During certain times of the year my father has problems with small woodpeckers or black-capped chickadees pecking holes on two corners of his house. His way of dealing with this has been to put sticky pads in those locations.
Once, a few years ago, I saw a black capped chickadee struggling and stuck in this pad. My dad would not be home for a while so I agonized over what to do for the bird. There was no way the bird would fly again even if taken from the sticky pad. I emailed a woman who was a mentor to me, and one of the most compassionate people I know, asking if/how she would kill it. Knowing the bird would starve to death (at worst) or at best be killed when my dad got home was hard, but my mentor's response (that a shovel would work in this situation) did not come that day. I highly doubt I could have implemented it if it had. Instead, I researched alternative preventative methods (which I emailed my father) and imagined the bird's struggle until I angrily told my father to deal with the bird when he returned.
A few years later my dad still uses the sticky pads and today I found a second bird caught it its mess, a downy woodpecker. Once again my father would not be home for hours. I quickly tried to find a way to free it, trying to be calm and not frighten it too much (if that is even possible). It didn't work and it was clear the wings were badly damaged.
I could leave it to struggle until my dad dealt with it, but that would be late and maybe he'd even wait until the next day. I remembered what my mentor had told me (those are times when a shovel comes in handy) and now I wondered if I could do it.
I remembered my original motive for becoming a vegetarian (though it was actually the crappy meat at college that helped me implement my motive), I thought it was hypocritical for me to eat meat that I wouldn't kill myself.
I also remembered after not eating any meat for four years starting to eat fish again in part because I lived in a place where we taught people where our food came from. There I had seen animals butchered and though it was difficult to watch, I also observed how it was done with respect, reverence even.
Which was what I attempted to bring to downy woodpecker today. I took some deep breaths extracted the sticky pad from the side of the house and placed it on the ground. Then I sat on the step a bit away with a shovel and tried to calm my energy. I did not want to kill this bird filled with fear. It took me a long time and I didn't know if I could do it.
Afterwards I felt some of my judgment of my father wash away.
I looked up other options for preventing this situation.
I knew today was a blog day and questioned that although this might make a slightly more "riveting" story than what I usually write, if it was exploitative. And I wondered if I would come across self-righteous. And I wondered if I would come across cruel. And, I thought and felt a lot of things I usually don't today. And so though this isn't a typical gratitude of five. They are all in here.
And I am grateful for that little downy woodpecker.