Meet Gustav, one of the resident scrub jays in our garden. But Gustav is a jay of a different character, for he is physically disabled. His left leg is injured, so he has to support himself on one leg, which uses a tremendous amount of his energy just to stay upright. Watching him perched on the thin, wooden frame of our raised vegetable bed is, for me, a sad, heart-wrenching moment. He looks so guiltless and young and small in the drenching rain, making him periodically fluff up his feathers in an attempt to stay warm and dry. He seems so vulnerable as he cranes his neck and swivels his head in constant vigilance for a predator, like the neighborhood Cooper’s hawk, which flies over scouting for such a weakened, defenseless prey.1
As I gaze out the bathroom window, tears roll down my cheeks for this beloved little bird, all the while hoping he has found the easy meal of walnut pieces and suet we left especially for him. His innocent presence in our garden, where he struggles in his movements, now a chore rather than the easy grace they once were, is an opportunity to open our hearts in sympathy and mercy toward one who is not perfect in body or entirely safe or self-sufficient. The spiritual teachings of White Eagle remind us that, “as you can feel the pain and suffering of your fellow creatures you are developing the Christ within. Do not be ashamed of your feelings. They are the pointers, the guides which direct you along the path of light.” Surely one of the vital parts of our collective consciousness is to hold all suffering creatures within our hearts with tender love and compassion.
My husband, Chris, who has studied and written about animals for over 30 years, tells me the grim reality that jays, as well as other species, such as some rodents and birds that have a scavenger lifestyle, will sometimes attack, kill, and eat individuals of their own kind who are injured or weakened. Chris says that “Nature is designed to obey the impartial, biophysical principles,” and to many of us humans, this detached “neutrality” often wounds and hurts our hearts deeply. This apparent lack of mercy and caretaking, according to our human ethics, can at times be incomprehensible to grasp by our human minds and instinctual urges.
Yet, how often do people consider themselves “above” the animals in their own behavior? Are there occasions when we push away any thought or admission that we can act in both unthinking and cruel ways in a moment of impatience, irritability, or tiredness? How many times in our society are the sick, impoverished, disabled, mentally-ill, learning-impaired, or old, to name a few, marginalized and sometimes left to fend for themselves? Are we humans the ones who always show “our own kind” unconditional compassion and forgiveness? Or are there subtle moments of haste and unconsciousness when we simply avoid, deny, or repress that which is too uncomfortable? “Brotherhood,” according to White Eagle, “cannot be only brotherhood to those you like, towards your friends. It must be to life itself: to every created thing.”
If we are not constantly aware of practicing kindly goodwill, our behavior can vary from a niggling criticalness all the way to a glaring omission through thoughtlessness. This can be a poignant exercise when we are on the receiving end of ourselves—as the boomerang of karmic balance inevitably reappears as a wake-up bonk on the head when we are unmindful of the things we set in motion! Like can only create itself, such that beauty always creates beauty and kindness necessarily produces kindness in turn.
When we are called to experience any kind of difficulty, setback, or limiting disability, like little Gustav, in whatever form and however slight, we hope we will be extended the hand of gentle understanding and patient warmth rather than one of cold, impatient indifference. These are, of course, the extremes of reaction and behavior on the continuum of meeting ourselves. If, therefore, we are to awaken fully to our true self as a spiritual being learning the hard-won lessons on Earth, we must be aware when we drift in even slight ways toward criticism, negativity, and judgment. When we practice our specific lessons in daily life, such as patience, trust, or listening to another with undivided attention, only then are we able to assess how deeply we are learning or have learned the lesson(s). Sometimes, if we are honest, it is a rude shock to realize how far we still have to go in elevating our level of consciousness!
Nike, the corporate shoe and sports giant, uses the energetic slogan, “Just Do It.” We may think and feel with our heart in brotherly, sisterly ways (and this is vital at the causal level), but do we actively, through our daily behavior, create compassionate and non-judgmental effects? Do we actually walk our talk? Are we aware of the ripples we create through our behavior (which includes all of it!), not only in our relationships and interactions with animals but also with one another? Further, how we treat ourselves is equally important. Why is it that the leniecy and forgiveness we grant another is so often withheld from ourselves? Again, White Eagle would say gently: “Put aside all temptation to harbour unkind or critical thought. In their place let there be consideration and thoughtfulness, remembering the difficulties that all, including yourselves, have to encounter.”
The feathered angels, such as Little Gustav, which Divine Spirit has given us in animal form as our teachers, add immeasurable brightness, joy, and love to our lives. May we, as the humans who share this planet with our animal brothers, be their trusted guardians to live in harmony and balance with their requirements for living and to maintain as intact as possible a quality environment in which they can prosper—even in our own backyards and gardens, where so much beauty and peace can be created.
To this end, we keep alive in our hearts the high purpose and active commitment to the sacred One-ness of all life. Only by such awareness and persistence is it possible to help heal the widespread suffering that is caused through a lack of consciousness so that all traces of darkness are eventually consumed in the Light of Love.
Love is ever constructive, ever progressive. The love vibration
Cool Facts about the Western Scrub-Jay:
• The Western Scrub-Jay’s calls are a hallmark sound of the open West. Some 20 types of calls are known, and perhaps the best description comes from naturalist W. L. Dawson in 1923, “No masquerader at Mardi Gras has sprung such a cacophonic device upon a quiveringly expectant public. Dzweep, dzweep: it curdles the blood, as it is meant to do.”
• Western Scrub-Jays have a mischievous streak, and they’re not above outright theft. They’ve been caught stealing acorns from Acorn Woodpecker caches and robbing seeds and pinecones from Clark’s Nutcrackers. They even seem aware of their guilt: some scrub-jays steal acorns they’ve watched other jays hide. When these birds go to hide their own acorns, they check first that no other jays are watching.
• You might see Western Scrub-Jays standing on the back of a mule deer. They’re picking off and eating ticks and other parasites. The deer seem to appreciate the help, often standing still and holding up their ears to give the jays access.
• Western Scrub-Jays evolved in two very different habitats: either coastal oak or montane pinyon pine woodlands. Populations that live around oaks developed stouter, more hooked beaks that help the birds hammer open acorns. Scrub-jays that live among pinyon pines have thinner, pointed beaks that are more adept at getting at the pine nuts hidden between the cone’s scales.
• The oldest known Western Scrub-Jay lived 15 years 9 months.2
1. This article was published in Drumbeat, Journal of the White Eagle Lodge (Canada), Volume 11, pages 8-9 (August 2003).
2. The preceding “Cool Facts” are from: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/western_scrub-jay/lifehistory
Text © by Zane Maser, 2012. Photos of the Western scrub jay are from WikiCommons. All rights reserved worldwide.
My editorial guru and technological wizard is Chris Maser, my delightful husband.
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