I Was Here First
A human man, one day, noticed some unusual activity gaining momentum at his front door. The first of which was the increased bird excrement and tree kindling accumulating just beneath the fuse box that stood guard at the entrance to his home.
Out of the crack at the bottom of the fuse box door was a clue as to the presence of the kindling. Twigs descended from the base of the white box, standing out like bright green weeds thriving in the crack of a lifeless concrete path. The human thus suspected a nest hidden within, for this fuse box’s door had a square hole at the top with its own sliding shutter door, providing a sign of welcome hospitality. The door’s little door had always been open...well, for as long as it was this human’s home. Which wasn’t that long, considering the length of this house’s history. But this little opening was for the electricity inspector to read the meter and nothing more.
The human man had never noticed the sliding shutter before. All he had ever observed in passing was the hole and the meter reading. Not the actual numbers of course, just that there was this device for capturing the energy burned to keep this particular home alive.
Curious, he gently opened the door to the fuse box and to a big mess of a nest inside. Messy, yes, he thought to himself. But brilliant and quite precisely engineered and resourced, he couldn’t deny. And there laying peacefully in the middle of that beautiful mess of a nest lay four of the most delightful aquamarine coloured eggs, spotted yellow all over and huddled together. They looked like candy or jewels, ornaments for a child’s bookshelf, perhaps. The human closed the door, marvelling just a little at the ingenuity and resilience and brilliance of life, a smile on his face and in his step as he went back inside.
It was then that he connected the fuse box’s new residents with the presence of the two common myna birds he’d not very consciously observed frequenting his front yard of late. For myna birds were as ubiquitous to the region as cape weed or white clover or any other invasive pest that’d been introduced and flourished, to the natives’ dismay.
As time went by, the mynas’ activity and presence around the human’s front door increased, particularly with noise and odour and their black and white excrement devouring his verandah’s usually clean and tidy entrance. Every time he would enter or leave there was the greatest commotion! The mynas were definitely displeased with his presence, crying their battle cry of defensive and offensive screeches, much to the human’s disapproval! They would squeal and squawk, huff and puff their bodies into threatening and defensive postures, wreaking havoc and rallying for their protection and place. He was most definitely here first, the human man would think to himself! Followed by a self-deprecating and silent admonishing little giggle.
And so the human, during moments of reflection throughout his day, would wonder on the ethics of allowing these pests to thrive or whether he should dismantle their pretensions to propagate where they should not. For, he was aware that the mynas were classified as a pest in his region and that, ecologically, they ought to be eradicated, by right. But he also held a philosophical and spiritual belief that it was not his place to take the life of any other creature, any non-plant based life anyhow. The unnecessary taking of any life at all, as a matter of fact, and of principal! And so, he would allow creation and life to dictate its own terms and would just leave them be. Even though he thoroughly despised their ugly and pained cries. For he was here first, he would cry!
But to the mynas, this empty space was a place for them to be. To live and survive and maybe thrive, keeping alive their kind. And why not? For creation is the blueprint of and in everything. And life intrinsically finds a way. So, for these two particular mynas, who had particularly keen insight and eyesight too, they found a home and a life where there was, up until then, nothingness. But nothingness claimed and owned and colonised by others. Still, to these two mynas, the others’ lores and laws and closing of doors were quite unreasonable and unfathomable and nonsensical too, and should not impinge on their immutable instinct for survival, nor to just be the mynas they were born to be.
One day, the human man heard the newly arrived presence of intermittent chirping emerging from his little front verandah. Just twice a day, morning and afternoon, they would express their little cries of angst and hunger. It was the sweetest and warmest of intrusions, a very welcome contrast to the ear piercing pollution of that protective screech of their parents, he would think. And so he thought he might intrude once again on their little brood, just to see how they looked as newly born birds.
On opening the door to their newly madeshift home nestled at the base of that fuse box attached to the front of his house, the human man’s little hive of hatred for those menacing migrant myna birds melted away for just a moment or two. For what he saw were four featherless sleeping hatchlings, their necks all intertwined, their breath a single unified pulse of life. How could he possibly intervene in the lives of the so vulnerable, he thought...as well as thinking, how manipulative the vulnerable and dependent are.
Some time had passed and the human man wondered how soon independence for these hatchlings would come, and when too might he be liberated of their presence. For, surely this nest was temporary and life would soon return to relative harmony. He also noticed around this time an emanating odour getting stronger and stronger around the front of his home. And so he would intrude once again on the myna birds home to see what was going on. On opening the door he observed two feathered baby myna birds cowered and shaking just a little in the corner of their fuse box home. The other two lay motionless, featherless, lifeless, resting in peace in the heart of the once warm nest. Dead. Covered with pieces of plastic, foraged and placed there by the myna birds parents.
Wondering what to do, the human thought it best for him and for them to remove the lifeless and decaying corpses. For the sake of the living. And so he liberated the fuse box nest of its dead and of it’s plastic litter too.
There were cries of resistance and screeches of suffering and grief for a little while from those very protective myna bird guardians. For they knew not why such a thing should occur. For, to them the removal of their dead was equivalent to the removal of their living. They knew no different. And they could only think of one thing: the safety and well-being of their offspring...alive or dead. Their grieving went on for many hours, the human growing more impatient and enraged with every wail of that other worldly and ear piercing hail. For their wails were like rusty, jagged nails hammered into his brain and piercing his very soul. But what the human didn’t know was that an hour of a bird’s grief for a human was like a week of a human’s grief for a human. How could he know?
After a little while, calm did ensue. And normality returned to the nest. And the myna parents were able to once again focus on the health and sustenance of their living instead of the isolating persistence of the rotting corpses of the living’s siblings. And then what followed was a moment of reverence in the hearts and minds of those two myna bird migrants.
In that moment in between forgetting their dead and everything being normal again, there was a sliver of their existence where the two mynas shared in a moment of divine revelation. To make sense and meaning of that unnatural occurrence by the human man, they saw infinite beauty and wisdom in that act of the other. And to their minds it was an act of divine intervention. And then the moment was gone. But nothing would ever be the same again.
And divine creation itself, observing all that had passed, laughed quietly to itself, thinking, ‘This is how Gods are divined!’