Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Life is Hard.... Can I Have Mine With Chocolate?

Scene I: For the last week or so, Catherine has been watching a nest full of eggs which is rather precariously built in the lower branches of one of our backyard trees.    She's been carefully climbing up every day to spy when the mama, a robin, wasn't around.  She's been giving us daily progress reports, anticipating the arrival of baby robins with the intensity of an adoptive mother.  Yesterday the big day finally came: two of the four eggs hatched and Cathy was thrilled!

"They're so cute, Mommy!" she enthused.

"Really?" I said.  "I'm sure they have no feathers or anything yet, do they?"

"No, but they're so cute!"

M-yeah. Truly, mother love if I ever saw it.

Scene II:  Our good friends from church brought a litter of kittens to give away a couple of weeks ago, and much to Anna's delight (Anna is our kitty girl), we said she could choose one to bring home.  Thus:  Princess Julia Ravenlocks Davis I.  Remember this one?  Anna loves this kitty.  Oh my goodness. 

 But she thought Julia needed some friends to play with and we always appreciate having a goodly number of barn cats so I told her I'd look around for some free kittens and we could get one or two if I found some.  And I found some last week.  Thus:  Butch and Lizzy.  Butch and Lizzy don't hold the same place in Anna's heart as Princess Julia, who is a snuggle-kitty, but everyone generally likes them.

Scene III:  Late Monday afternoon a piercing shriek splits the air.  Butch (the tabby) has climbed the tree and attacked the robins' nest.  Catherine is horrified, anguished, but powerless to do anything.  One of the hatchlings is knocked from the nest, the other one is Butch's dinner.  The girls are screaming to get Butch out of the tree and away from the other two unhatched eggs.  The mama bird has returned and is dive bombing Butch.  The girls are throwing sticks up into the tree.  It's an awful scene.  But Butch doesn't seem to understand that he's the cause of it.  He looks down from the tree with casual interest, somewhat bewildered by the sticks that are whizzing by him.  Finally he decides he'd better find a safer place and climbs out of the tree. 

All the girls are upset, but Catherine is heartbroken.  She scoops up the baby bird and its heart is still beating, though it's very weak.  She brings it in to try to save it, placing it in a shoebox with a warm towel by a hot lamp.  She makes bread soaked in milk to try to feed it.  She sleeps next to it, keeping an eye on it through the night, but by morning, the little thing has passed away.  It's a sad morning.

But by the time I've gotten dressed and poured a cup of coffee, Catherine's gone out and climbed up the tree.  Her duty to the baby bird now over, her first thought is to check what, if anything, is left in the nest.  She comes in, happy to report that two eggs survived the upheaval.  And she's consoled.  We all are.

But everyone is still sorry about the loss of the two little baby birds.

Wrap Up: This incident is just one of many hard realities the children will have to live through.  Relatively speaking it's a small thing, but it's terrible to see them cry over it.  Heaven knows, it's hard enough for me to understand why bad things happen, but harder to help my children understand.  I can try to explain it:  It's a simple fact that cats are hard-wired to prey on birds.  But that doesn't make it easy to accept when you see it happen.

There are so many hard lessons in life.  Why do cats eat birds? Why do foxes eat chickens?  Why does it hail and flatten our flowers?  Why do our big brothers have to grow up and move away?  Why do people we love get sick sometimes?  Why do they die?  Why are there tornados and floods and natural disasters that kill innocent people?  Why does there have to be war?  Doesn't God care about us?  Why does He make us suffer?   Why doesn't He protect us from bad things? 

The only answer I could give the girls about the kitten and the baby birds is that the predator-prey thing is part of the natural order that God made for our world.  One event or instinct brings about another event.  A bird that builds its nest too low in a tree sets itself up for disaster.  A farm without a good farm dog may have its chicken house invaded by foxes.  People who build levees and live right next to the river can expect to suffer from floods.  Tornado alley is going to have tornados.  Countries whose borders are in drought zones will have trouble feeding their citizens.  People who suffer from the fall of Adam will learn from their own greed and corruption.  Mortal bodies die. 
But our souls live forever. 

And this is what we have to depend upon.  God wants us to care for our mortal world and our mortal bodies, but they are not what our lives are about.  We're here to save our souls.  And that means we have to learn the hard lesson about mortality.  Our mortality.  And the mortality of little birds.  Sometimes it's best to learn it a little bit at a time -- as hard as it is --  the fact that nothing on this earth lasts forever.  Not the good times. But not the bad times either.

The first hatchlings are gone.  But we have two more eggs to watch now.  And trees all around us full of nests.  It's all good. 

The kids and I are learning it together.

And if we want we can take it all in with optimism and understanding -- and chocolate.


GrandmaK said...

Wonderful life lessons! Cathy

Anne said...

She is such a sweetie! I took over Don's place for a few rounds at the HSFD, and had her in the group...What a cutie!