There is a nest of swallows right above my porch doorway, high on the south side of the house, just under the eaves. The papa and mama cared for three hatchlings throughout the spring, bringing them tidbits to munch on whenever they were hungry, which seemed like every minute of every day. Each morning, it has been a pleasant entertainment to watch the parents nurture the young ones overhead. The fact that they eat insects only makes the deal sweeter — for me anyway.
But then, sadly, recently, a car hit one of our oldest cats. It was a tragic event since several of the kids witnessed the accident, and it left an ugly mark on the day. It was no one’s fault, as the cat got right under the car’s tire and there was no way to stop it from happening. Just one of those terrible things … like a destructive storm or a deadly disease. Hell happens. Even here.
Finally, last night, as the heat of the day finally dropped to a moderate temperature, I sat out and watched the baby swallows join their parents careening about the sky. They flew in bird ecstasy, capering about like sky-born gymnasts. Delight incarnate.
I know perfectly well that the critters around the place only live for a short time. I care for them as well as I can — even to the point of risking life and limb by hanging hummingbird feeders out the second-story window. Two of our dogs are so old they can barely shuffle down the road. They try to follow us on our evening walk, and it becomes painful to watch them trying to keep up. I worry that a tractor will hit them. But they stay off the road if we’re not on it. They want so much to be with us. So they stagger along.
In the country, it can seem foolish to get attached to animals, since we know full well that some critters are raised as food. Pets are a luxury. An illusion sometimes. It is a human decision who lands on the dinner table and who gets fed from the table.
But decide we must. And our hearts get involved whether we like it or not. I struggled with the irony of critter care and affection until I realized that I’m more steward than owner. I treat each animal well, whether it is a chicken raised for meat, a dog trained for protection, or a cat urged to hunt for mice. Most of our cats and dogs do earn their keep. But not by any monetary standard.
As Beatrix Potter, A. A. Milne, Margery Williams, and other famous authors have taught me, animals do speak to the human spirit. Personally, my life would be much poorer without Peter Rabbit, Tabitha Twitchit, Tigger, Eeyore, and the skin horse.
As I observe a household cat lounging on the porch with one eye following the birds overhead, a dog ambling about the backyard with its tail wagging in silent greeting, the hens pecking at melon rinds thrown out back, and the happy swallows dancing in air, I have to stand in awe of our mighty Creator who makes the sublime so honest and approachable.
After all, who am I to befriend the supremely confident cat, the immodestly enthusiastic hound, and the sky-larking-singing-a-merry-tune birds?
I am humbled by the honor. When tragedy strikes, I bow my head and accept what I cannot change. We are all only here for a short time. When fried chicken feeds my family, I am grateful. When I stroke the thick fur of a pet, I join their gladness. When I hear the hens cackle, I laugh at their ridiculous antics. While I live, I love and nurture where I can, not drawing thick lines between the human and animal kingdom. God has already done that.
I simply admire and allow my soul to soar.
Copyright 2019 Ann K. Frailey