Christmas Day at the Rescue

It’s been an interesting Christmas break. In addition to having a sick cockatiel at home, I volunteered to feed the animals at the wildlife rescue on Christmas day. I was to feed them once in the morning, and once at night.

It was a bit of a strange morning. I couldn’t get a hold of the SPEVC to see if they had any animals for us, so I called another volunteer who said she had picked up a gull the night before, and that I would need to hydrate it. There was also a squirrel there who was having urinary tract issues, and a Robin who had bonked its head, probably on a window.

I took my husband with me that morning, and we found the seagull dead, lying peacefully under a towel, its smelt untouched. I wasn’t sure why it was under a towel, so I made up a story that a seagull angel came in the night and covered it so it would be warm on its journey to its next life. It would definitely need that towel, I surmised, because I had to transfer it to the dead animal freezer.

I didn’t feel as sad as I normally would, probably because I wasn’t there when it died. But I always take some solace in the fact that it died someplace warm and quiet and dark, and not suffering in the cold, alone and without hope.

The black squirrel was a big black husky mammal, growling and scared. Mike helped me give it some Pedialyte and its meds, but for the most part we left it alone. It peed on me once, but it seemed to have some issues, so I could only hope for the best.

I didn’t give much thought to the Robin. He was pretty easy, was self-feeding, and would probably be released soon. He looked at me strangely when I would check in on him, but as I said I didn’t give much thought to him. I knew that he would be free soon.

But then when I thought again of the Robin I thought about my sister, who was named Robin. My sister died in 1989, at the age of 29. Her boyfriend at the time, Dave Coleman, killed her. He shot her and dumped her body in a park far from her home. She was later found by an elderly man walking his dog, her body stuffed in a sleeping bag.

My brother-in-law Jimmy had to identify her. None of us ever saw her again, and her remains were cremated. My brother Craig would join her five years later, after being hit by a train. In 2002 my brother Brian was killed in a car accident. At that point we decided to dispense with the formalities and scatter his ashes in the Mad River.

Where am I going with this? Hmmm. Well, it’s that sometimes I see people I have known staring back at me through animals, mostly birds. I was probably anthropomorphizing that poor Robin, but I guess he was there for a purpose, to remind me to never forget.

Torpor

Hawk in Road

Every morning I drive to work and I look for birds on this one particular stretch of road. My gazes are fleeting – I only have a few seconds to observe these particular birds. They are waking up with the sun, warming their feathers and nares and tiny talons. They are pigeons, gulls, and blackbirds.

In winter I think alot about the birds at night. Huddled together in their nests, conserving their energy and trying to stay warm. And hummingbirds (mostly male) are in a state of torpor every night. Torpor is a state of regulated hypothermia. A hummingbird, in torpor, slows its heartrate from 1260 bpm to a staggering 150 bpm when it goes to sleep at night. This is so it can conserve its energy to wake up the next day. When a hummingbird rises with the sun, it takes 10 minutes to an hour for it to raise its heartrate back to 1260 bpm and begin its day searching for food. When female hummingbirds are laying eggs and raising hatchlings, they do not go into torpor because they must stay warm to keep their children warm.

Every day that I think of cold and warmth I think about life’s torpor, human torpor. I experience it alot, I try to get unstuck, to warm up, to begin each day anew. And I turn to the birds to find some insight. Sometimes my parrots and I watch the gulls fly overhead, and our hearts lift and long to fly away with them. I imagine what it must be like to wake with a clear view of the mountains and the sun and a pink sky, and to feel the sun on my face and the vibrations of the earth.

Where do you find your energy, your inspiration…what wakes you from your torpor? A slight breeze to lift your wings might be all you need.

May all beings be peaceful
May all beings be happy
May all beings be safe
May all beings awaken to the light of their true nature
May all beings be free

– Metta Prayer