When I came home from work I found the red-breasted sapsucker dead on my back porch. It lay on a mottled black and red blanket that covers my air mattress. I sleep there sometimes, the battle with mosquitoes fair trade for the cool touch of the night air and the open view of the stars, their brilliance unhindered by city lights. First thing I thought when I realized the lump on the blanket was a dead bird, was how well camouflaged it was, just as it had been against the trunk of the nearby aspen where the sapsucker had spent much of its time. Against the tree, the white and black feathers merged with the same shades on the trunk. On the blanket, the redness of the bird dominated over its black and white, blending in perfectly with the blanket. Amazing how nature hides its creatures so well.
Hides them until an element more powerful comes along. I don’t think it was my cat; he is old and slow and was inside all day. Perhaps it was the picture window, as the bird’s body lay just below the window. And when I picked him up, there was no blood, only the lifeless, stiff feel of him, in sharp contrast to his previous vibrant state, pecking away at sap on the aspen trunk or soaring across the field to the pines where his mate waited, more cautious than he.
I’m alone in this big house along the lake, and the resident animals help to entertain me, the sapsuckers, the deer, the red-tailed hawks, even the bats that swoop into my bedroom through the open door, fold their webbed wings and cuddle into the corners of the vaulted ceilings—providing even more reason to sleep outside. A senseless death of one of my creatures grieves me, and opens my thoughts to more.
The loss of a beautiful bird, who went about his work so diligently and whose short, sweet call was a pleasure to hear, is a loss, but we’re surrounded by losses more profound. I think of my relationship with the little bird and then I consider the relationship thousands have had with wolves that have needlessly died, in Idaho and Montana, Michigan, outside of Yellowstone, and elsewhere. People have observed these intelligent and competent animals, come to know and respect them, and then had to tolerate an existence in which the wolves were legally killed, as though they were nothing more than clay pigeons, target practice for a bored hunter.
I think about Journey, the wandering wolf who is bedded down now in southeast Jackson County and southwest Klamath County, a few miles from my home. Journey is a symbol of hope for so many, hope that wild creatures still stand a chance of surviving in our developed and overcrowded world, and hope that we’ve finally evolved past the need to conquer and kill.
But it would only take Journey a day or so to travel north, cross the Snake River and enter Idaho, where it is a well publicized fact that there are those who would love to gun him down and lay claim to ending the life of the world’s most famous wolf.
What would we do, what could we do, to prevent this from happening if Journey decides to travel that way?
We are working so hard to salvage a safe existence for wolves. Yet our victories are few. Are we strong enough in our efforts, or have we allowed ourselves to settle, to give into the acceptance of violence and discrimination that the dominant paradigm adheres to?
Have we, in Rachel Carson’s words, “….fallen into a mesmerized state that makes us accept as inevitable that which is inferior or detrimental, as though having lost the will or the vision to demand that which is good?”
Perhaps there are tactics we have not yet explored in our efforts to save wolves…
Ashland gives me inspiration that I have not felt in years, not since I was a naive and trusting young woman who believed that justice, love, and compassion would invariably win out. A few weeks ago, someone(s) snuck into a field outside of town and uprooted 6,500 sugar beet plants, pulling them up by their roots and tossing them on the ground to die. Vandalism? Economic sabotage, as the FBI says? Perhaps, but the reason these sugar beets were destroyed was because they were GMO crops, planted by Syngenta, a company similar to Monsanto. So which is the worse sabotage, the destruction of the crops or the production of genetically modified plants that have been scientifically proven to greatly impair our health as well as the efforts of local, organic farmers?
The individuals who pulled up Syngenta’s plants face federal charges for their actions. It was illegal to do what they did, despite the fact that their efforts were done in regard to the greater good, rather than the artificial, economic dynamic that tends to run our world. Civil disobedience is at times the only remaining recourse when the health and well-being of the planet and its inhabitants are at risk.
I wonder… how many people would it take to stretch across the border between northern Oregon and Idaho, to stand between a lone grey wolf and the people who wish to shoot him? Laws would be broken in this effort, charges like–infringing on the rights of hunters and trappers, trespassing on private land, interfering with the duties of the Idaho Fish and Game Department, perhaps with some uniformed Wildlife Service officers as well. But if it kept a bullet from killing one more wolf, and a wolf that epitomizes so very much, it would be worth it.
We’d best start planning soon; one never knows what’s next on Journey’s agenda.