Friday, September 11, 2015

The Quail in our house.

This morning I heard Heather's shrill call “Bill!!! and I began to run towards the house. Half way there, she said it was not an emergency but anything extra she said was lost in the shrubbery. Finally I understood that some California quail had wandered through the open living room door and when Heather came into the room they all flew up into the air and crashed against walls and windows. One dead, one unconscious and several more hiding under the furniture. Feathers, poops, scattered about.

How to get them back outside? We tried getting behind them and shooing them towards the open patio door but that just made them more anxious. Finally I managed to pick each one up and throw it up and into the garden. Even the unconscious male daddy recovered. Just one lifeless mother's body to place carefully into the bushes.

Quail are a returning species on our wooded hillside above the farm fields and blackberry jungles down in the valley. Along with this little family came neighbour's cats and we watched the family get smaller and smaller. Still, the young kept growing and now there are three young and one father with his jaunty topknot and smart suit still standing guard.

Of course they have their natural ways of dealing with danger and that is to fly up and glide off into the bushes. It is only when the living room hemmed them in that instinct betrayed them. Walls, windows are outside their native knowledge.

I wonder if human beings are caught up in the same evolutionary trap? We have a limited view and predictable responses that have also served us well for millions of years. When to fight, when to flee, an ability to deal with clear and present danger, the tendency to group together with our backs against the wall, make threatening gestures.... The trouble is, as for the quail, put the danger in too broad a context, beyond our instinctive thought horizon and all we can still do is wave our arms and shout when we should be thinking very clearly. Getting the quail to walk quietly back out the door they came in was impossible, so what do you think, are we doing the same within the confines of our planet?

Holding their little bodies in my hand, feeling their frantically beating hearts before my arm lifted and launched them into the air was a powerful experience for me, Knowing that this is 9 -11 today, seeing the Syrian refugees stumbling ashore on Lesbos, knowing that this is only the tip of the iceberg of change, sensing their beating hearts as they struggle ashore through the waves; what will it take for me to first understand and then adjust my way of seeing and behaving? What will it take?

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