With the help of a gym trainer and a bodywork specialist (who works half the week on horses), I’ve been working on improving my posture, which, through the majority of my life has been habitually stoopy – shoulders hunched, head trajectorialized towards my toes.
As a result of our collaboration, my vertical spectrum has gained added visual range. The price of this postural elevation – and there’s always a price, even for the good stuff – is that when I now go for walks, my upraised sight lines prevent me from spotting discarded coinage lying on the sidewalk. I used to find a surprising amount of it. And not just small change. Quarters!
On the bright side, as a result of my newfound ability to “see up”, I can today report to you on the curious machinations of crows. I always knew they were up there. I could hear them. But before my revived verticality, my perspective angled insistently groundward.
For reasons inexplicable to avian ignoramuses, our backyard appears to have been chosen as an outdoor Convention Center for crows. There are times I look out my window and I witness our back yard playing host to a frightening, bordering on Hitchockian, number of frighteningly oversized crows. At those moments, I would not dispute their ownership of the place. I mean, it’s like,
THREATENING CROW: “I know you think it’s your backyard, but you come out here, and we will collectively peck your face open.”
In the course of these crovian invasions, I prefer to keep myself better-safe-than-sorrily inside in the house.
But one day…
Early one recent Wednesday morning, when I emerged for my regular Wednesday walk, I found myself in the presence of that black-wing-ed horde migrating, to a bank of telephone wires stretched out across the street. This change of venue required them to fly directly overhead , darkening the sky and triggering an unconscious tremor that their next stop was not, in fact, the nearby telephone wires, but me.
Fortunately, it was the wires.
Reprieved from my sense of imminent destruction, I delayed the beginning of my walk, and I decided to watch them. It’s not often that I find myself in the company of a Biblical plague-level number of crows. I thought the occasion was worth rearranging my schedule for. (This is the “up side” of having no particular life. You can take the time to look at crows.)
The telephone wires were a three-tiered affair – a lower wire, a mid-level wire, and the uppermost wire, towering over the others. The first thing that caught my eye was that, when the crows flapped their way to the wires, it was not, like, “First come, first served.” There appeared to be specifically “Assigned Seating” up there.
Every crow seemed to alight on what appeared to be their pre-designatedly appropriate spot. Some flew directly to the top wire, as if, through combat or connection, they were entitled to that uppermost perch. The mid-level crows occupied the middle wire, and another group flew straight to the lowest wire, apparently accepting that the bottomest rung was exactly where they belonged.
Once in a while I would notice a crow assigned to the middle wire execute an upward maneuver, abandoning their intermediate station and elevating determinedly to the top. But it was, like, “The Anointed” occupying the “Exalted Rung” gave them the “cold shoulder”; you could see their little bird claws sidestepping away. The unwanted interloper eventually got the message; in time, they retreated ignominiously to their Middle Perch destiny.
I started to wonder what the members of each of these delineated subgroups was thinking:
BOTTOM WIRE CROW: I like the bottom wire. It’s a shorter flight; you arrive there sooner. And if you fall off, it’s not as far of a drop to the pavement. Do I aspire to move higher? Why would I? I have my buddies. I feel comfortable, content. Hey, I’m a “Bottom Wire” crow. And that’s just the way I like it.
TOP WIRE CROW: First time I saw telephone wires, I flew straight for the highest one. It was just natural, you know? There’s a top wire. Why shouldn’t I sit on it? You’ve got the best view. The other crows look up to you. It is really as good as it gets. Do I deserve the top spot? I never thought about that. I’m just a “top spot” kind of a crow. I must be, right? Look where I am.
MIDDLE WIRE CROW: “Bottom Wire” crows are just too scared to make the move. They don’t even try for the middle! They say they’re happy, but, between you and me, I sense a deficiency in character. The Top Wirers? I see nothing superior about them – they eat and poop like the rest of us. For me, the middle wire is a temporary way station. Before I’m finished, I’ll be “Top Wiring” it with the best of them. Did I call them the best? Well, maybe they are. But they’re no better than I am. Did I tell you I was up there once? Lasted about thirty seconds, and I came back down. I wasn’t ready, I guess. But some day, I will be. You can count on that. I was not meant to end up in the middle!
Finally, I moved on. I mean, you can’t look at crows forever.
When I returned from my walk, they were gone. I imagined them on other telephone wires, playing out their dreams for somebody else’s eyes.