Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Long Grim Phenology Post: Jenny Wren Dies and I Don't Feel So Well Myself

(Trigger warnings: although the nasty ecological phenomena documented here include only temporary mood swings for me the human, they're depressing. They're meant to be depressing for anybody involved with using or manufacturing glyphosate, who jollywell deserves it. I am in a perky convalescent mood as I type this memory of how ghastly I was feeling last week, when I was online but did not write. You won't be feeling perky if you read this post without detachment.)

The week before last I wrote about glyphosate spraying and the loss of Boots and Bruno, the two rusty-black, bouncy-pouncy kittens Heather had adopted.

Heather, Seventh Queen of the Cat Sanctuary. Long Live Our Gracious Queen!

I'd been warned that Boots and Bruno were "wild" kittens who'd never been petted or kept indoors. Hah. If they hadn't been petted, they'd been watching older cats be petted and dreaming of being petted all their three-month lives. After snuggling into my hand and purring Boots would, of course, jump down to eat or play, but I couldn't have proved to a real skeptic that she responded to her name from the day it was given her, because at any sound or sight of me she'd run to me and put up her paws to say "Pick me up." Her face showed that she heard and recognized her name.

I brought the cats indoors after joyfully noting that, once again, my hedge harbored House Wrens, and these cheerful little mosquito-eating birds even seemed to want to build a second nest for the season in the hedge. House Wrens nest as near to humans' homes as they dare for the sole purpose of being able to live on the insects that most annoy humans. The House Wrens had been picking off the hibiscus leaf caterpillars on my mother's cherished pair of Rose of Sharon (Northern Hibiscus) bushes, and wanted to compete with the wasps for the gnats, mosquitoes, and fruit flies of late summer, when other songbirds leave plenty of those things available. I did not want the cats to interfere with the wrens' nest. All the cats complained bitterly about being locked indoors when I wasn't outside with them. Suzie moved out permanently. Tickle is no longer a real resident either. Heather trusts me enough to put up with this kind of thing, and Bruno, although he obviously blamed and resented me, chose Heather over Suzie as a foster mother--but Boots nonverbally said she trusted me and wanted to be my pet, too.

After Bruno's sudden death, Boots went into a decline. She didn't have a fever, abnormal bowel movements, or bleary eyes, so I hoped the extra crying and clinging, the loss of energy and appetite, were just symptoms of grief. Wrong. Boots died what appeared to be the most painful death of any of the kittens I've nursed, or failed to nurse, through infectious diseases or premature weaning. For as long as she was conscious at all, she wanted to cuddle. Heather and I cuddled her through the first two of three horrific convulsions. She died in the dead of the night, screaming, looking as if she were trying to turn herself inside out.

That was not the end of the horror at the Cat Sanctuary. Glyphosate poisoning continued. Heather went off her feed. I gave her charcoal, though, and she recovered; she's no spring kitten.

I went off my feed. I'm still on my feet, but in the Friday market I think people noticed my eyes tearing up and my voice choking up, and on Friday afternoon I apparently startled a stranger by mistaking her for an acquaintance--I didn't really see the face, of course. I suspect people thought I was crying about slow sales and financial desperation, because a couple of acquaintances patted me and handed me money. I wasn't crying, though; not even about my sick and dying animal friends. I was physically ill from glyphosate poisoning, and although I took home $28, enough for food for the week, Friday and Saturday nights were rougher than the weekdays in town had been. About three o'clock on Sunday morning I seriously considered calling for emergency medical help, if only for documentation that glyphosate poisoning was making me sick as a mule, but I decided against starting another round of "You're too old to live alone or with your even older mother, or even with your useless depressive forty-year-old sister," and I pulled through.

($28 isn't much to live on in these United States. Support this web site:

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4923804 )

And don't you just love the way American baby-boomers still think of women as vaulting directly from "too young to" be competent responsible adults, to "too old to" be competent responsible adults? Granted some women who buy into the current cultural stereotypes of being "feminine" and "depressed" are pretty useless; men who buy into the current cultural stereotypes for being "masculine" without doing a man's work are pretty useless too. But that's a choice, not built into either the X or the Y chromosome.

Anyway...we also had possum problems. Pally, the possum who was actually scampering in and out and rubbing against my legs with the cats last winter (urgh! ick! not encouraged!), is still scampering around as usual. Last summer we had a bigger, more unpleasant possum whom Inky nonverbally accused of threatening a kitten; I didn't get a good look at it, but it was bigger than Pally ever became. Then in the last week of July a small, dark-and-pale-gray-blotched possum made itself visible to me, and that was Wrymouth, the ugliest possum I've ever seen.

Iirc, this was the book that contained Cobb's famous pronouncement on the Virginia Possum: "His name is not O'Possum, nor is it McPossum. There is nothing Irish about him. He is American."

At their best possums do not generally appeal to the human eye--they tend to be described in terms of giant mutant rats--but you get used to them. To my eye Pally looks "normal," and a long-gone possum I called Poketana, who also presented herself to me as if she wanted to be considered a pet, looked "cute." Wrymouth looked "horrific" because it was obviously holding its mouth in a crooked position, and drooling, because something was horribly wrong. Possums have double supplies of several body parts, compared with other warm-blooded animals. Teeth are among those parts; some say a normal adult possum has about fifty teeth. Wrymouth, small enough to have been a spring possum-pup, seemed to have only a single row of single teeth, and one grossly abscessed or impacted tooth, or maybe it was a tumor, in a back corner; hence the wry mouth and the drooling.

Opossum 2.jpg
Wikipedia photo of a normal-looking possum By Cody Pope - Wikipedia:User:Cody.pope, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1705724

No possum smells exactly pleasant to humans either, although some smell stronger than others--male mustelids always smell stronger than females but I'm not sure that that's true for marsupials. The usual odor is a mix of animal sweat and whatever combination of dung, carrion, and rotten plant material a possum has been eating lately. Wrymouth didn't smell especially strong, but smelled somehow more septic than your typical litter-box-breath possum.

Normally when humans view a live possum in a trap, it glares, snarls, bares its teeth in the threat display, and if possible tries to hop in the sidewinding confuse-the-enemy move possums use in flight, or else faints. Wrymouth gazed piteously up at me and mewed like a kitten, the way Poketana used to do. Clearly it had absorbed the idea from its mother that I was one human who was generally sympathetic to possums. And I am, except that Boots had bounced out to see what I was looking at, and Wrymouth sprang at Boots, snarling, clearly wanting to kill and eat her. Some possums do kill kittens. So Wrymouth couldn't be allowed to live. Even releasing Wrymouth in a catless neighborhood seemed an unacceptable option--possums aren't vulnerable to the same infections other warm-blooded animals get because possums' blood is less warm, but whatever Wrymouth had might have harmed other possums.

Professional Rear Release Catch Release Humane Box Trap 36x11x12 for Rabbits, Stray Cat, Squirrel, Raccoon, Mole, Gopher, Chicken, Opossum, Skunk & Chipmunks Steel Outdoor Professional Grade
Somewhat cheaper at Tractor Supply stores than online, this is what I usually mean when I mention trapping animals. A Cat Sanctuary can't use the kind that injure the animals. 

I called a few friends to see if anyone wanted to euthanize Wrymouth. No one did. Well, I knew anyone would have had to care a lot about animals, and about me, to be willing to waste a bullet on a sick possum. "Just starve it in the trap, or open the door and whack it with a mattock as it runs out," people said. I didn't want to watch Wrymouth starve in a trap. I didn't want the resident animals to watch me whack Wrymouth with a mattock. I entertained thoughts about dispatching Wrymouth with a long thin knife, which turned out not to be long enough for leverage--and Wrymouth's want-to-be-a-pet attitude extended to letting me pry its mouth open with the knife and inspect its dental deformities. All the knife would do was scratch the possum in the trap, and Wrymouth seemed to like being scratched. For all I know it was begging me to lance the abscess; for all I know it might have survived if I'd done that, although a kitten-killing possum should not survive. In any case it trusted me. And it starved in the trap.

I don't know whether Wrymouth's defects had anything to do with glyphosate poisoning; obviously they started before the land was poisoned, though glyphosate may well have been what destroyed Wrymouth's resistance to whatever was wrong with it. I know Wrymouth's suffering was part of an aberrant mood I observed, in myself, that was part of glyphosate poisoning.

My usual six-hours-of-deep-sleep-and-eighteen-hours-of-alertness changed to short unsatisfactory dozes punctuated by angst-ridden dreams, day and night. I dreamed about all sorts of unpleasant possibilities that were not actually possible. One dream I remember, as an example, was that I bolted up out of a dream to switch off the desktop computer, when it was not in fact switched on, having dreamed that a cable was starting to smoke, when the cable in question wasn't even connected. I think I dreamed about everything that could possibly go wrong with the Cat Sanctuary and everyone associated with it.

When awake I was more conscious of feeling tired than of feeling angry, worried, sad, or cheerful, most of the time, but I did note more angry and vindictive thoughts, and more pessimistic thoughts or worries, crossing my mind in any given day than normally cross my mind in a week.

"And no...birds...sing!" is a song that seldom seems relevant to the Cat Sanctuary, even in August, although most local songbirds do become less active in August. Even the ever-cheerful year-round cardinals hop and sing less while molting. And they're still active, as usual, thanks to their slacking off from mosquito-eating duty during fruit season. Cardinals go vegetarian when they can, so in August they're pretty much vegetarian birds, and that's what seems likely to save them.

But no wrens sang. I'd sacrificed my relationships with two excellent cats to protect those wrens...and those wrens died.

At the risk of pleasing some of the readers who follow this web site because they hate my politics...picture your favorite (or unfavorite) blogger, last weekend, "sick in bed," having used up a stack of tissues and sniffling my way through a roll of toilet paper, dozing intermittently through the nights and days, awakened either by bad dreams or by bites from tiger mosquitoes. Yes, the mozzies were as bad as they were the year after that moron-in-law poisoned my paper wasps, directly. No, I've not seen any of my paper wasps in the past week or so; I see wasps, but on close examination they all seem to be visitors of different species, attracted to the mosquitoes my own paper wasps are no longer mopping up. And may God have mercy on whatever those helpful little visitor wasps have in the way of souls.

I wasn't observing much outside the cot in the office room. My immune reaction had escalated all the way into a "summer cold." Saturday night really was another cool night, low temperatures dropping below the 50-degree (Fahrenheit) mark, but I continued shivering with fever-and-ague after the temperature rose back above 70 degrees. When I crawled out of bed I braced myself against walls and furniture as I woozed around the house. Ooohhh, but if only the poisoner had been at the Cat Sanctuary in a suitably helpless state, how I would've loved to give him a waterboard treatment with a vat of "Roundup"--I was hardly strong or fast enough to swat the mosquitoes, but I felt mean enough to make up for it. (Vindictive feelings as a symptom of illness may merit more scientific study than they have so far received.)

But it was not a "summer cold." I know, because instead of worsening in reaction to mold "blooming" when rain finally falls--as my "summer colds" always do--my symptoms subsided within the hour the rain started to wash the glyphosate residues out of the air. My sense of smell returned in time for me to notice some mold resurgences and squirt some chlorine solution on, e.g., some of those books from my friend's store, so I didn't have allergy reactions to those and woke up this morning feeling normal and cheerful and ready to work 25-year-olds into the ground, as usual.

But still wrenless.

Does the cheap cell phone show clearly that this is the one egg Jenny Wren laid in her nest in the hedge, before she succumbed to glyphosate poisoning as a direct result of eating the nuisance insects around my home? On my browser it looks white; in real life it was pale beige and brown, speckled. I saw Jenny finishing this nest, too small for any other kind of bird to have used--it's a House Wren's nest all right. Below the egg you may see fragments of what appear to be a defective egg passed just before Jenny died.
What a lot of misery for all of us--I'm not even mentioning any humans other than myself, although I could--because some thing-that-ought-to-be-human is too worthless to attack unwanted plants with shears or loppers, the way decent human beings do.

To those who continue to poison the land, I wish all that I've been feeling, all that the human neighbors (I'll describe them collectively by saying that they all look ten or twenty years older than they were two weeks ago) have been feeling, all that Heather and the paper wasps and the robins and bluejays who were nearer to the road have been feeling, all that Wrymouth Possum and Johnny and Jenny Wren felt, and all that Bruno and Boots felt, continuously, for as long as it may take to bring the poisoners to a state of true repentance, through this world and the next.

Not that I am a mean person. A mean person would wish the poisoners what they've done for us, through all eternity, and that would be what my Southern Baptist friends mean when they say "Hell." A mean person would want to believe that a loving God would do that, and that people of good will would enjoy watching it. There may have been times last week when I felt almost that mean, but I don't seriously believe that the Bible teaches that God is that mean, nor do I want to; I believe that, when evildoers have suffered enough to reach a state of true repentance, if they're not worth saving they'll be allowed to die, and their destruction is what will last through all eternity.

We the people of these United States need to stop using ourselves, our neighbors, as experiments in the development of chemical weapons of war. We need to ban things like glyphosate. People who want "something to kill weeds" should be instructed in the use of shears, loppers, hoes, trowels, and mattocks.

Roundup 5200210 Weed and Grass Killer III Ready-to-Use Comfort Wand Sprayer, 1.33-Gallon
Or, if Amazon is allowed to show anyone this image...

iGarden 3 Piece Combo Garden Tool Set with Lopper, Hedge Shears and Pruner Shears, Tree & Shrub Care Kit
...Amazon should redirect any purchasers to this type of product, the choice of all True Greens!