Perversely human

There was nothing that seemed wild about this wild visitor on May 14, 2014

Nothing seemed wild about this wild visitor to our Alexandria home.  May 14, 2014

“It is a perversely human perception that animals in their native habitat are running wild.”Robert Brault

This quote started me thinking about the terms “wild animals” and “in the wild.”  I concluded that the word “wild” has mutated into a variety of meanings, and is often applied to human behaviors that would never be found among the animals, though we might flatter ourselves that unrestrained or nefarious human conduct is something also found in nature, falsely equated with “freedom.”

In reality, animals in their natural habitats are still constrained, if not directly by humans, by nature itself.  Weather, food supply (or lack thereof), disease and other animals all exert a powerful influence, as do the patterns of behavior that we think of as instinct.  Anyone who has ever watched a bird methodically assembling a nest or feeding its young would have to conclude that some humans could benefit from such “wild” diligence.

Living in the most urban environment I can remember, I have been surprised to have more interaction with undomesticated animals than I have had in most other places I’ve lived.  The birds, deer, rabbits and squirrels that visit our townhome have a boldness in proximity to humans that I’ve not seen before.  While I enjoy it, I also wonder whether it’s not worrisome, for us and for them.

In any case, it’s always a delight to see them, which almost always happens when Jeff spots them first and calls me to point them out.  The next time you see “wild” animals, I hope you will take some time to enjoy watching them and reflecting on whether their actions might have as much (or more) purpose as many of ours do!

One year ago today:

Joy untroubled



  1. Susan

    Ha! In contrast to the domesticated couch potato, it would seem apparent! Although, when one reads Psalm 8, it is humbling to understand our human importance, purposeful or otherwise.

    • Yes, obviously the Psalmist realized what an enormous gift — and responsibility — it is, to live as intelligent and capable humans in this fascinating world.

  2. Larry

    The rabbit appears healthy and probably thought as long as it was motionless no one would see it. It is similar to the ostrich’s head in the sand. You certainly made a clear and beautiful picture. Hope everyone is better and rested after being at home now for several days. There is certainly no better place than home. Enjoy the weekend!

    • Yes, I’ve always thought they were somehow trying to disappear or at least look as tiny as possible! Although, as I say, the ones around here are pretty fearless. They obviously think of all carefully tended landscaping as their own buffet! 😀 Hope you have a great weekend too.

  3. raynard

    Julia were I work ( Dupont) is considered a wildlife santuary. ( We leave the rabbits, groundhogs squirrels and deer alone. Did I mention, skunks ? lol Last 2 years there have been Hawks “who would love to have one of those’Meaty groundhogs for supper and a midnight snack lol. ( not a fan of turkey buzzards but they specialize is”roadkill sanitation” be blessed

    • Raynard even though buzzards aren’t pretty up close, they look amazing when flying around, I think. Plus as you mention, they perform a valuable public service. 😀 I have never seen a skunk around here but recently for the first time I could tell one had been around, if you get my drift. Kind of unmistakable, aren’t they? It’s interesting to think of an industrial giant like DuPont being located at a wildlife sanctuary. Obviously no toxic waste there, or at least none that the animals haven’t adapted to.

  4. I marvel when I inspect a birds nest. The intricate structure leads one to wonder what blueprint was used to build it. However, birds receive no outside instruction, nor have a trade school to attend. It is innate to their species. Which brings me to your great line in the opening paragraph-“Though we might flatter ourselves that unrestrained or nefarious conduct is something also found in nature, falsely equated with “freedom”.”

    As we may aesthetically pause to enjoy the actions of the bird; the bird does not return the favor. It’s not in the bird’s nature to do so. But, it is in ours. When we think and act beneath ourselves we are on a plane we were not meant to descend to. By our natures we are free to choose to descend to the animal, but the animal is not free to ascend to us. And is content not in not doing so, by simply obeying nature’s rules for it.

    So we humans only fool ourselves when we exercise our free will haphazardly. Because, if we do as we please, and do it unharnessed; we will find ourselves in want of that freedom,we so much prize.

    Since we have the capabilty to be wise. There just may be a reason for it.

    • Alan, that’s so true. What may seem as freedom in the beginning often leads to other forms of imprisonment (to addiction and other self-destructive behaviors). So we will do well to exercise our capacity for wisdom while we still can. As Bob Dylan wrote in his Grammy-winning song, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

  5. Sheila

    Julia, although I don’t know our rescue dog’s whole story, I know enough that he was subjected to the wild and the conditions of being a stray. Although he is a full bloodied Boykin Spanial, he was in such bad condition when he was picked up by the animal control, that he was put on the euthanize list. We have the first seven days under our belt but it has been challenging. We’re taking the WILD out of him, little by little. 🙂 I so hope that the family there is doing well. My prayers are continuing always!

    • Sheila, I am so proud of you for rescuing your new dog! I will pray everything goes well with his “rehab” training! How old is he? Have you decided on a name yet? We are all doing OK – planning to take a few days to relax and unwind a bit this week. Thanks so much for your prayers. Keep us posted on your new family member! ❤

  6. Julia, hello. A great picture of an another amazing example of God’s creation. thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Merry, you’re welcome! I thought that was quite a handsome rabbit so I was happy to be able to post the photo — I’m so glad you like it!

  7. Michael

    Right now we are battling the invasion of the crows. We had four robin’s nests in our car port and the crows got to every one of them. When I asked a local birder about this and if there was anything I could do for the Robins he said,” Well not really- crows are pretty aggressive predators. Any ideas?

    • OH NO! I love crows, but I didn’t realize they preyed on other birds. That makes me sad. I wonder if a bird house could be built where the entry point was too small for a crow to get in? It seems like they are a good bit bigger than the robins. Have you seen those bird houses with clear walls so you can see inside? I wonder if the birds mind having all that light come through? If I had a bird house, I would love to be able see inside it.

  8. She’s just beautiful Julia. Surrounded by all that yummy green grass, it was no doubt a pleasant place for her. Look at those big eyes. You’re spot on about animals we see in our everyday lives. As you know, we have a lot of rabbits around here too. But we can hardly refer to them as ‘wild’ given their daily proximity to people. We have a water feature in the park that attacks birds and bunnies. While we enjoy their antics, they’re rehydrating on a hot day. Everyday, all day, I imagine is a feat of survival. Food, Shelter, Water. Might seem basic but in a big city there’s buses, lawn fertilizer, garbage, dogs and who knows what else for them to be conceded about. They’re akin to homeless people a little. We’ve taken away their habitat, so they have to make do living on the street. It can’t be easy.

    • Yes, I think it’s easy to idealize what life is like for an animal. It must be a constant struggle to survive. I read once where Temple Grandin (a brilliant animal behavior scientist who has autism) said that her autism helped her understand animals, because the hyper-vigilance that almost always goes with autism is something that animals have to have just to survive. She wrote a book called Animals in Translation that I really want to read. The interview I read where she said that about animals was one that was done when that book first came out, many years ago. I think rabbits touch my heart so much because the look so vulnerable. Did you read Watership Down? I haven’t read it, but Jeff and Matt did and they really liked it.

      • I have seen an interview with Temple Grandin, but I haven’t followed her writings. Seemed to be really intuitive about animals.
        I’ve never read Watership Down but I’m a little familiar with the story. It’s interesting how these everyday obscure ideas become literary classics. Maybe we only hear about the ‘non-writers’ who become famous -vs- professional writers that write another book. Almost anything in nature looks vulnerable to me. I worry about every little thing out there.

        • I worry about them too, all sorts of animals. If I see an animal (wild or stray) that appears to be injured it will haunt me for days, especially if I am not in a position to do anything about it. I always feel so protective and fearful when I see baby birds leave the nest. Sometime I will have to blog about my adventure with the two baby birds Jeff discovered outside that were “fused together” (we thought they were Siamese twin birdies until my Daddy explained to me why he did not think that would be possible, scientifically speaking) and unable to fly. “They are going to die if we don’t do something,” Jeff said. We eventually caught them, called for advice from wildlife rescue, and got them to the veterinary hospital where I got really defensive when they wouldn’t let me come back to the examining room with them. I kept insisting adamantly that I did not want them euthanized. Then when they found the problem (a thread that had become wrapped around their legs soon after hatching; the skin on their tiny feet had grown over it, and they were bleeding from removal of it and had to be put on antibiotics) they explained to me that the birds would be released back into the wild once their legs started to heal and I asked if they could come back to my yard and the people looked at me like I was some pathetic crazy 100-cat lady or something. They would not let them be released back to my yard but they said they would stay in this area. I did get photos of them, stuck together, when we first caught them, poor little things. So maybe I will blog about it sometime and then lots of people can think I’m a crazy cat lady. 😀

          • That’s such a nice story Julia, thank you for sharing. Very odd that the vet wouldn’t let you take them with though. Makes you wonder. Hopefully they followed through with that commitment to you. I think it’d make a really sweet post too. I’m so glad you got to help. It was just the nicest thing to do xoxo

            • I guess they just don’t let people in the vet’s hospital treatment rooms with them, but they were nice about refusing and I really did feel as if they were being truthful with me when they promised the birds would be OK and would be released soon. They just weren’t healed enough to go out yet and the people could not commit to having the wildlife rescue come to my home and release them into my yard (I could just hear them thinking, come on lady, these are not like your pets or anything). I do think on some level they sympathized with my concern for the birds and they were reassuring. Jeff had first found the birds in the late evening and the little things were scurrying across the ground so fast we could not catch them (it amazed me how fast they could move) and they ran under the bushes and we lost sight of them. I was so upset I emailed a lot of people and asked them to pray for those little birds and I didn’t care if they thought me crazy. Then I prayed for them that night several times and worried all night and when Jeff found them the next morning I was overjoyed that they were still alive and that he was finally able to catch them (he had to wear heavy gloves to keep them from scratching or pecking his hands). So by that time I felt very “invested” in them, and the story had a happy ending which felt wondrous after 24 hours of worry.

              • Poor little things sure were lucky to be in your yard. I can’t imagine how scary for them to be chased around by a giant (sorry Jeff). I’m so happy for their second chance by your caring hands. You’re a sweetheart and your hubby, a gem xoK

                • Awww, thanks K, I think anyone would have done the same. Those tiny little critters were so adorable and so touching. I am just happy that it ended well.

      • Rene

        I haven’t read Watership Down, but I have read another book by Richard Adams called The Plague Dogs. It a little to read, but it was wonderful and had a happy ending.

        • I haven’t heard of that one – I will have to look for it at the library or my paperback swap. I looked up and read the review of it online, and it sounds wonderful. But I’m glad you told me it had a happy ending, or I would be afraid to read it. I get very sad when I read stories with unhappy endings. I remember reading It’s Like this, Cat when I was in elementary school. It was a very well-written book, deserving of the Newberry Medal it won, but the ending was so hard for me to take. I might feel differently about it if I read it as an adult, but it was a bit much for a young reader. I do think there is a place for books with tragic endings, though. I think Of Mice and Men is a masterpiece, as is the wonderful film of it made by Gary Sinise.

  9. Michael

    Yesterday’s UR was about writers block. There was a wonderful quote attributed to Ray Bradbury. Here it is.
    Excerpt from a Paris Review interview with science fiction author Ray Bradbury ( p. 202, Spring 2010)
    Interviewer: Do you ever go back and reread your books and short stories?
    Bradbury: Every so often, late at night, I come downstairs, open one of my books, read a paragraph and say, “My God.” I sit there and cry because I feel that I’m not responsible for any of this. It’s from God. And I’m so grateful. The best description of my career as a writer is “at play in the fields of the Lord.” It’s been wonderful fun and I’ll be damned were any of it came from. I’ve been fortunate. Very fortunate.
    I don’t know if you caught. But when you think of “Christian writers” how often do you think of Ray Bradbury? What is a Christian writer? C.S. Lewis was, though not clergy- overtly Christian or wrote about religious themes but science fiction? I guess it is easy to stick people in a box and that is part of our nature: to categorize, but it is bigger than that.

    • Michael, it is much bigger than that. I myself was taken aback to see John Updike honored as a Christian writer some years before he died, and he himself (in his humble acceptance speech for that award, which I have saved a copy of somewhere) discussed the unlikeliness of anyone thinking of him as a Christian writer. But the last of his “Rabbit” books (and I think the least read, unfortunately) Rabbit Remembered seemed to underscore that as an appropriate category in which to place him – to say nothing of his lovely story “Pigeon Feathers.” As for the late, great Mr. Bradbury, I was very lucky to be able to meet the man in person many years ago, and he is as wonderful in real life as he is on the page, direct and honest and compassionate and surprising. I did get my photo made with him so maybe I will blog about it sometime. I don’t think of him as a “Christian writer” in the strictest sense of the word, but I believe a great many artists, and especially writers, have communicated profound truths through works that others might see as objectionable or even profane (J.D. Salinger, for example). I never read anything by Bradbury that I would consider profane or godless, and much that did have a strong spiritual undertone. Of course, I love him most for his unceasing praise of libraries! 😀

  10. Michael

    That’s cool that you met Mr. Bradbury. That would be a neat picture and well put about spiritual truths being expressed from writers of diverse backgrounds- i.e “The Life of Pi.” So I guess a “Christian writer” in the strictest sense of the word would be Rick Warren? I don’t know.
    Not that familiar with Updike either. Too many books -so little time. And per the previous article- do you ever experience writer’s block?

    • Michael, publishers talk of the “Christian market” and the “general market” in terms of who the intended audience for a book might be…but I think God might define “Christian writer” very differently than we do! So in the strictest sense, I think we could say that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter and Paul were Christian writers…plus James and Jude…but beyond that, it’s wide open for debate! I guess each and every work should stand on its own merit. We might do better to talk of favorite writers and favorite topics, but maybe the term “Christian writer” is defined in so many was as to be essentially meaningless. C. S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Max Lucado Anne Lamott and John Paul II have all been inspirational to me in one way or another, though they write with markedly different styles and come from vastly different doctrinal backgrounds and viewpoints (different from me and from each other). But the same can be said of many other writers who are not normally defined as “Christian writers.”

      As regards writer’s block, I don’t think I’ve ever had it. My words tend to flow far too easily, as long as I can organize my thoughts sufficiently. It’s not hard for me to produce words — what’s hard is knowing whether they are any good. I think maybe a lot of different things are referred to as writer’s block, such as a lack of structure and organization to one’s ideas, or fear and inhibitions that prevent honest expression, or mental exhaustion that renders one incapable of any sort of lucid and competent articulation. I’ve had all of these, but I don’t think of any of them as being writer’s block.

  11. Michael

    I am going to cut and paste your last post as part of our discussion on “Christian writers.”
    Sue Monk Kidd” When the Hearts Waits” is also great. And Thomas Merton’s,”Seven Story Mountain.” also Ronald Rollheiser and Richard Rohr on the Catholic side and of course Dag
    Hammersjold’s,” Marking”s. And then Pema Chodron for the Buddhist perspective and common insights. By the way, I believe it is possible and probably helpful to be at the same time Buddhist and Christian. There is a lovely book whose authors name escapes me, called -“Living Buddha -Living Christ.”
    Teilhard de Chardin ” is another, but so deep I have trouble following- i.e The Divine Millieu and he has a little collection,” On Suffering” that kind of rocked my base.

    • Michael, the book you mentioned (Living Buddha – Living Christ) is by Thich Nhat Hanh, whom I’ve mentioned here before. As a Buddhist monk, he apparently feels about Christianity the way many Christians might feel about Buddhism; he sees in the teachings of Jesus much that is compatible with his own religion. However, he is a Buddhist, not a Christian, and lives in accordance with Buddhist teachings while recognizing that there is some common ground between the two. Ultimately I don’t think one could be a practicing disciple of both faiths, since there are aspects in which the teachings of Jesus directly contradict some of the tenets of Buddhism, and vice versa (at least insofar as I understand them). I think this is demonstrated by the fact that many Buddhists are atheists. But not all of them are, and having been inside a Buddhist temple on more than one occasion and seen people praying to the giant gold statue of Buddha inside, I couldn’t ever see anyone being a strict adherent of both religions at the same time. There are those who argue that Buddhism is a philosophy and not a religion, but again, even if this is true for some Buddhists, it would point up the incompatibility between the two. Christianity is not considered merely a philosophy by anyone I know who believes in it, though I know several unbelievers who admit to accepting some of its basic teachings.

      As mentioned in my earlier comments about writers, I think truth is sometimes found in places where we might be surprised to find it. I believe truth is a strong and living thing, so it is not surprising when elements of truth are articulated across all philosophies and religions. That doesn’t mean I think they all are equally valid. But I am always happy to encounter truth wherever it is found, and I rejoice that it manages to make its way through the cracks in our faulty thinking, much as light can shine in the darkness through even the smallest crevice.

  12. Michael

    I think we discussed Ann Lamott before. That she at one time lived in the San Juans, where she wrote -” Bird by Bird,”in a little cabin. She had a friend who was a pilot she would often fly with. The pilot was a Geology professor at Western in Bellingham, my alma mater. He was later killed while teaching stunt flying to the stunt team in Dubai, where he had been hired by the King -who is a great afficaiando of stunt flying. But if you die doing something you love-well.

    • I think I remember your mentioning that before. I didn’t know anything about where she was when she wrote Bird by Bird, nor about her pilot friend. I don’t know much about here beyond what she has written herself. She mostly wrote about Marin County as far as I can remember. I don’t remember reading anything she wrote about flying – it would be interesting read her reactions to it. I think a lot of pilots might say that being killed while flying would beat a lot of other ways to go. But I wouldn’t want to do it. I probably would be afraid to go stunt flying now, though I used to love it when Daddy would do stunts while I was flying in the seat behind his in his little Aeronca.

  13. Michael
    Some good comments on grandparenting here. “When you are exhausted.”””

    • Yes, I thought that was a good little interview. I saw her and Sam in person when she came to speak at a Baptist church in Atlanta several years ago. She is even more beautiful in person than she is in her photos, I think. She looked much younger to me than she does in most of her photos. Here is a photo I snapped of them – the quality is not good because I don’t have the original here and I had to copy it off my Facebook page.

  14. Michael

    White women should not wear dreadlocks.

    • Aw, Michael, REALLY? There was a time in my life when wearing dreadlocks would have been a big time-saver for me. I didn’t have “good hair” when I was a teenager – it was very frizzy, especially in humid weather, and for that reason I could never wear it short unless I wanted to look like a human brillo pad. No matter how much time I spent drying, rolling and styling it, it would usually end up looking like Roseanne Roseanadana. It was not quite thick enough to wear it in a true ‘fro, but I could not do a thing with it. I have read where Lamott had the same problem so I sympathize with her wanting to wear it in dreads. Plus for her it’s a sort of trademark.

  15. Michael

    So I picked up Lamott’s book on prayer-“Help, thanks,Wow.” She has a breezy style and at times is very funny. But really, how seriously can you take a white lady with dreadlocks? This is one of my prejudices. One of the many.
    But the Thich Nhat Hahn book-it was mainly the discussion of the Holy Spiit -I appreciated as to the universality of the Spirit that transcends denominations. It would be a stretch to pray to,”a full size statue of the Buddha.”

    • I haven’t read that book yet, but I look forward to reading it. As a woman with problem hair, I am apt to take a white woman with dreads more seriously than I take icons of “stylish white-lady hair” such as, say, Jennifer Anniston. I’m one of those women who goes to the hair salon every five years whether I need it or not. I hate spending lots of time or money on hair. I spend about 5 minutes a day on mine (not including washing it) – so I highly approve of low-maintenance styles, which I’m guessing a good set of dreadlocks would be – but if anyone knows differently, please enlighten me! RE: the Buddhism/Christianity similarities, what I most remember thinking the first time I read anything Zen, is “this sounds like the Sermon on the Mount.” Lots of common threads there.

  16. Michael

    OK the dreadlocks are growing on me and I do remember the” Movie “Ten ” with whats her name and her famous dreads, and her in slow mo walking across the beach. Now I have to look up the movie. I was not thinking in terms of low maintenance. Personally I have been considering the Bruce Willis style- also low maintenance. My son and most of his fireman friends in Atlanta follow suit. They do their own hair with a shaver.
    Mariners of Seattle are playing the Braves tonight in the last series at Turner Field, which I did visit one time on our first visit to Atlanta.

    • Wow, I didn’t realize Turner Field was closing so soon. It was a nice ball park, but I never really got to know it well. It belonged to a different era than the one I remember. I never saw the movie “10” but I remember when it came out, there were magazine stories warning Caucasian women with thin hair not to braid it too tightly or it might fall out. Not sure if that is true, but apparently there was a mini-craze for braided hair after that movie. I must admit to being surprised how popular the “Bruce Willis” hairdo is becoming. I am sure men with thinning hair are grateful that it’s now such a stylish look.

  17. Michael

    Dudley Moore, Julie Andrews and Bo Derek- with her famous dreads.

  18. Michael

    I really need to see her in person.
    There was a neat blip on NPR yesterday about conspiracy theories. Around 51% of Americans believe in some kind of a conspiracy theory; from 9/11, to the Kennedy Assassination and one I had not heard of that the new fluorescent light bulbs are a way for the government to change our brains though some kind of wave. Eleven percent believe this one.

    • Hi Michael, that conspiracy theory statistic doesn’t surprise me, since it can be so all-encompassing (plenty of theorists on the left, right, and in outer space). Remember, even Hillary Rodham Clinton said there was a “vast right-wing conspiracy” out to get her husband. Of course, this was before the entire case played out, but that’s a different story. In the political sense, probably every candidate ever to run for the most powerful offices has “conspirators” against him or her. But as my Daddy liked to joke – I think he got it from Pogo, the cartoon strip — “Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you!” 😀

      Re: the light bulb theory – there’s a lot of evidence that fluorescent lights can cause various health problems so from there, once they started outlawing incandescent bulbs, it’s a short hop to getting hysterical and cooking up some sort of conspiracy theory. While I find it amusing (and disturbing) that the government that allows violent porn and other obviously harmful behaviors in the name of freedom, can somehow see fit to dictate what sort of lighting people use in their homes. I see the whole light bulb thing as a teeny drop in the bucket in terms of how much effect it will ultimately have on climate change. The cynical side of me says that if there’s a conspiracy afoot, it’s a conspiracy to sell a lot of light bulbs that cost a whole lot more. We went over to CFL bulbs for our outside lighting, and two different new “nine-year” bulbs lasted less than one year each. There’s no way to accurately measure how much we save on electricity using them, but their longevity is way overrated at least some of the time!

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