It’s a sad day for our community when it loses a good man. This seems especially true at this dark moment of the American soul. As hate, racism and kitty snatching become the touchstones of our country today, losing a man who lived with dignity, compassion and love for all his fellow creatures is even more distressing. It sometimes seems as though good men are in very short supply right now.
So the news that last week we lost Dr. James Scott, founder and heart and soul of Bird TLC, is sad on many, many levels.
For those of you not familiar with his work, it was Dr. Scott who was the founder and inspiration for Bird TLC. While working as a vet in the 80s, he took in eagles and other wild birds that were injured and needed time to heal. He did this with no financial compensation but simply out of love and a passion for healing our injured wild birds. One of those eagles he saved from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, One Wing, became the face of the fledgling organization he helped birth.
Those of us who knew and loved him are so very grateful that he lived long enough to see the plans for our new facility to be built this spring above Potter’s Marsh. He saw his dream of a place for injured birds to heal go from just that – a dream – to a reality thanks to the devotion and caring he inspired in the volunteers who have kept his dream alive for almost thirty years.
Those thirty years have not been without their ups and downs. But given that Bird TLC is almost entirely fueled by volunteers who keep the facility open 365 days a year, his legacy is pretty impressive. Over 8oo birds were admitted to Bird TLC last year. More than half were successfully rehabilitated and released. Remember last winter’s great murre die off? Bird TLC received over 250 of those suffering birds and released over 220.
This is Dr. Scott’s legacy, a legacy of caring for those in need without thought of being paid to do it. It’s a legacy we need in today’s world where selfishness sometimes seems to overwhelm our decisions, and caring for others becomes a burden. Dr. Scott knew that caring for the smallest of God’s creations is a blessing to the creature receiving the care and a blessing to the person giving the care.
Among his many skills, Dr. Scott was a carver and a poet. His walking sticks are works of beauty. His poetry is grounded in the natural world and its wonders. Here’s a quote from the poem he wrote about One Wing. Some background – One Wing was not supposed to live. He was so debilitated when he arrived from the oil spill that the decision was made to use him as a blood donor for other eagles with a better chance at survival. But no one told One Wing he was supposed to die. So he didn’t. He lived.
“We took blood from him each day for several days, which you never do,” Scott said. “But he kept getting stronger and stronger. And he won a place in all our hearts.” And so Dr. Scott wrote in a poem.
Blood from his body to help weak eagles live,
“One Wing” is defiant, but he gives and he gives,
He can never sit quietly and view his vast home.
One wing he has only – he never will roam.
His spirit’s still strong, it molds me with cries.
Then he gives to his brother – a brother who flies.
Dr. Scott was Native American. His tribe believes that eagles carry the souls of the departed to heaven on their wings. I think all of us who knew him know that right now, a whole lot of eagles are fighting for the privilege of escorting his soul to the heavens. My guess is that One Wing, who can now fly freely in death as he couldn’t in life, will win. The other eagles will simply have to settle for escorting One Wing and Dr. Scott to a place where pain is gone, peace prevails and they can sit together contented in each other’s company.
We should all be so lucky as to have that be our ultimate destination.