Sextiped Valley: The healing renewal of spring
Just because that’s what living things do, birds are making nests and singing their paean to spring. Dogs and cats are shedding their winter coats and looking on their familiar neighborhood with bright, expectant eyes. Lambs, calves and foals are kicking up their heels in the sunshine and the little wild things are seeing the world for the first time, with new eyes.
Some of us elders are having a harder time, though. Even when the sun shines, I’m missing, this year, that seasonal surge of hope and promise. The evidence of neglect and destruction that we humans have inflicted on Earth and our fellow inhabitants is just too hard to not see, smell and hear.
I wanted to write something useful about “kitten season.” How, every year, stray and feral cats manage to find the inner and outer resources to bring forth new life, and the practical ways we can respond. I haven’t seen any of this spring’s crop yet, but my friends at CARE tell me the annual flood is starting to flow. It’s too soon to tell how heavy this year’s will be, but I know how shelter workers wait, braced, to take them all in.
I remember how that felt, when I worked full time in those trenches, and it occurs to me that something of that attitude might be a cure for my current malaise. Because there is always something to be done for each little scrap of life that crosses your path at such times, you don’t have time to ruminate.
The kittens arrive in every condition, from healthy to barely alive, yet their needs are simple: food, warmth, a safe place to grow, love. Not all will make it, but each is helped, nevertheless. Helped to what? To experience the joy of being alive and cared for. Of being loved.
When Beth and I moved into this trailer 13 years ago, there were feral cats all over the place. It was spring, which is how we soon met our most extraordinary neighbor, 7-year-old Hannah Elwell, self-appointed rescuer of many litters of feral kittens. She fearlessly crawled under trailers, into sheds and under porches to get them out, unfazed by the tiny things’ spitting, hissing and scratching. She kept them safe and warm until they went to the shelter.
I just got my e-newsletter from The Living Farm in Paonia, one of my favorite local sources of food and gardening advice. Farm tours opened on Mother’s Day and included photos of baby geese being cuddled by visitors. Their animals will be lovingly cared for their whole lives – even those destined to be someone’s food. They won’t be crammed into a truck and hauled away to slaughter. Their lives will be taken as humanely as is possible. I think of them when one of those horrible livestock trucks roars by on I-70, the terrified eyes a haunting reproach for our unspeakable selfishness and betrayal.
Maybe all we can do is pay attention to the vulnerable lives that cross our path. There’s healing in every caring action, because it’s impossible to hold a kitten or a baby bird in your hands and not feel some spark of that joy of life. There are many in this community with skill and knowledge who can advise and help you and then take over when you’ve done what you can.
A baby bird on the ground may be OK, just on his maiden flight. Keep dogs and cats away and watch for a while. Likewise for any baby wild animal. Wildlife rehabilitators and Colorado Parks and Wildlife can advise you on how to judge situations. Kittens needing help can get it from many generous folks who foster for local shelters. Call CARE or the Rifle Shelter.
In the meantime, warmth is the most critical need for newborns. If you want to take on the bottle feeding and rearing, bless you. The best people in the world will help you, and you’ll soon feel less alone with the angst of these times. Caring for lives is how the living world is renewed, and everyone can partake.
Laurie Raymond owns High Tails Dog & Cat Outfitters in Glenwood Springs. Sextiped Valley appears on the third Saturday of the month.
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