I remember very clearly standing in my grandmother’s front yard on Jackson street. There were a bunch of birds standing on the power lines above the street, and I was talking to them. I was about 4. This was back when parents did let their kids play in the front yard unattended…and we were just fine. Except for the time I put the hose in my grandmother’s car and well…had a car wash. But I digress…

I remember distinctly having a conversation with the birds, I don’t remember what we talked about, but I remember my aviary companions being astonished, and I remember new comrades flying from all over join the conversation. I remember one old crow speaking more than any other. At this point, my mom came out and asked, “Who are you talking to?”

I replied, “My friends-the birds.” She laughed and went back inside, I could tell she didn’t believe me…I turned back and my friends were gone.

Years later my buddy Mark and I were playing around on the fields of our school. There was a big crow sitting on the back stop. Mark was always hurting, and because of that he was often angry and mean. He started throwing rocks at the bird and encouraged me to join in. I don’t know why, but I did. We hurled a lot of rocks, and even my bicycle chain. I was a better shot. Despite our volley, it never moved. It sat there, it could’ve flown away at anytime, but it sat there and took the abuse.

I killed it.

I’d never killed before. Didn’t know what it was. Never killed a bug, a fish, a crow. I felt bad. My mom showed me it was OK to kill spiders and mosquitoes. Another time Mark and I were out fishing at a lake, actually bobbing would be a better term, we never caught anything. So we used the salmon eggs we had for bait to feed the ducks. I picked up a big rock, and hurled it into the water I wanted to make a big splash and watch the ducks fly away. Unfortunately, I hit a duck…broke its back…and watched it sink.

…remorse…

I never killed again till much later. Like most of us though, most of my life I killed by proxy. I ate hamburgers, pork chops, lamb, and baloney, etc. In ’94, I became a vegetarian, and my health was never better. Athletically I hit higher and higher peaks. Then I discovered spearfishing- I know odd. It doesn’t make sense. I cried for an hour after killing the first fish. My best friend was convinced we would never go again. But we did, I don’t know why, but it was OK if it was primal, if we ate it right away. Since then, spearfishing has been one of my three favorite things in life after art and gymnastics.

But, I can’t willingly do it any longer. So, on this vacation to Florida, diving will play a LARGE part. Spearfishing will not.

St. Francis of Assisi was a man that could speak to birds. In fact he often would preach to them, and by all accounts they listened, and the birds flocked to him. He made a pact between a town and wolf that was terrorizing it. Rabbits followed him everywhere, and was a friend to all creatures. He was a vegetarian, walked everywhere barefoot, and wore the same rags. He had not always been like that. He was born a very wealthy son of a merchant, and was even a soldier. But, he became a peace emissary, and attempted to broker peace with the Muslims in Egypt during a crusade. In fact after that crusade, the Muslims only allowed Franciscan monks to be in Holy Land as the ambassadors of the Catholic faith.

The more I read about this man, the more I am impressed. He has certainly become to me, a person who presents a challenge…pick up your cross.

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