Biff America: Faith, hope and worm killing
VAIL CO, Colorado
A good man was needed, none were available, so I got the nod.
Within a matter of minutes last Saturday, I went from an assignment of worm crushing to sitting in a lawn chair waiting for a friend to fall out of a tree.
Both jobs required a heartbeat, opposable thumbs and little else.
I was trying to take a nap when my mate stormed into my room to report she had found two baby birds, which had fallen 50 feet from the nest down to our garden.
Over the years I have learned not to argue with Ellen over matters relating to animal, mineral or vegetable. We have rescued abandoned cattle – once putting a lost cow in our RV and driving it to its owner’s ranch. I have dug up trees in the wild that were too crowded and replanted them to a place where (Ellen decided) they would be happier. We have rid a neighbor’s yard (owned by a stranger) of their noxious weeds – I believe that might be called trespassing. She has also browbeaten me into weeding public property, graveyards and open space of invasive species.
Now granted, when I told my mate if she left the baby birds alone the parents would surely find them and bring them home, I was just trying to keep sleeping. She wasn’t buying it.
Accepting the inevitable, I rose from bed to check out the fallen fowl.
They looked to be pretty beaten up baby swallows; their nest was in the eaves above and seemed to be damaged.
Through a process of negotiation and assertions I did not believe, I convinced Ellie to leave the fledglings until sunset, giving the parents time to rescue them.
Any hope of returning to a nap was dashed when my bride requested I crush some worms. Seems before waking me she had done an Internet search – visiting a website for crazy people who rescue near-dead birds – to learn that fledglings are fond of crushed worms. Ellen hoped to fatten them up while she waited for their parents.
I tried to point out that killing a healthy worm to feed a bird that, more than likely, would not live was going against the natural order of nature; but mostly I wanted to go back to sleep.
I was in the process of crushing my first worm when Lou called.
Louis was given some prayer flags on a recent trip to Nepal. According to tradition the flags should be hung from the highest place possible on your home or property. That is no great task in Nepal, where trees, homes and people are very short but here in Colorado …?
Lou needed a spotter.
There were two trees in Lou’s yard – both over 100 feet. The plan was to climb one tree, attach one end of the prayer flags, then throw an ax head attached the other end of the flags across to the adjacent tree, thus stringing the flags between the two.
My job was as easy as crushing worms. I was asked to sit in the backyard, drinking coffee, watch Lou climb both trees, and if he fell to either call an ambulance or bury him, depending on his condition.
I have bad news and good news: The swallows didn’t make it; Louie did.
The Buddhist prayer flags are hung from the highest trees, and the birds are buried just under where they landed in our garden.
Were both gestures mere tilting at windmills? Could have we really raised baby birds on a diet of crushed worms and love? And did the prayer flags really need to be hung precisely according to tradition?
I’m not sure of the answer, but I do believe you shouldn’t live your life purely for results. Sometimes you fight a battle not expecting to win but because it is what you feel is the right thing to do. And sometimes in the search for spirituality you are asked to accept the implausible. Personally for me this is a purely self-serving practice. It makes me feel good to think I have at least some control over life and death even if it is only a bird’s life. And there would little better than being convinced that there is some spiritual recompense – be it from heaven or a prayer flag.
All that aside, I find comfort in a world where there is both hope and faith. I wish I had more of each, although I’m not sure, this late in the game, if that is possible. But in the meantime, my mate is out on a ride and Louie is now working so I think I’ll take a nap and sleep on it.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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