Clean up


I love vultures. This sentiment is usually met with the look on the face of someone who’s just smelled something very unpleasant. But allow me explain. My affinity for these birds has nothing to do with their cuddly nature but rather an appreciation for the efficiency of the work they were sent here to do. They are God’s little clean up crew.

Something gets killed or dies and they come in to take care of it. They take it off the road, they move it off the sidewalk, they move it out of the way. Maybe they are moving it because they know we find these little reminders of our mortality unpleasant, but more likely they are moving it so they remain safe. Either way it works.

Whatever the case, they make quick work of their task. The evidence is gone in minutes, what remains gets recycled back to the earth. They do not kill anything, they simply wait. And when nature calls, they answer.

They are designed to perfection with a strong beak and talons to make quick their clean up. Their head, unadorned with feathers is sleek and therefore clean as they do their work. They are strong, with muscular legs, not to swoop down and pick up small prey like an owl or eagle, but so they can drag their find to a safe place.

A group of vultures is actually called a wake which I think is quite appropriate and quite beautiful. It speaks to the reverence of these birds and their job, their place in the world. They clean up with the rest of us don’t want to get near, don’t want to touch, don’t want to look at.

They remove the image of death. Perhaps that’s what they represent to us, a reminder of our own mortality and that we too will be recycled, returned to the earth in some form to nourish the soil for new growth. And this disturbs us, this reminder, therefore we find the very image of a buzzard or vulture unpleasant.

But I would like to say thank you magnificent creature. Your work is appreciated. At least by me.

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