Friday again.  My day with Elijah.  This morning Ann suggested I go ahead and sleep late because I didn’t have to worry about being awake and presentable when Elizabeth arrived at 9:30 and she witnessed I slept poorly last night.  I’m not one to argue so I took the advice.  Elijah awoke around 8:30.  I had squeezed in an hour of extra sleep.  Not always a blessing with a child soon to be four months old.

On mornings when I get up at, or before, Ann’s departure for work it is fairly easy to get myself fed, showered, dressed and ready for the day.  This morning I forgot that waking up with Elijah was a juggling act at best.  The morning began with a diaper change.  Who knew a child that young could pee so much? Astounding!  Then it is time to eat. Elijah is a light eater in the morning so this was only fifteen minutes, or so.  During the feeding, not to allow me to get to comfortable, Elijah promptly produces another diaper for me.  Burp, feed, burp, feed and so the cycle goes until Elijah finishes his first meal.  Time to play. Elijah loves cooing the random sounds back I make.  I love that he does.  Today Elijah wasn’t much for play, but rather demanded I hold him as I hobbled about trying to eat, take morning medications and complete payroll for our trucking company.  As luck would have it, or a healthy dose of patience and grace, I managed to get Elijah to his nap at 9:05 after carrying him around for 30 minutes.  At sixteen pounds he gets quite heavy very quickly.  Now to get my day going.

At this point I have taken my medications, had a protein drink and fed the feral cats we take care of. Often the presense of the cats on the porch will get the boys inside excited and they will play with the girls outside through the window.  Nothing new about this.  However, today I looked out to see what the feral female pride was up to and noticed Little White, one of two which will let me pet them without bribing them with food and the only one I can pick up and hold, hanging a paw over the edge of the porch and batting at, what I initially thought, was just the porch.  Much to my dismay it was a chipmunk.  Now I feed these cats everyday, twice a day, and give table scraps regularly.  I understand the circle of life and love The Lion King (Mufasa! Say it again! Say it again! Mufasa!) and all the jibe about it being their natural instincts, but I have a soft heart for small woodland creatures, so I marched out to intervene.

The last time I attempted to save a younger chipmunk than the one currently experiencing what was only play time for the cats I failed. Little Gray, my other feral which allows me to pet it, educated me on how the most meek, and often abused by the other ferals, had honed her hunting skills, patience and attack. She taught me this lesson and then instructed me on the value of a good catch by evading me in a thirty minute chase through, around and over fences across three properties.  This time was different, but no less harrowing. The first task was to separate the predator and its prey.

Upon opening the door I immediately went to causing a ruckus.  As expected the cats quickly scattered and the chipmunk ran to the shrubbery. Something quite unexpected happened next.  Rather then run to the woods the chipmunk paused and remained frozen just off the edge of the porch.  I stared and made a plan.  It was at this point that the cats always one the stand off. They would go into the shrubbery, grab the unwitting victim and take off.  If I was lucky at this point I would yell and whomever had grabbed the poor creature would drop it and a game of cat and keeper chase would ensue.  Today I ran everybody off as far as possible, went inside and grabbed some unsalted almonds and a container and set my plan in motion.

When I came back outside all the girls were huddled about the corner holly bush and waiting out the chipmunk. Little White had already moved in to reclaim her prize.  Seeing this as the moment when a small creature would see its days of daylight and tree climbing come to a close I attempted to audibly intimidate Little White.  No go.  Plan two, whack the crap out of the bushes and hope that the parties in conflict find different paths.  Success, of a sort! Wasps mobilize to defend there home from 220 pound behemoth who is a featherweight to there tiny bodies of only a few grams.  Uninterested in attacking as I back away they return to their nests.  Now to find the little guy and ensure his road to the trees and freedom.  Can’t find him?  I give it a few more minutes and decide he has taken refuge in one of the downspouts drain lines I have run into the flower bed to water them when it rains.  A few more minutes and I begin to make my way to the front door. Surprise! It seems my little furry friend has found his way back to the porch. It is now that I find myself the predator, in a catch and release sense only, and the chipmunk my prey. To the porch.

With my almonds in hand I begin to try and toss them to the chipmunk as a show of good faith.  You would think the little fellow had already made a trip to the taxidermist, not a twitch.  I back up about ten feet.  His(?) tail relaxes.  Still have to catch him.  New strategy, corner him and scoop him up in the container I had.  It is surprising how quickly a chipmunk can run back and forth on a five foot wide porch. Push forward, slide the container left, right, backward, forward, don’t let the chipmunk off the porch. A tug of war ensues, the chipmunk the superior in all ways except the size of his carbon footprint.  This continues for the better part of the ordeal from beginning to finish.  In a moment I move forward and slide the container into position, the chipmunk makes a run for it…right into the container.  Once there it makes no attempt to leap out, its rear right leg injured from play time.  To the trees.

Without incident I take the little fellow to the trees to release him, with a different plan he makes his way to a nearby wood pile.  Satisfied he is safe, concerned he is injured, I gather the bait almonds from the porch and toss them into the wood pile deep enough to ensure he can enjoy them well away from the probing paws of my feral death squad.

This isn’t a random thing for me. I love animals.  I love life.  I treasure the chance sitings of deer in the neighborhood.  As of late, we have a pair of fawn who have lost their mother and live nearby.  Tethered together in fear and hope. Struggling with growing up alone.  I hope that I can pass this love of animals to my son.  Looking at him I find hope for humanity.  A term that can only be lightly applied to what we have become.  I look to the future with questions. Can we love without judging? If we can, where will we find this strength.  A child comes into this world clinging to life and desperate for the touch of his mother’s skin.  Attuned to his father’s voice before their first meeting. If we cannot treasure the miracles around us, how will we teach our children to be better than we have been?

Each day I am guilty of rage, a problem I have struggled with all of my life.  Each of those days I am also presented with an opportunity to see better things than those that i have allowed to tip my disposition to this darker part of me.  Before the birth of Elijah I struggled with the search for the better part of the people I encountered everyday.  It is only now that I see each moment of the battle that when I win, I hand to my son a better world.

Can society, a nations or humanity change the path of contempt, retributive violence and wanton hate that drives religions and nations to war with no middle ground and a trophy of only despair? I believe so.  I believe it begins with simple acts of uncommon compassion for those in need, great or small.  Spaying or neutering a feral cat, saving a child from a bully at school, loving those that have hurt us and embracing our differences as complementing views for better understanding, not embankments from which to wage war.  Will we ever find our utopia? I truly do not know, nor do I believe we can, but I believe it is a goal we should pursue with all our passion.  My son, Elijah, depends on it, or children depend on it and we should accept no less for ourselves.

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