Here in the country beauty and death surround you. They’re that close. The hummingbirds whiz in and out sipping the Kool-Aid in the feeder for them. The cat races back and forth in the garden climbing higher and higher in the tree. I see her at the doorway with something in her mouth, it’s still struggling. I yell and smack her, and a quail runs away into the garden. It doesn’t fly away. I go to see if it’s hurt. Ostensibly it’s not. Legs not broken, neck not broken. It stands breathing heavily, eyes darting all about. I decide it’s just in shock at narrowly escaping death. I talk to it, I point out that it’s still alive, it can walk, it can fly, it’ll be fine. The cat, of course, can’t stay away and comes prowling. I pin her to the ground a foot away from the bird. The bird doesn’t move. Still catching its breath. I hesitate to pick it up and move it somewhere safe – doesn’t human scent ostracize a bird from the pack? I pick up a stick and try to get the bird to stand on it. It jumps slightly, so it does seem to be able to move. It just doesn’t want to. Now I’m feeling restless and foolish. How long can I hold back this cat, prevent nature from taking its course? Maybe this is something I need to watch, the dance of predator and prey. The instant I release the cat, the bird flies away, out of reach.
And then: the next day on the path outside the gate is a dead bird, perhaps a quail, perhaps the same one. The head is missing. Do cats eats birds’ heads? The body of the bird has been torn open, and a swarm of bees, perhaps two dozen, partake of it in a literal feeding frenzy. I can’t look. I look.
— Don Shewey, diary entry, 9.23.92
Grapewine Springs Ranch, rural Mendocino County, California, 1992