Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Nature of Things

As I walked up the driveway this morning (on my way home from working out—go me!) I spied something under our boat trailer. A Northern Saw-whet owl stared at me with large yellow eyes. It had caught a small bird. I stopped, not wanting to scare the little guy (?) off his meal, backed up and took a more circuitous route to my porch through the heavy, wet snow that had fallen yesterday. I crept along the porch, against the wall, and peered around the corner. Still there, the owl had returned his attention to his breakfast. Or dinner.

Quiet as I could be in my clunky boots, I went inside and told my daughters what I’d seen. They were excited about the idea of an owl in our yard, even if it was chowing on one of the birds we’d probably been feeding for the past two months. Such is the way of nature, and my girls accept the facts of eat and be eaten with more maturity than I can give some adults credit for.

Now, most folks wouldn’t be fascinated by watching an owl tear into a song bird, but as a wildlife biologist-type, the natural order doesn’t gross me out in the least. My husband and I passed our matter-of-fact attitude about such things to our girls when they were old enough to understand that you have to eat to live. We’ve never forced them to watch a lion rip into a bloody zebra, but they know a lion’s got to eat something and grass just isn’t on their menu.

When our oldest was about 3, she had a fascination with sharks. With all marine life, really, but sharks in particular. Somewhere along the line, she received a bunch of plastic sharks as a gift. The Great White was her favorite, and when she asked us what they ate we told her seals, sea lions, fish, whatever they wanted, really. She took that in stride, despite the fact she thought seals were the cutest things around.

That summer, we went to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. She took her favorite shark, of course, and happily watched sea otters dive for clams in their enclosure, touched sea stars, and marveled at the floor to ceiling tank of moon jellies. Then we went to the seal and sea lion exhibit. The exhibit was set up with windows to watch the pinnepeds swim in their underwater enclosure. They'd come right up to the windows then swim off to make their circuit around the pool. Lots of people crowded around to see the cute seals. My curly-haired, blue-eyed three year old squeezed her way between the other visitors to get a look. Folks were nice enough to let her through. After all, who can resist an adorable (if I do say so myself) small child wishing to see an equally adorable animal? As a seal approached, she whipped out her plastic shark, held it in front of the glass and, in front of fifteen or so mostly grandma and grandpa types, made loud munching and lip smacking sounds, “Ar ar ar ar!”

I thought the people around her were going to pass out from horror. Holding back a chuckle at their reaction, I gently moved my daughter away from the window, saying, “Yes, honey, sharks eat seals. Let’s go look at the sea birds now.”

There is a certain order to nature that I accept and respect. Not that I’m all “Let’s go live with Nature and be one with Her” or anything. I like modern conveniences as much as the next person. But I can explain to my kids how an owl and a pine siskin or a Great White and a seal fit into their places. It’s the “civilized” world I have a hard time with.

But that’s a rant for another time.

Here's wishing you a Happy 2007!

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At 9:15 AM, Blogger Meankitty Says... said...

Funny! Was showing DD#1 pictures of animals in her new wildlife encyclopedia, and she pretended to eat the more delicious and socially acceptable ones. We had shrimp and sushi for dinner and I refused to let her have the salmon sashimi, though.

At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I LOVE owls. Actually, I volunteered for a long time at our local raptor rehab, but I couldn't take the fact they fed live bunnies to the great horned owls (that's how I ended up with two rabbits, ya' see...)

But I still absolutely love them. Their quiet menace and their dignity...and their muppet eyes!

You were given a gift that night. :)

- Anya Bast

At 2:16 PM, Blogger Cathy in AK said...

Anya, I did a long time stint at a wildlife rehab center too, and was part of their education program. Had red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, a saw-whet owl (OMG, so cute), turkey vultures, kestrels and a raven among others as part of our live animal program. These were critters that weren't healthy enough to be re-released. We didn't feed them live food, but did feed live to the birds we were going to release. I must have a morbid facination, because I was totally into watching them hunt in the training enclosure.

At 12:07 PM, Blogger reading_is_dangerous said...

/“Ar ar ar ar!” /
...why did she think that sharks go "ar ar ar"? That is really funny! What kids come up with! A little 2 years old I know put clips in her hair, today, and told me: "I am a Christmas tree."


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