Friday, April 24, 2009

Intercession or interference?

It fell from the sky, apparently. And as it lay there on the ground, occasionally twitching slightly, I couldn't walk away. The swallow was stunned, and bleeding from one eye. I watched it for some time, waiting to evaluate its condition and mulling over what to do. Without warning, it took to the wing and flew in a low, wide arc across the street. As it neared the far side, having reached a foot or so above the ground, its arc was abruptly truncated with a dull thud, as it struck the rear of a parked car. It lay sprawled on the hot dusty tarmac. I crossed the street, deciding that I could not leave the bird in such an environment, envisioning it slowly dehydrating in a gutter, else making another panicked attempt at flight, resulting in another head-on collision with a car. I carefully wrapped my fingers around the bird, wary of causing any additional damage. Immediately, it panicked and darted from my hand, heading underneath the parked car. Subsequently emerging, and lying statically in the sun, I decided to try again. This time I closed my fingers around it more tightly, carefully but firmly clasping its wings to its body in the hope of restraining them such that they would not be damaged if it struggled. It let out a few repeated cries, and as I slowly softened my grip it calmed its behaviour. I could still feel its heavy breathing. I was startled by the forcefulness of the thumping of its heart against my fingers. I walked over the street and laid it in the middle of a large lawn under the shade of a large, distant tree. After time it took to the sky, slowly circling and climbing, until another swallow descended upon it. They proceeded to circle, occasionally coming together and tumbling about some imagined centre of mass. It then became apparent to me that the cause of the bird falling from the sky originally was probably the outcome of a territorial bout.
At some point during this episode, a friend said to me that you have to let nature take its course. It's a fair point, of course, but it revived a question that I've pondered before. That is, where does our responsibility of stewardship of the Earth, of humanely minimising the suffering of others, give way to interference?