Death of a cardinal



It’s said that when we die, the four elements — earth, air, fire and water — dissolve one by one, each into the other, and finally just dissolve into space.  But while we’re living, we share the energy that makes everything, from a blade of grass to an elephant, grow and live and then inevitably wear out and die.  This energy, this life force, creates the whole world.

~Pema Chödrön

Skin.  (Bark from a dead elm tree.)

Skin. (Bark from a dead elm tree.)

If I hadn’t been peering into the trees to look at the light and shadows, if I hadn’t been almost hypnotized by the patterns in the newly formed ice on the surface of the pond, I might have witnessed what happened.  As it was, I had to practically stumble upon the body before I knew there had been a death near the pond.



It was heartbreaking.  A female cardinal, freshly killed by the looks of her, lay scattered across the ground by the tree stump where I leave seeds for the birds.  I felt terrible, as if I had caused her death by leaving food regularly in one spot.  I’m not sure what killed her, but I do hope it went back to feed as it seems such a waste otherwise.

A male cardinal near the house

A male cardinal near the house

I know this is nature’s way.  I know nothing lasts or lives forever.  I know she was just a bird.  Still, I cried as I continued my walk, mourning this beautiful little creature.  I wondered about her partner, and if he would miss her.

Don't look too closely

Don’t look too closely.  (A collage of life and death.)

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

~ Kahlil Gibran

An opening

An opening

I know it must seem silly to cry over the loss of one small bird.  It’s hard to explain the why of it other than to say/write that being present in the loss of the bird feels like an opening, an awakening, to the pain of all loss.  It gathers in my heart.  And then I look up and out, at the beauty of the day, and the pain is released.  The lesson?  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s a reminder that life is fleeting.  Lessons can be that way, too.  Learned and unlearned.  Sometimes the unlearning is the important part.

2013-01-15 January 20131

Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature’s delight.

~ Marcus Aurelius

The clouds radiating peace in the sky

The clouds radiating peace in the sky on this beautiful day

The cardinal has a loud and clear whistle.  Whistles are often reminders to listen closely — to pay attention to what is blowing on the winds.  In the case of the cardinal, the female joins in on the whistling, which is unusual among birds.  This reflects that we should be listening to our inner voice (the feminine) more closely for our own health and well-being.

~ Ted Andrews, Animal Speak

Solar powered.  (Souler powered?)

Solar powered. (Souler powered?)

37 Comments on “Death of a cardinal”

  1. Mike says:

    Really a remarkable post Robin. The stunning imagery combined with your soft poetic words are a perfect marriage. I believe that those of us who can feel loss as deeply as you do, are also able to feel joy and wonder. Perhaps those emotions are married as well.

  2. dadirri7 says:

    such tender words, touching quotes, soft images, a story of loss that opens us to what is …. the elements combine and part, form comes and goes, life flows on, sometimes we touch the majesty of the whole 🙂

  3. Chloe says:

    gosh you’re a beautiful soul Robin x

  4. Bo Mackison says:

    So touching, Robin. I think feeling sorrow at the death of any creature is worthy of our soul connection with the whole world. We are all a part.

  5. seeker says:

    I am very much attracted to shadow of the tree and the collage of life and death. Cry if you must for life is fleeting indeed. Rejoice as well for there is too much life to live.

  6. artsifrtsy says:

    Lovely post – I find that anytime I see death – even though it is a part of the cycle of things I feel that sense of loss – that it was once alive and beautiful and now it is just a shell.

  7. One Old Sage says:

    Wonderful words and pictures.

  8. Mimo.ň says:

    “Loss is nothing else but change…” as soon as we can get over this…. than YES…

  9. aFrankAngle says:

    Many thoughts here … first, a BIG WOW on the final pic!

    Touching thoughts about the cardinal. Between their beauty and our look at them as innocent, no wonder the sadness.

    To counter, I recall a video from my teaching days. One scene showed a mountain lion chasing a snowshoe hare in fairly deep snow. Interesting that most people who be cheering for the hare, but in the end, the mountain lion was the loser … yep, those top-level predators have to eat, too.

    • Robin says:

      Thank you, Frank. 🙂

      I understand about the top-level predators. I marvel at the beauty of the hawks around here, even after losing a small (and favorite) cat to one a few years back. I was saddened by the loss of CJ the Warrioress Cat, but I never could get angry at the hawk or think less of hawks in general because they have to eat, too. What I do worry about is how people dump cats out this way, cats that have not been neutered, and there is a problem with feral cats (they kill about 500 million songbirds per year). Our neighbors let their cats roam, too, and I’m sure they do some damage to the bird population.

  10. bearyweather says:

    When we stop “feeling” and “caring” about such things as the life of a small bird … we have lost an important part of our humanity.

  11. Jo Ann says:

    I had a similar feeling of loss when an area close to where I lived that was once woods and farmland was being developed for housing. There was a small creek that ran where houses would soon be built. I cried that this creek, and all the creatures that depended on it, would never be the same. Looking at the bigger picture, we blog to help spread the word that nature is wonderful and worth preserving for those who come after us.

  12. Lovely post, Robin, with heart-touching photos and quotes for emphasis…thank you!

  13. I love cardinals – and would worry about their partner – even if only a human concept.
    Everything is connected and related in a strange tapestry – a rock moved, a pebble tossed into a stream makes ripples which move water ….
    I’ve hear said that we weep and mourn for ourselves not the one departed – they have already gone on to see what’s there

    • Robin says:

      I think that may be true, PhilosopherMouse. Watching my father mourn since my mother died (they were married for 55 years), I am almost sure of it. I know he looks forward to joining her someday (although he’s not rushing it), and seeing what’s there.

      I saw the two male cardinals today, and the remaining female. The males are not getting along as well as they were when each had their own mate. Or maybe I’m putting my own interpretation on things.

  14. This is so beautiful and poignant. Thank you, Robin, for opening our eyes to the good and bad in nature that is all around us. We go about our daily lives and never stop to think about the life and death struggle all around us.

  15. Joanne says:

    Oh Robin, I can understand your tears. Last year, when I had two ducks visiting every day, the female arrived alone one day and quacked for ages. I thought her Mr Duck had died, or been injured, and I walked around the garden in tears! Eventually I came indoors, told myself all of the things you have said here, it happens, it’s nature, washed my face and carried on. Half an hour later, there was the male duck in the garden with her! I could have hugged them both!

    Your quote from today really does sum it up, “you are weeping for that which has been your delight”. I do hope the male finds a new mate soon. Sending you a big hug today.

  16. dearrosie says:

    My congratulations on a really beautiful post – your photos, the quotes and the sad story of the cardinal.
    Last Saturday morning on a walk in our neighborhood Mr F and I saw a dead squirrel on the sidewalk and a hawk in the tree above it and then around the corner we saw a dead “yellow” bird that we couldn’t identify. It felt as though we lived in the country.

  17. Dana says:

    So sad. I don’t think it’ silly at all to mourn the loss of a bird. 😦

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