This morning I woke up eager to get outside. It is a beautiful morning: sunny, blue sky, and refreshingly cool. I made coffee, made breakfast, made potato salad so it would be cool for lunch, and got outside as quickly as I could.
I decided to pull down the trumpet vines that are swallowing the house. I know they attract hummingbirds, which I really enjoy, but they are like something in a scary science fiction movie–vines growing quickly and consuming everything in their path. They are everywhere in my yard. Everywhere. I constantly find long tangles of trumpet vines where there were none the day before. I constantly do epic battle with them. They are super villains and I am the superhero.
The only thing I like about trumpet vines is that in the fall, thousands of sparrows gather on them before they go…wherever they go. When we walk near the vines, thousands erupt from their hiding places–wave after wave–and they fly around for awhile before settling in the vines again. At night we can look out an upstairs window and see them sleeping. Pretty cool. So I have hesitated to pull down the vines in the fall (or anytime) because I love the sparrows and I don’t disturb them. In the winter I forget to pull them down because it’s snowy and cold–and who thinks of yard work in the winter? Not me. I think of cuddling in a blanket in front of the woodstove with a cat on my lap.
The trumpet vines are crawling over the house, and I am increasingly concerned they will damage it, so this morning I took loppers and I cut the bases of the vines, and then I pulled them, and large sections came raining to the ground. It was quite satisfying
But, suddenly, I heard frantic cries. I immediately released the vine I was pulling on, but it was too late. I had dislodged a nest of Robin babies, and they came falling to the ground…and died.
Please don’t send me comments about how stupid I was. I was and am utterly horrified. I didn’t know the Robin nest was there. I felt like a terrible godzilla in the garden. I went inside and cried. And cried some more, and soaked four or five paper towels with my tears. My husband was sort of amazed I was crying so much. There is a rhythm to life, he said, and life and death is part of the rhythm. Do you know how many birds die every day–sparrows stealing wrens’ nests and pushing out their eggs? And besides, there is nothing you can do to fix this, so you have to deal with it.
I know he is right, but I still feel like a monster, and I have no pleasure in my garden today. And, I told him, I’m not just crying about the baby Robins. The Robins just seem a part of a world that suffers: mothers who die of cancer leaving small children behind. Fathers who lose their job and can’t provide for their families. I read yesterday that a mother had encouraged her boyfriend to rape her little four-month-old baby. The baby died. In some countries, girls are executed because they were raped…while the rapist goes free.
I hate the death of the innocent. And I am sad that today I caused death.
And now, since I have already become a super villain in my garden, I will go and destroy the home world of the Red Ants.
Ok. Maybe not today.
(There is an update to this story at Baby Bird Rescue.)