Someone’s not happy. Baby Osprey, who is now quite large, sits in his nest by himself and slices the air with a staccato squawking, announcing to whomever will listen that he is upset. He is alone, unaccustomed to the feeling of this parent-imposed independence. While one might think this is a normal part of nature, the nature of moms leaving their children to learn the way of life, I found this to be a different. His sad crying was so persistent I felt compelled to intervene after listening to his cries for three weeks.
For the last ten years, I have walked past this particular nest twice a day, at least five times a week and watched the parent Ospreys raise their precious clutch of one or two, teaching them to fish and to, in general, be successful Ospreys. This is the first year I have heard such plaintive screeching from a first year baby and it is odd that mom has left so early in the season. He has been serenading the wind in high-pitched heartbreaking frustration for over three weeks and that is, in my experience, very unusual. And just plain upsetting. So I had a little conversation with him to see if I could help in some small way.
Osprey told me he was missing his mom and that is who he was calling for, but she wasn’t answering. I asked if he knows where she was. Was she fishing? Did she tell him where she was going? Osprey answered that mom was going fishing but did not come back. Further conversation reveled that she had been gone a while but, he is safe and not too hungry. He declared himself to be a good fisherman, but mom is better. He isn’t sure what to do, so for now he will keep calling for her.
There are many reasons mom might be gone. Perhaps something happened during her fishing or perhaps it was just time for Baby Osprey to learn independence like a child who is dropped off at collage or kindergarten and grows homesick or lonesome, but aside from the logical science of it, the desperate nature of child without parent does demonstrate that family dynamics knows no species. It demonstrates how we might begin to see the other animals we share Mother Earth in a different light - an opportunity of squashing the notion that ‘animals’ (though we are also animals) are somehow less than our arrogant selves.
Osprey will make the best of his growing pains, as we all must do. I will continue to speak with him until the season changes and he can see the path he must take. But I must say, every time I speak with animals, I discover how much more alike we are than different and how we, as a society, rale against that notion. That is such a shame; it makes our world smaller than it is.
Until we begin to see the likeness ourselves in others instead of differences, we will remain in our small little worlds.
Note: This blog was written several weeks ago. At the time of this publishing, Baby Osprey has told me he is doing well and fishing ‘with much success’ though he is no longer in the area but moved farther south along the Wisconsin River (the natural path of migration to open winter water) where he hopes to find his mom.
You may be asking yourself why simple Wood Frog would be inspiring. Is it his song? Or his cute little face? (He is a handsome frog.) It cannot be his swimming skills for he swims little and is a child of the wet woodlands, often hopping about in the leaf litter of the forest. But he (or she) can do something extraordinary – he can freeze two-thirds of his body and pop back to life when the rays of a spring sun warm his body. No harm, no foul.
You have to admit it is a pretty cool trick. One that has not gone unnoticed by our scientific community. Various research facilities have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of thousands of hours to discover Wood Frog’s secret as it may lead to all manner of benefits to us humans, including ‘freezing’ the dying until a cure of disease is found and possibly bringing cryogenics into play. I’m quite sure someone out there in the world of science is eyeballing the possibility of, someday, not even dying – to live forever. At least forever in our physical bodies.
But, consider this. Rather than spending copious amounts of resources on extending life in cryogenic freeze, would we not be better served by using these same resources and focus on teaching us how to better enjoy the life we have been granted? Direct our attention not to dying but to living- reminding ourselves of the beauty of the day whether that day brings sun or rain or the glory of the thousands of blessings we stand in, but take for granted. The knowledge and knowing that it is not the length of life but how our lives are lived that matters. To propagate kindness to our neighbor, gentleness to all living Beings and understanding to those who are different from ourselves, to find joy in the present and not concern ourselves with a future not yet born creates not only one happy life but ripples out to make many other lives joyful. And that makes the world a better place to live, maybe a life is not as long, but certainly more worth living.
It is the quality of our lives that makes us smile, laugh and love, not quantity.
Maybe handsome Wood Frog has found a way to have both, maybe we will too. But until then, it might be better to focus on where we are standing, rather than how long we stand.
Not a bad inspiration from a cute little amphibian.