Good News/Bad News
Watching wildlife documentaries can be very disconcerting. Producers of these programs delight in setting viewers up. The shows progress in a good news/bad news sort of format:
“The good news is that we’ve found a nest of baby fuzzbunnies, an incredibly cute little mammal indigenous to the westernmost fringe of
Timbukthree,” the program narrator announces. The family gathered around the television set oohs and aahs at the cuddly furballs they see on the screen squirming their way into everyone’s hearts. Junior turns to ask Daddy if he can have one for his birthday, and Daddy assures him he will send right away to Timbukthree for a pet fuzzbunny.
“The bad news is that this is the only known family of fuzzbunnies in existence, and at this very moment a famished pack of carnivorous fangflashers is headed in our direction.” The grandfatherly narrator delivers this revelation in the same cheerful tone he used for the good news. Junior bursts into tears and sobs uncontrollably as the narration continues:
“The good news is that fuzzbunnies provide a complete, nutritionally balanced meal for these starving fangflashers; the bad news is they are probably the only sustenance that can save these cute little fangflasher cubs (which our photographer is now filming) from becoming vulture bait.”
Junior stops crying and gawks in confusion at the television set. Now he doesn’t know whether to root for the fuzzbunnies or the fangflashers. They’re both so cute.
Meanwhile the photographer is angling in for close-ups of the innocent little fuzzbunnies, and even more remarkable close-ups of the charging fangflashers.
“The good news is we have captured this sensational film footage of the inside of a fangflasher’s mouth.” The camera shows some gnashing teeth and then darkness. The next shot is of the narrator ensconced in a leather chair next to a huge globe in a book-lined room.
“The bad news,” he tells us smilingly, “is that we lost track of both the fangflashers and the fuzzbunnies when we had to go to Zimbabique to locate a new photographer.”
Real life encounters with nature can be equally confusing. From my front window I can watch the red pine squirrels and chipmunks darting about in the tree branches and skittering around in the underbrush of the lot next door. I had wanted to get a cat when I moved here, but in deference to these little nut-nabbers, I changed my mind.
Instead, I was going to try and befriend the squirrels and chipmunks, luring them onto my deck with sunflower seeds. Then I noticed that the hawks which have nested right behind our house seem to delight in perching on our deck rail. Not a healthy combination, chipmunks and hawks. Perhaps I should just try to coexist with Mother Nature as unobtrusively as possible, I decided.
That became a challenge one morning, though, as I watched two hawks working together to corner a chipmunk in a pine tree. One hawk settled in a branch above the chipmunk while the other dropped to the ground and began hopping his way upward one branch at a time. The poor chipmunk raced up and down the tree like a baseball runner boxed between second and third base.
My first instinct was to rush outside and scare the birds away. But having watched them over the weeks, witnessing their first gangly attempts to fly and listening to their hungry squawks outside my bedroom window every morning, I didn’t want to deprive them of a hard earned meal, either. As the hunt progressed from tree to tree, it seemed as long as the chipmunk didn’t hyperventilate from chattering, he would probably outmaneuver the taloned twosome. I turned away from the window before my consoling theory could be disproved.
My vow of noninterference was tested a day later when I saw two deer in our yard. As cute as they were, it was tough to stand by and watch them devour the sole stalk of vegetation that had managed to take root in our sandy lot since we cleared it. And harder yet to watch in silence as they clumped down a sandy embankment, starting a landslide of dirt down our already erosion-plagued driveway.
I tell myself it’s “good news/bad news” and what comes around goes around. Some day when I stumble into Sasquatch’s territory, or he decides to take over mine, maybe he’ll think I’m a cute little thing and he’ll let me coexist with him, too.
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