For about a half-hour one night last week, a squall blew through Somerville. Drinking my coffee on the deck the next morning, my back yard littered with tree branches and leaves and a couple of sodden, plastic bags, I heard what I can only describe as a “whimper,” a plaintive and persistent cry coming from, I discovered, a baby cardinal sitting on a rock next to our tiny backyard pond. Could the high winds of the night before have blown this little creature, easy to identify by its downy crest, out of its nest? Quite possibly. And, it turned out, its brother or sister as well. Because, as I watched, two crested fledglings awkwardly moved to a low bush and then to our hammock and then to a higher bush and then to the top of our neighbor’s fence and then to a branch of the neighbor’s peach tree where a male cardinal suddenly appeared to feed one baby and then the other!
Yesterday morning, one of those fledglings zoomed right over my head and landed on the deck’s wrought-iron table—just two feet away from where I was again drinking my coffee.
“Hey, little guy,” I said. “You shouldn’t be there. You’re supposed to be afraid of me.” It didn’t move. So I stomped my foot as hard as I could. And away it flew.
Such a simple act; frightening an animal in order to teach it to be wary of humans. No big deal, right?
Yet this simple (and well-meaning) act makes me wonder about the not-so-simple decisions to do something difficult or unpleasant “for the greater good.” I think about decision-makers who must wrestle with much, much more difficult trade-offs, must weigh the needs of one person or group against those of others, decide who deserves the legislation, the research funding, the right to live; whatever.
(Sometimes I am just so grateful to just sit in my own backyard praising God, not being God!)