According to The Guardian, a rat was sighted in New York City engaged in what can only be called “take out.”
He was seen on the steps of a subway entrance carrying a pizza slice twice his size, far more than he needed. He proceeded down several steps to the train platform. A rat would not qualify for delivery services and I’m sure he wasn’t trying to catch the uptown. He was taking lunch home somewhere in the tunnels. Remarkable really but slightly irregular. I think of rats as more covert, furtive in their habits.
The Guardian also reported other animal anomalies.
In England, a kestrel was seen regularly checking out his reflection in the traffic camera on a busy corner. His vanity was insatiable: he returned regularly to check his image and primp even though he was harassed by a magpie and a raven. He also was buffeted unmercifully by high winds.
In California, a peacock somehow found its way into a liquor store. I can only assume by his behavior that he’d had a beak full, and was wasted before he even got in. He ransacked the store and caused hundreds of dollars-worth of damage knocking bottles off the shelf. This behavior in the critter world may strike some people as amusing, but I found it troubling at first.
In January of this year an aggressive squirrel terrorized the residents of Rego Park, Queens in New York. Locals have become fearful of leaving home lest they become the victims of a squirrel attack. Some residents, exercising their right to bear arms for personal safety, have taken to the streets carrying weapons, notably pepper spray. Micheline Fredrick, a Rego Park local, told the Guardian that she had been targeted by the squirrel in a bloody attack on December 21, while holding the door open for a furniture mover. “Suddenly the squirrel ran up my leg . . . and I thought how can this be? The furniture man ran inside for cover leaving Ms. Frederick to be “bitten on her arms and hands, with her little finger badly gnawed.”
These anomalies from the natural world express my own sense of this day and age where all anomalies are regarded as norms. I wish we were kinder and gentler, a little more predictable. Chaos and unnatural acts are seen everywhere. There’s little certainty, little dependability and nothing that one can, “put in the bank” as the saying goes. Where does one go for solace? In nature, of course. But the solace of nature may be under siege, too. Is nature going nuts? Or are these critters behaving as we do.
In the last four years, and particularly in the last several days, I feel I have lived in a topsy-turvy universe. Some of our elected officials have been behaving in erratic and cruel ways, like the errant rat ort peacock. More recently, vigilantes, like the predatory squirrel, stormed the Senate chamber bringing death and injury. For what reason isn’t clear. Are planets faltering in their orbits and stars crossing?
When I feel troubled, I try taking a long look. It’s to gain perspective, and in some instances, to preserve my sanity. When one enormity follows another, it doesn’t make things any easier. Like bad weather it does pass but while it lasts, it’s disturbing. One thing stands out for me in the stormy weather of the last few days.
Our democracy has been under siege. On Wednesday, January 6th the siege came to a head. Our President, charged to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, abandoned his charge by enabling and inciting a mob to attack the Capitol, thus desecrating the symbol of democracy and causing five deaths and destruction.
Taking a long look at the last few days I’d say this: it’s the nature of things to have rats that take more than they need; there are people everywhere who, like the predatory squirrel, attack innocent people; And, there are people like the birds that are so narcissistic they can never get enough of themselves; or like peacocks, love showing off wherever they go but leave suffering in their wake ; our democracy has weathered them and many more since its inception and been vindicated. Our National Anthem describes last Wednesday night and Thursday morning in a timeless, and timely fashion:
The rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
When the violence of the siege ended late, and the political rhetoric finally spent itself by Thursday morning, the flag was still there.
Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist. A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.