How I came to revere all life.
I was eleven years old growing up in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. Our home was miles from town and while we were MUCH better off than we were five or ten years earlier, we were still poor. Many days were spent just hitting rocks with a stick and pretending that I was a baseball player.
While I was pretending that the bases were loaded with a full count, I noticed a large bird that I had never seen before fly up not ten yards from me and land on the trunk of a red oak. I threw my “baseball” into the air whacked it with my “bat”. That stone went zinging right by that bird and he didn’t even flinch. After I was finished rounding the bases and bowing and raising my cap to the “crowd” I noticed that that bird was still pretty much oblivious to my presence.
I picked up a stone and just kind of lobbed it in the bird’s general direction. It never flinched. I became fascinated with this fairly large bird that I could not recall seeing before that simply seemed to not give a **** that I was there. I picked up stone after stone and lobbed it at the bird, and then I actually began to aim at the bird. I came real close (within an inch or so) and the bird hopped off from the trunk of the tree onto the ground. I began to get kind of mad that the bird just wasn’t afraid of me. I picked up several larger stones and began actually throwing them to hit the bird hard. This bird would just move a little away from where the stone hit and refused to fly away. I became incensed at the nerve of this bird and I picked up a very large flat piece of slate and I whipped it at the bird kind of like a Frisbee. It landed a few feet in front of the bird and then it skipped twice and on the second skip… it hit the bird!
The bird flopped around for a few seconds. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that I had actually hit the bird. My heart sank and I began to bawl like a baby when I realized what I had done. I went to the bird and I picked it up and I was franticly trying to figure out how I could get it to a veterinarian… but it was too late. I had committed a horrible sin against nature! I had killed out of anger! I was distraught, and so deeply ashamed of myself. I wanted desperately to go to my grandmother and tell her what I had done, I wanted her to tell me that I wasn’t an evil little *******, but I just couldn’t bring myself to tell my grandmother who loved nature that I had destroyed one of its creatures just because.
The bottom line is that I wasn’t sure that she would tell me what I wanted to hear. Just a few months before this incident she had caught me shooting blue jays with my bb gun. While she wasn’t a big fan of blue jays, she certainly didn’t approve of me shooting them just for fun. She made me gather them all up and prepare them for cooking. She told me that I must eat what I kill. She was one half Iroquois Indian and, while she didn’t follow much else from her heritage, she definitely shared their respect for nature
. She let me off the hook before the birds actually went into the oven, but she made it clear to me that I must not kill for enjoyment. So here I am only a short time later and I’ve done this terrible thing. I just couldn’t bear to disappoint her again, and so I lived with the guilt. I quite literally felt sick for weeks and I beat myself up on a daily basis. Then one day my grandmother was talking about something completely unrelated when she said; “when we sin and we are truly sorry, God forgives us. We have only to forgive ourselves.”
I went to the library the next morning and discovered that the bird that I had killed was a Pileated Woodpecker. I forgave myself later that night and the next morning it was as if I noticed nature for the first time. I seen the beauty of the sunlight filtering through the leaves, I heard the song of nature all around me. It was an awakening to the wonder of nature. I have had a reverence for all life ever since. I believe in hunting, fishing and the raising of animals for food. However, I am hyper sensitive to clean, humane killing. I once went off on my brother-in-law for placing crawfish in a pot and then heating the water. Life is sacred…