Rite of Spring

It is early March and I am sitting on the back porch feeling the sun warm my winter-weary bones. Dripping sounds echo from a drain spout as the gutter receives and channels water cascading down from snow piled high on the roof. A solitary fly lands on a melting drift, pausing to take a drink. It is only in the high 40’s and I am surrounded by three foot snow drifts, but I soak in this moment with a smile on my face. Spring is just around the corner and I am uplifted by emerging signs. 

Birds show indications of spring behavior. Male plumage is becoming more colorful, exhibiting the vibrant hues designed to attract a mate. Nesting activity by both genders stimulates more action at our bird feeder. It takes a lot of energy to seek a site, build a nest, and defend a territory. Even though I see a few skirmishes, I am always amazed by the gentle interspecies cooperation around the feeding station. It seems the birds simply want to find nourishment and get back to work. It is a waste of energy to fight.

The scene is quite peaceful until I notice a large shadow swooping down. I hear a subtle “whoosh!”— followed by a wild batting of wings. All birds vanish from the feeder area except for the sharp-shinned hawk that found its morning snack. A dark-eyed junco held within the accipiter’s talons breathes its last breath. Feathers float down from the juniper tree where the hawk is perched to consume its meal. I doubt whether the junco felt much except for a moment of surprise. It was all over in a flash.

I am strangely inspired by this glimmer of nature’s dance. Although I feel compassion for the poor junco, I am witnessing something quite beautiful. Offering a prayer for the little bird, I experience a sense of equanimity. All death is the same. We self-aware beings tend to make our deaths more important by avoiding it if at all possible. Animals seem to know it is part of life. 

One can observe a herd of deer settle down when a wolf has taken its prey. The birds at our feeder disappear for awhile and return later as if nothing has happened. The hawk may or may not come back. I do not think it will disturb their nest building and mating rituals. The eternal rite of spring emerges from the decay of winter. Life (and death) goes on.

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