To Live in this World

“to live in this world
you must be able
to do three things
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go”
― Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, Volume One


          Living close to wildlife you see the cycle of life and death frequently. This morning that reality was on our doorstep. Our beloved resident pheasant had been killed in the night, most likely by a bobcat we have seen around. He had been here for several years and we became as familiar with him, as he was with us.

Every day he would peer through our windows like a nosy neighbour and strut around the meadow on his daily constitutionals. Occasionally we gave him some sunflower seeds which he happily pecked away at. He was a beauty, proud and emphatic, beating his chest and squawking loudly, calling for a mate.

Some say you shouldn’t name wild animals, but I couldn’t help but name this one. I called him Fezziwig after my favourite character from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carole. I suppose I chose it because Mr. Fezziwig gave his employees joy, and this pheasant brought a lot of joy to us.

My heart sank when I saw his proud, colourful feathers spread out over the meadow, quivering in the breeze like a thousand small birds. We picked up a few of them to hold on to as a remembrance. We do not blame the bobcat for she, too, must eat. But we do feel an emptiness now without our colourful and loud friend, our neighbour.

With our world reeling from the emotionless rampage of a submicroscopic ball of non-living genetic coding, it might seem trivial to some to grieve the death of one wild pheasant. Yet I think that is exactly what we must do. To be fully present in the world we inhabit. To feel it. To embrace everything that walks, crawls, flies, swims or slithers among us as if it were our own life, our own breath, no matter how big or how small. And then to grieve for it when it is gone.


Kenn Orphan   April 2020

4 thoughts on “To Live in this World

  1. PANinA

    I love your perspective on life and death, joy and suffering as depicted in this brief essay. You quote one of my favorite authors, Mary Oliver, and you invoke the spirit of Mr. Fezziwig, also a familiar of mine as I served for several seasons as a crew member for productions of A Christmas Carol. And as a (retired) biology teacher, your allusion to “a submicroscopic ball of non-living genetic coding” puts a more sane spin on our current pandemic. I’ll be quoting that one!

    Liked by 1 person


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