Ranger, our black cat, came running up to the open kitchen door tonight, carrying something in his mouth. Greg and I scrambled to intercept before he dropped his (potentially alive) probable mouse inside the house. Yes, sadly we have experience in these matters. Unfortunately, we didn't succeed in cornering him until he was under one of the kitchen chairs.
At which point he dropped the (still alive) house wren that he was carrying.
Expecting it to shudder and die at any moment, I gently picked up the little bird and cradled it in my hand. I could feel it breathing, but it didn't struggle.
Without any expectation of the injured bird surviving, I carried it out to the draw, leaving all of the dogs and cats back at the house. I laid it gently in a clump of grass near a tangle of vines where I've seen wrens many times before. If it had to die, at least it would die in its natural surroundings.
As I walked back towards the house in the twilight, I noticed several monarchs fluttering around one of the willow branches, swaying in the wind about 10' above my head. Lazily watching them, I noticed a couple more in the same area of the tree. Looking more closely now, I saw a small cluster of about 10 gathered together, settling in for the night.
After running back to the house for the camera, I followed a few more monarchs to a second, slightly larger cluster. Every time another individual joined them, many would open their wings as if in welcome, then close their wings and almost disappear into the darkening silhouettes of the willow leaves.
Following his natural instincts, Ranger brought us a tragic gift tonight, but in trying to return that gift to its natural place, I received another gift of grace in sharing the evening ritual of the monarchs. Nature, in both its beauty and its harshness.