Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

– Matthew 6:26-27, New International Version



The road to hell is paved with good intentions. 

– Often attributed to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux



Ah, summertime and the living is easy.

In summer, I often sit on my patio in the backyard and commune with the birds and the bees and observe God’s creation around me and I try to guess what all the animals, insects – and even the trees – are thinking.

I fancy myself as something of a “nature whisperer” who relates wonderfully well with all the creatures large and small. I wonder to myself about all sorts of things like, “Do birds and squirrels have weekends, or is every day the same to them?”

I see some busy ants walk by and I wonder if, in their world, they have ant news each day like people have evening news. They probably all gather around and hear news of the day and the stories are probably like, “Today, in the east part of the yard, a giant foot came down on an anthill tragically killing thousands. The death toll is unknown but still climbing. Ant authorities say they cannot yet be sure if this was an accident or the intentional act of a malicious foot … In lighter news, the world’s strongest ant set a new world strength record today when he lifted 800 times his weight!”

The worms, I’m pretty, sure, are usually thinking, “Please don’t let that bird see me! Please, oh Great Worm Spirit, protect me.” And I know for a fact that, a lot of times, the worms are thinking, “Oh, I’m sure I can make it across that concrete before the sun gets too hot. No problem; I’ve got this!”

Like I said, I even like to sit there and imagine what the trees are thinking. I can’t know for sure, but sometimes I think they are probably thinking things like, “Man, that pine over there is a real hottie – I wish I could somehow get across the yard and talk her up. Dagnabit!”

Nature has a lot to teach us. There is a great deal of wisdom in nature but the lessons can be confusing; for instance, they always say the early bird gets the worm, but those same people also point out that it’s the second mouse who gets the cheese.

The other day, I was sitting out on my patio in my backyard listening to the birds chirp and watching the squirrels gathering their nuts for the winter while other animals chased each other playfully around the yard. There I was just sitting in the back yard communing with nature, watching God’s creatures getting along happily as they enjoyed the world around my bird feeder. Birds would fly up and sit there and eat a little and then chirp happily and fly away after getting their fill, and, in no time, another sweet little hungry bird would take its place.

And that’s when I got my great idea. It hit me that, sometimes, I like to go out and get a really delicious fancy meal rather than have the same old boring stuff all the time – but I realized that I didn’t ever show the same consideration for the birds. I always just routinely bought them the same old thing: You know, a big bag of store brand “Your Home” bird food from Harris Teeter. To be honest, the birds seemed to enjoy that just fine, but I got the idea in my head that it would be really good to do something special for the birds because they’re always coming around to visit me and sing for me in the yard.

So, I said to myself, the next time I’m out, I’ll get the best, most expensive bird food I can find, so those birds will really have a treat. With that plan in mind, I went to Lowe’s on Battleground, where I knew they had a much wider variety of bird food choices than Harris Teeter. Now, normally, at Harris Teeter, I’d pay $8 for a very large bag of bird food. But at Lowe’s, the best brands I saw were like $14 a bag for a fairly small bag, and they were labeled things like “super extra premium.” So I figured that must be really good stuff that the birds would enjoy.

I found some food that was designed for small birds, some for medium sized birds and other food designed for really large birds. I didn’t want to discriminate against any type of bird so I got three different types of the best bird food money can buy (can buy at Lowe’s anyway), and, when I got home, I stirred some food from each of the three bags together in a mix that looked really enticing even to me (a human being), and I filled up the bird feeder. Then I went into the house and sat down and watched from inside, from the kitchen table.

I was hoping the birds would really like it and they did. Soon there was one bird and then another bird, and in no time all four standing spots on the feeder were occupied.

This was going great!

Then, other birds came and there wasn’t enough room to stand and some birds started to try and nudge those birds out of the way to get to the food themselves. And then, a pack of blue jays arrived. I don’t know if you know this, but blue jays are like the thugs of the bird world; just look at the way they strut around bossily, trying to pretend like they are king of the world. And they are just flat out mean – man are they mean. The blue jays really started pushing the nice sweet smaller birds out of the way and things started to get heated. The blue jays only wanted the blue jay food, so they just took huge beakfulls of the other food and threw it all over the ground as fast as they could to get to the big nuts and fruit pieces they wanted. About this time, the crows – the big black ugly ones that always travel in groups of three – landed in the yard. If the blue jays are the thugs of the bird world, the crows are like the serial killers of it, and the crows started terrorizing every other bird. But it was when the squirrels showed up that everything descended into mayhem.

Now, the squirrels in my yard had given up on my bird feeder long ago. I use one named “the SquirrelBuster.” It’s called that because the food is exposed and available for the birds, but, as soon as the squirrel jumps on it, the squirrel’s weight pulls the feeder casing down so that it acts as a protective cover. It must be really frustrating for them – like Tantalus in Greek Mythology reaching for the fruit and water right in front of him.

However, with the enticing extra-delicious super-premium nut and fruit delights in the container, one squirrel got a new bright idea. That squirrel (the smart one, I guess?) ran down a nearby tree limb to get his speed up like he was an airplane taking off of a runway – without, by the way, giving one iota of thought to the fact that the feeder was packed with birds – and he sailed through the air and then slammed violently into the bird feeder, sending the shocked and terrified birds scrambling into the air and spraying nuts and fruit and other tasty food all over the place. Then he and the other squirrels ate the food off the ground until that was gone, after which the squirrel repeated the process. The crows saw this and apparently felt like they could take the squirrels in a fight because they started snarling at the squirrels and in no time all heck broke lose and it looked like a crazy fight at a hockey game except with animals instead of hockey players.

I pulled the shades quickly and now I’m scared to go in the backyard or even look out the window in case it’s just a giant ball of bloody ripped fur and piles of feathers, the remains of a mass carnage the likes of which the animal kingdom has never seen.

It was later that the revelation hit me: We build the animals up in our minds because they always look so calm and happy and sweet, but the bottom line is that they are no better than we are: They are just as mean spirited, greedy, brutal and nasty. It’s just that, usually, they don’t have anything to fight over because, as you know, there’s not much in nature to fight over – which is why nature can be left outside all the time without having to worry that someone will steal any of it. The animals have no need for money or fancy cars or healthcare programs, but as soon as you give them something worth fighting over, they become just like the woman on Real Housewives after a drinking game with tequila shots.

So that’s the lesson we can learn from nature for this week: Grab whatever you can no matter who you have to kill or destroy. Shove the weak out of the way and snatch the goods if you can. It is, so to speak, a dog eat dog world and it is every man – and bird and squirrel or rabbit or whatever – for himself.