Bear in Mind

Exploring the common minds and emotions of people and other animals and their lives together

In Fall I Grow Silent

Abiit ad maiores.

Buck and squirrel
Jeff Borchers
There was murder last night. It happened in broad daylight. Despite the waning light of fall, there are few shadows by six. We sat outside encased in the still of blue cold and reddened leaves. The squirrels are out, they have yet to burrow, but their movements are focused. They know that the day's blush of warmth is only a quick last breath of summer's grace. Cold awaits in certainty. Wings stretched and flapping, bodies fluffed, the wild turkeys also understand that time is short. But no one knows this better than the deer.

Suddenly, the quiet of summer's exhale implodes. Our bodies shake and minds go blank. The birds freeze, beaks and eyes raised upward. Squirrels run for cover. Cats and dogs cower. The touch of a finger on a gun's trigger has ripped out a soul and flung its body to the ground.

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A man and his two children stand over the corpse. He was young, at the cusp of tender teasing childhood and the audacity of budding manhood. I had watched him change this year. Without words, we both recognized his shift from a child seeking nurturing care to a youth demanding affirmation of his bold new status.

I bowed to his transformation. Defeated by nature's unrelenting honesty, I confessed my impotence to protect him forever. I acquiesced to his declaration of muscled immortality while crying inside pretending his truth. It made me feel old.

Now he lies lifeless. My fear realized. I weep in red anger, cold rage, and blue black grief. This sorrow has brought more fearful truth. They have left. The herd who has lived in these hills for decades, whose faces were as familiar as my own, has left. They have left in sorrow. The matriarch finally understood that even I, a human, could not halt my species' lust. She knew that, like the young buck, every one of her children would stagger, eyes unblinking in innocent surprise until the bullet found its deathly home.

Yes, the deer have gone, dissolved into unconscious mists and I know that they will never return. Others will follow—the turkey, the bear, the salmon, the eagle—none will return until we stop killing.

There was a murder last night. My tears fall. I stand alone with only the silence staring back.

 

G.A. Bradshaw, Ph.D., Ph.D. is the author of Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us About Humanity.

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