This sacred life
birds, turtles, trees, places
This morning, Mowgli was meowing most urgently near the balcony. Attuned to unusual activity as she is, we figured something must be up with the sparrows. Mum’s guess was that baby sparrow, who we had been hearing going tweet tweet for a few days, had fallen out of the nest in its fledgling attempts to fly. And this was true; baby bird had indeed fallen to the floor.
Thankfully, she wasn’t injured, and as I kept an eye on her it seemed she was able to hop around quite expertly. Tiny-hearted as she must be, a little bit of frantic hopping meant eventually seeking rest in a corner by a plant where her parents couldn’t see her. I observed and filmed as the adult sparrows flitted in and out of the balcony, perching on fence and branch and twig and ledge but never seeming to spot their silly child. I picked her up and placed her within sparrow’s eye view multiple times and she’d keep hopping elsewhere. Eventually, mum thought of bringing up the wooden birdhouse we once acquired from Sunday bazaar, in which a previous fledgling had died in the past, and placing baby bird inside with the top flap open. This worked, and over time the parent sparrows reunited with baby and grew increasingly comfortable flying in and out with food in their beaks to feed her.
All of this was an absolute joy to witness. I was filming throughout, from lost to found and fed, excited to make a little film of the story. And now I have so much beautiful footage, and I am so sad to say that I don’t feel like making it anymore, because while we were having lunch, one of the crows that live nearby with its eyes on the baby bird took its chance and when we checked again, baby bird was nowhere to be seen. We’d been keeping vigil for hours save for this break, which both mum and I regret having taken. I suppose there’s only so much we can be around to watch, and I also suppose this is what nature does. Afterwards, I saw the mama sparrow come back with food in her beak, perched on the fence, searching.
I’m now aware this probably, of course, happens all the time. Bigger creatures preying on little creatures. This is why when I see any animal grown to full size I can’t help but feel proud of them for making it this far. But investing myself in the story of this bird family, and witnessing the disappearance knowing it was the crow and what fate it must have met still breaks my heart a little (a lot).
I wonder how used to losing their children sparrows are and I wonder what they feel when they can’t find their babies anymore. Aware of my sadness at the witnessing of a bird’s life being taken away, I’m also thinking of the thousands of Palestinian mothers and fathers losing their children. My conscious mind cannot grasp it anymore.
I’m thinking about the sanctity of life, really. Yesterday I witnessed turtles coming to the beach at night to lay their eggs for the season, a sight I haven’t seen since a school field trip some 19-20 years ago. While so magical to see, I woke up in the middle of the night that night feeling deeply sad. One of the turtles slowly made her way up close to a hut, and we whispered among ourselves wondering why she was going to close to it, and then realized that maybe the last time she was here there was no hut and there was far more sand. And also knowing that her eggs aren’t safe, that some men on Burns Road sell baby turtles in cages; baby turtles they’ve poached from the beach. Some awakened part of my subconscious was finding it difficult to find rest again as I thought about the turtles and the lack of respect for their nesting environments and their lives, and then also simultaneously comparing this to the lack of respect for Afghan refugees and their lives, and the bombing of lands and people and animals and the absolute disregard for life that this whole exercise in destruction implies.
Early in our quest for the turtles we spoke to some fishermen. One of them was named Naseer, a man with a warm aura about him who ended up telling me he works as a beautician. Suddenly, this person became so real to me; in my head he went from someone in the fishing community to someone who is full of life.
Everything that is living is full of life.
IMAGINE THAT. So much of really feeling the weight of that has to do with witnessing the world around me. The difference between witnessing a genocide and ‘comforting’ myself with the knowledge that it has happened before, is in the witnessing itself. You can’t go from aware to unaware…because now you know.
I am aware that in this moment people are being killed in more places than one. I’m aware that turtles are coming out to lay their eggs and there isn’t enough room for them and their eggs will be stolen and also that gentrification hardly gives a thought to humans, let alone poorly understood magnificent creatures of the sea. I’m aware that crows eat baby sparrows, even the ones in my balcony.
Of course not everything can be compared.. nature is not necessarily acting unjustly. Crows do not have a fascist imperialist agenda.
But still… thinking about the sanctity of life - all forms of it. It’s beautiful and it’s heavy.