17 December 2012

Garden odours

Our garden is full of smells. Most of them are resonant of growth and fertility - flowers, leaves, pea straw, ripe strawberries. But there's something else: the smell of death.

Our cat has been stashing the corpses of his hunting trophies. They're hard to find, but I confess I don't try very hard. I don't like to think what I might find. This morning when I opened our bathroom window after my shower, the room filled with the smell of rotting flesh.

Tonight I heard a frenzy of peeping outside our back door. When I looked out, my eyes fell upon our grey, furry carnivore with a baby sparrow between his jaws. He gazed at me, worried, furtive, guilty. The terrified, angry noises were being made by the devastated parents, Mr and Mrs Sparrow, perched above him in the lemon tree.

I have no doubt the sparrow parents had the same motivation to protect their baby as human parents. The same alarm and fear and devastation. But sparrows almost certainly lack the same consciousness we do (although I think the question of animal consciousness is inconclusive and basically just too hard).

Mr and Mrs Sparrow, however, are probably asleep already. There are 20 sets of parents in Connecticut who will only be so with the help of heavy sleeping pills. I hope they have kind doctors. Sometimes, unconsciousness is bliss.

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