November 2008 Archives

Sun Nov 23 02:26:00 CST 2008

Mourning Dove

Last Saturday, i skated over to the Draughthouse, had a couple of beers, and headed home relatively early (like 01:00). Like usual, i went through the asylum grounds, and emerged near the bus stop at 43rd and Guadalupe. I waited until it was clear, and then started across Guadalupe. I was watching the surface of the street pretty carefully, looking for the bit of detritus that would stop one of the board's wheels, sending me to the ground, and so i noticed this odd, grey lump about the size of an apple sitting in the turn lane. As i got within a foot of it, i realized it was a bird -- a mourning dove. And it was alive, sitting in the turn lane in the middle of Guadalupe, on a night forecasted to be near freezing.

So i picked it up in my gloved hands. It fluttered a bit, and i stood still, and softly stroked it along the back with a finger. It calmed down and closed its eyes. When you hold a bird like this, you realize what amazing creatures they are. They are soft, and light, and so very, very delicate. So wondrous they take your breath away. I waited for some traffic to clear, and finished crossing the street. I carried it home in one hand, up against my coat, walking, so as not to upset it by skating.

Of course, it was not well. A wild bird won't just let you pick it up if it's healthy. But it had no signs of injury, so i stroked it a bit, which it seemed to not mind and i thought about what to do.

I decided to put it in a box with an old shirt, and put it in my closet (with the computers) because that was the warmest place in the house. Then i looked up Austin Wildlife Rescue on the 'net and read about how to proceed. They recommend the same sort of care, and i called their number and left a message about the bird. Then i went to sleep.

When i awoke in the morning, the poor bird had passed, and so i took it outside and buried it on the East-ish side of my house, where it'd get some morning Sun.

Of course this made me feel sad for a good chunk of the day. I had known the bird wasn't well, but i had hoped it might survive, nonetheless. It seemed too "perfect" that i had been passing at exactly the right time, on exactly the right form of transportation to see and pick up the bird.

But i'm still glad i was able to remove the poor bird from the road, so it died somewhere safe and warm rather than in the middle of the street on a cold night. And the experience has shed some light on a few different ideas i've been digesting for some time.

For many years, i've always been somewhat fascinated with coincidences, and trying to diving what they might mean. At times it's bordered on the obsessive. Long ago, Douglas Adams spoke at UT, and during the question and answer period, someone asked something like, "You seem to write a lot about coincidences in your books... i've noticed these, too. What do they mean?" He smiled, and nodded, and said something like, "Yes, i do, and i have absolutely no idea what the mean. But aren't they wonderful?" I recall being a little disappointed by this answer, because like the questioner, i was hoping for a more "expository" answer.

A few months ago i read Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle by Jung. In it was the key to not being disappointed by Adams' response. These coincidental events that seem to defy probability are linked, but not in a causal way -- there may be meaning in them, but it is not a causal meaning.

Naturally, i wonder if there was something else i could have done to help the dove. And then i wonder what was the "reason" the evening's random sequence of events put me in just the right place at the right time to save this bird, if in fact, it could not be saved.

Holding the dove also reminded me of the last time i can remember holding a living bird. I was probably about 10 years old, and it was almost certainly a bird i had just shot. When i lived in Laredo at age 10, hunting Mourning Doves was a big deal, and i was introduced to the "sport" of hunting them. A rather gruesome fact of the matter is that most of the doves that are shot do not die when they are hit. The small shotgun pellets will injure and cripple the bird, but are seldom immediately fatal. So what you are supposed to do as a hunter is find the injured bird you shot, pick it up, and break its neck.

And so this is what holding that bird reminded me of. In "Hollywood story-like" symmetry, one might expect that i would save the bird and it would recover and fly away. And for an (ethical) vegetarian like me, this might in some small way make up for the previous killing.

However, this is where i think i understand a little better now. There is really no "meaning" here, other than what i (or another observer) might ascribe to the events. And that meaning would exist, though only in our own minds (and perhaps the mind of the dove, as long as it was alive).

But in terms of some ultimate, cosmic significance, i don't think there is really anything. The dove and i are infinitesimally small and irrelevant entities in the Universe. Of course, it was the right thing to do to try to prolong the dove's life, and to reduce its suffering. This is just the "Golden Rule".

So hopefully the dove suffered a little less, and perhaps so, too, do i. (As the Dalai Lama says on the Wikipedia entry for the Golden Rule, "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.")

I guess i more clearly realize that in these situations where the right course is clear, that the "Why" of it seems to matter a lot less than the "How" of it.

Posted by johan | Permanent link | File under: randomweirdness

Sat Nov 8 22:22:40 CST 2008

good ride today

Went out to Loop 360, out 71 to 620 and discovered there's this weird Mall place where the play music outside. I got a bagel, a croissant, and some lemonade at the Panera, came back 71 to 360, took it around to the Mopac feeder and rode North back into town, then Barton Springs, Riverside, Lavaca, etc.

Trip odometer: 72.8 km
Max speed : 65.1 km/hr
Moving time : 2:51
Moving avg : 20.5 km/hr

Not bad for all the city riding.

I think 17C (~63F) is the perfect temperature for me to ride in. Felt good the whole way, especially coming back down 71. A Good ride.

Initial fuel: 3 eggs, scrambled, with garlic and some chopped tomatoes, plus two pieces of toast, about 2 hours before the ride. The about 7 chocolate cookies just before the ride.

Posted by johan | Permanent link | File under: bicyling