Thursday, August 18, 2016

Life and Death Outside My Chapel Window

I opened the window in the chapel to let the evening air in, and started to pray Vespers. I heard a little chirping noise (a bunch of little chirping noises, actually), and interrupted my prayer to see what was going on. A whole little flock of quail was right outside the window; they were all dusting themselves - probably 15 or 20, of various sizes. They were making a little contented-sounding cooing noise as they fluttered softly in the dirt.


I went back to singing the psalms. Then I heard more chirping, so I looked again. One by one, they were fluttering up to one of the rails of the fence. They were lining up shoulder to shoulder, and all perched there for a few seconds. I wanted to take a picture, but the screen on the window really obscures the view from the camera.


Then the quail all went into a tizzy, and the chirping became more alarmed-sounding. They started to fly away – the ones on the fence, as well as the ones still on the ground. They were in a hurry! Then I heard frantic chirping and saw a little clump of bushes moving right at the bottom of the fence. I couldn't see what was happening; I wondered if one had gotten stuck and couldn't get through the fence and was struggling to get free.

But as the motion continued, I could tell it was something bigger making the bush move, so I thought perhaps a cat was out hunting and had caught a baby quail. More movement...I caught a glimpse of something, not as big as a cat...I still couldn't tell what it was, and thought it might be some smaller mammal. Then it emerged: a small hawk, with its talons sunk into the quail. I couldn't see the quail very well, but could see that the hawk was holding onto it. The hawk cocked its head to look down at the quail every now and then, but did not peck at it. It was as if it was saying to the quail, "Are you dead yet?"

Finally, there was no more struggling under the feet of the hawk. The quail was dead. The hawk moved behind a rock, as if God was telling me, "This scene is too graphic for you."  I could now see the top half of the hawk, but could not see the quail at all. The hawk then began to peck; it would reach down and its head would come up with a feather, which it was toss away. This continued for some time.

I went back to the psalms, but couldn't help but glance out the window occasionally to see that the hawk was still working on its meal. Meanwhile, I noticed I was singing, "Eripe me Domine ab homine malo; a viro iniquo eripe me" [Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man: rescue me from the unjust man.]  I'll bet the little quail had been thinking something along those lines, too!

When I finished Vespers, the hawk was still there. I wanted to see what was left of the quail. I went out and around to the back of the chapel, but by the time I got there, the hawk was gone. I crept up to the killing-place and looked: there were only a few feathers left – no other sign that a quail had once existed there. The hawk must have taken the rest of the little corpse away.

And then I jumped, startled: there was our cat, sitting silently just on the other side of the fence! I hadn't noticed her at all, and have no idea when she showed up! Perhaps that's why the hawk was gone. Had the hunter become the hunted?!

Oh, the drama!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

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