irrelevant to the end result.

Yes, there are definitely times when we can have a positive impact on things around us but sometimes we just can’t.

Our inability to create our preferred result should not deter us from trying. It is the trying that occasionally brings small victories our way or a better life to those around us. Without such efforts life would devolve into an uncaring passage of time that goes from start to finish in a straight line.

We can and do alter the course of things around us. When we alter the course of an animal’s life in a positive manner, we elevate our own in the process. Our purpose for having existed in the first place is validated and if done so unselfishly, then all the better!

But just as in my maple-flavored moth experience, sometimes we just miss. We can revisit it in our heads and second guess other things we could have done, but at the end of the day we have to recognize that we are not gods.

We do not roll the dice and yet we must follow how they roll.

… just a thought!

Conflicted Interests

Just like the day before with the the birds at feeding time, I brought the camera out again yesterday to see what little feathered friends might be helping themselves to my offerings.

But this times the birds that were around were mostly staying in the trees and bushes because several of the cats were patrolling the area. In fact Everest and Lincoln were more stalking than patrolling; Everest in the tree above and Lincoln hiding by a bush below, one leap away from where the bread had been thrown.

Even Coco who is more the pacifist than anything else, was engaged in stealthy patrol and his occasional lip-licking must have given second thoughts to many of the feathered folk.

I’ve done my best to keep the cats away from the buffet area but for weeks now they have a penchant for letting the birds know who is boss in these neck of the woods.

As much as I love birds, this is one of the problems with having ten cats sharing residence with me. They may be loving and affectionate to me but their natural predator instincts have seen the demise of many a lizard, frog, vole, mouse, rat, and even a couple of birds.

I have rescued many from the jaws of death, but for every one I have saved, there are several I have failed to.

I love cats. I find them wildly intelligent, very independent, and seriously expressive. The same little lady that gives me huge doe-eyes of affection can in a moment produce a squint-stare of death when something smaller than me crosses their path.

Anyway, I have attached several of the pics from yesterday here at the end of the blog. Even one of the half moon that hung in the afternoon skies, observing all beneath it.

Hope you enjoy!

So, it was really the whole notion of conflicted interest that wrestled with my thoughts and gave me the topic for today’s blog.

I go out of my way to save all life … everything from spiders up to raccoons. Life here has given me many opportunities to help across that full range and I am really fortunate to having been able to.

But I am also aware that life’s circle involves death-giving-life and that at best any saving I do, is merely a temporary change of fortune for whoever the beneficiary is. And when I help one today, he may be killing another tomorrow.

It is a challenging thought and it puts me at odds with the majority of the community of nature photographers. Those who don’t interfere and continue to take the shot operate to different guidelines than me. If I can help, I do.

I don’t even have a convincing argument as to why my approach might be better. But that doesn’t stop me.

When we got overrun with rats a couple of years back and getting rid of them became a final option, I still went ahead and rescued over twenty of them and rehomed them away from residential setting. One little guy even bit me and drew blood but I still continued to carry him to safety.

I think it comes down in my head to every living creature having a right to life.

(Don’t try to extend that argument to a fetus with no ability to survive on its own by the way. That’s bullshit)

But while we like to think of human lives as the most important and some lives being more important than others, I strongly disagree. The least of worms deserves to be picked up and moved to somewhere where he has a chance to live.

The choice of who lives and dies should not be up to us.

Though we have designated several species of life to be consumable (cows, chickens, pigs, etc.) this is a highly immoral and flawed choice. When we make it, we assume infallibility and yet scream blue murder when other make the same infallible choice that consumes whales, dogs, and monkeys.

There is no moral choice here, no matter how we try to convince ourselves otherwise. We choose to slaughter and consume, not out of necessity, but out of want. Call it a food chain, or culling, or medical testing, it is still murder.

I am not vegetarian but have dramatically reduced my meat intake. And it bothers me that the rest of the world has gone in the opposite direction. We consume more meat now per person than ever before in the history of mankind.

And most of this consumption occurs in the sanitized factory food-chain environment so that we don’t even have to think about what poor creature had to die just so that we could eat that nugget, or burger, or sausage.

Don’t get me started on what this preoccupation with “meat production” is doing to the environment. Suffice to say that almost 20% of all greenhouse gasses are caused by the agriculture/meat industry … that isn’t far off twice the percentage caused by all transportation (13%).

There are many choices we make that have a degree of conflict of interest in the decision. Most are simply made based on a justification of what we want to do, regardless of the impact.

If all of us could just constrain our wants a little and reduce our willingness to kill just a tad … we would certainly upset billion dollar industries, but we might actually end up saving a planet.

… just a thought.

For the Birds

Putting out food for Possums and Raccoons each evening, has become part of my daily routine and the knowledge that I am making a meal available to some poor misfortunes is part of my running feel-good factor.

The same five dishes have gone out for the last few years and touch wood, I haven’t missed a single serving regardless of weather or other commitments.

So, by this time, they are used to my routine and if I am late, I begin to get some gentle reminders from them that they are waiting for me. Of course, along with the main course for those guys is four slices of bread neatly cut into squares and tossed near the bushes and trees for the birds. And somehow the word has passed from generation to generation and my arrival with the tray of delectables is greeted by a chorus of chirps and tweets.

I get some slight variation as each season goes by but mostly I am greeted by the same happy little faces and the moment the bread hits the ground, they swoop in and collect some nourishment.

They brave the cats and I try to shoo my kitties away. But in truth, these birds have to have their wits about them and only land for a second or two.

So, getting a few pics yesterday and today was a fun part of the process and I have added a selection at the end of the blog. Yesterday’s shots were only of a few wrens as I was too slow to catch the others. But today’s images caught the earlier arrivals (Cardinals, Blue Jays, and some I still need to look up to identify.

Anyway, hope you enjoy!

It was really this evening as I spoke to the cats and told them that the bread was for the birds, that the thought of this blog really took shape.

You see, if you look up the phrase “for the birds” you will see it is an American phrase that describes something as being meaningless, drivel, irrelevant.

We have over the years belittled many creatures with simple association of demeaning phrases and it reflects on our disregard for all who aren’t human. We will call someone a dirty rat, a snake in the grass, a filthy pig, or a blood-sucking leech.

Such metaphors conjure up imagery that most listeners attach negativity to and the target of the slur is appropriately vilified.

Broader terms such as calling someone a fucking animal is also a “good hit” that seeks to degrade the target in the mind of the listener.

While it is obvious that the speaker of such slurs is demeaning the intended target, what of the poor animals that are being used to fashion the slur?

Why do we think it is ok to take two of the most intelligent animals on the planet (rats and pigs) and define them simply as an item of derision?

And on the topic of the general-term metaphor, why do we allow the word animal to be used as an attack phrase? Why do we accept it as a demeaning slur?

If we think we are on solid ground implying that an animal is somehow “sub-human”, I would argue that most of our race is sub-animal. We exhibit traits that frankly most animals wouldn’t be caught dead doing.

For example look at the Seven Deadly Sins and ask yourself what animal you could paint with Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wrath, and Sloth?

Frankly the only animal that I can think of that could be described in such a fashion is human.

Like it or not, humans are animals. We may have evolved in a different way from others but that doesn’t mean superiority.

I am not even sure we would know what superiority actually is, if it hit us in the face. We can isolate certain characteristics such as communication superiority or military superiority or such but if you don’t see our inferiority in over-colonization, destruction, and climate impact, then you are missing the bigger picture.

Humans are in many ways parasitic on the planet that we have colonized. We live off the planet’s resources but use them at a far greater rate than we replenish.

I am not sure what good we do for this planet, but I sure as hell could talk for an hour on the bad we do to it.

Look at the greater ecosystem of which birds and bees are a part of, for example. Now imagine what would happen to the planet if both were to disappear overnight.

Simply put, the planet would collapse and the world would simply die.

Now imagine what would happen to the planet if humans were to disappear overnight.

Simply put, the planet would flourish.

What does that tell you? I know what it says to me and frankly boasting of human superiority rings very hollow in the halls of truth.

I am not sure what animals actually fall into the category of sub-human … perhaps it is time to examine a list of other parasites like fleas, lice, and tapeworms.

The Oxford Dictionary explains the word “parasite” as “an organism that lives in or on an organism of another species (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other’s expense.”

Doesn’t that sound awfully familiar?

Can’t you just imagine an argument that takes place between two higher-order creatures, where one delivers the ultimate put down to the other. “Quit behaving like a fucking human.”

… just a thought.