Nature seems to catch you by the tail. I think of all the butterflies I have seen whose torn hind wings bore the jagged marks of birds' bills. There were four or five tiger swallowtails missing one of their tails, and a fritillary missing two thirds of a hind wing. The birds, too, who make up the bulk of my list, always seem to have been snatched at from behind, except for the killdeer I saw just yesterday, who was missing all of its toes; its slender shank ended in a smooth, gray knob. Once I saw a swallowtailed sparrow, who on second look proved to be a sparrow from whose tail the central wedge of feathers had been torn. I've seen a completely tailless sparrow, a tailless robin, and a tailless grackle. Then my private list ends with one bob-tailed and one tailless squirrel, and a muskrat kit whose tail bore a sizeable nick near the spine.
Dillard spends a whole chapter of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek discussing this aspect of Nature. Chomped and be chomped. Eat and be eaten. That's the way things work. Even human beings are not immune to this design. Dillard lists all kinds of creatures that snack on people, from insects to worms. It's not a pretty picture.
Me? I have a few nicks and bumps. You don't get to be my age without such souvenirs. On either side of my right knee, I have two caterpillar-shaped scars. When I was a kid, I had an operation on my leg because my right leg is longer than my left. On the back of my neck, I have a dent from where a cyst was removed a few years ago. I am the proud owner of an appendix scar as well.
All of these things are my trophies of living on this planet as long as I have. I have been chomped, cut, bit, and stomped. As a parent, I've been peed and pooped on. My son has been throwing up all morning long. Sometimes he hits the bucket. Sometimes he doesn't. He has not hit me. Yet.
We all have to take our personal and collective hits. All experience heartbreaks and joys. Disappointments and triumphs. This week, some people in the United States have been incredibly jubilant. Other people have been angry and depressed. There will be healing, eventually. But there's going to be a whole lot of tailless robins and sparrows in the streets of America after things calm down.
I am trying to move on. Regain some perspective. I cannot share in the beliefs that shaped the outcome of last Tuesday night. They don't represent who I am. I can't embrace a movement that is founded on bigotry and hatred. I believe in love and charity and acceptance. That's what being a Christian is all about.
Saint Marty gives thanks for the scars on his leg and neck. His nicks and bumps. They are reminders that healing happens. Slowly.