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Nature's Outcasts by Deniz Dutton
 

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  • I am frequently reminded that we are not in control of nature. Nature takes care of itself- and I, no matter how much I might want to, can't be going out and messing with it's process of things. Of course, we as humans and the civilization we've built have been messing with nature for a long time, choking her and hacking at her, poisoning her in so many ways. But we can still interact with nature, kindly and with our eyes and hearts open to all the gifts she gives. I am a tree person, and a mountain person and and animal person (no longer a bug person sadly), and I know how to enjoy nature, and I try, at least, to help it in the ways I can; yet sometimes I go too far.

    Especially when it comes to helping nature's lost or injured inhabitants. I've always wanted to find an injured bird or squirrel or cat or something, bring it home and nurse it back to health, form a bond, and hopefully not have to release it to the wild again. I can't help it- I've always wanted a wild animal for a loyal pet, with a noble story to go a long with it, like "I found skipper in a ditch with a gunshot wound on the hind leg, and I picked her up and when I looked in her eyes I knew we were meant for each other, and I got some medical help and here we are, best friends."

    That never quite happened, but I've had my moments with nature's outcasts. The one I can remember most clearly is the story of Banana Beak. I went to the park after dinner a couple years ago and crossed paths with my friend Anna. She said that there was a baby bird in the park who'd fallen from a nest. As soon as I saw that little sparrow with the yellow beak, I knew I had to have them. But before I could say "Mine!" Anna went on to say that we could alternate having custody of the bird week by week. Instead of saying "MINE!" I said, "I have her for the first week. I've got the perfect place." Amazingly, Anna agreed. I'll never forget what it was like to carry the warm, fuzzy cheeping ball of feathers all the way home from the park. What was I going to do? Leave poor BB to die at the bottom of the tree? No way. I could see a bright and beautiful future for us.

    We had the habitat ready; a butterfly tent with perches constructed from Fiddle Stix (Backing up- I've got to give mom credit for actually allowing me to bring in a baby bird. Normally she wouldn't stand for that, ever). One problem- we had no idea what or how to feed the little bird. Knowing it was a bad idea, we gave Banana Beak soy milk, the worst thing you could possibly give a baby bird. Well, at least it went down his/her throat, getting something into that little belly. However.....we also had a case of milky bubbles coming out of BB's nostrils. Funny while it lasted, but I knew that it couldn't be good.

    Amazingly, that little bird lasted through the night, and I was awoken in the morning by it's chirping; probably hearing the birds outside raiding the feeder. Feeling like all was well, I went to school. Told Anna that Banana Beak was alive and 'liked' milk. But really, we were just too inexperienced; we had no idea how to take care of an infant sparrow. In other words, I spoke too soon. When I came home from school, Banana Beak was no more. (And I ended up cheating Anna of her rightful time with the bird)

    That brings me to the conclusion that, though I've been through many pets and seen many animals on the brink, I've never actually seen an animal die. Though my parakeets have died off, one by one, they always make sure that I never see their moment of leaving. It is shrouded in mystery. And that, brings me to my next story of getting involved with nature's outcasts. It was way before the time of Banana Beak, and I was taking a nature walk with Dad and his friend Steve. The prize of the trip- a perfect egg, fallen from it's nest. Disappointingly, Steve found it, but was kind enough to give it too me. I had such wonderful visions then- the egg cracking open to reveal a little baby bird, and the moment it set it's gaze on me we were bonded for life, and for the rest of my life I would have that bird perched on my shoulder, eating seeds from my hand an singing songs (I had some intense ambitions).

    When we arrived back home, though, I had a very very very stupid idea that ended up being fatal (for the egg). Instead of putting the egg under a lamp all night with a blanket, I insisted on sleeping with it. Because, my brilliant six year old mind knew that my bed could get very warm when someone was sleeping in it, and in it my egg was bound to rest at a good warm temperature. It was probably no surprise to my parents when I woke up and the egg was no where to be seen; no eggshells, no yolk, no anything. Perhaps they had cleaned it up before hand, and of course hadn't told ME.

    Really, It was pure destiny. Destiny knew I wouldn't be able to take care of a baby bird, and it decided to end it all right then and there. A pity, really. Of course, there were also times when I DIDN'T mess with nature. Briefly, at out good friends' Jay and Lyn's house I discovered a baby chipmunk, helpless and maybe blind, scuttling through a patch of weeds. I could have scooped down and caught the chipmunk, brought it home and put it in a box, but that would have ended in disaster like all the others. Thankfully I didn't, though I really wanted to. I listened to Lyn's advice.

    I have not had any recent encounters with helpless animals, and my luck with that seems to have run out; but I am as determined as ever to get it right, if I ever do. I am not an experienced animal doctor or anything, but I do have some experience. I'm convinced that now I have what it takes to do some good. I definitely know what not to do, and I know where to get my sources for advice. I know I would never want an animal to get hurt, but If one ever does, I still have the childish hope that it'll come my way!
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