On the morning after the tornadoes, I woke to the caws and squawks of 30 crows who were perched in various places in my living room. Some stared down from the mantel. Others circled on the blades of the spinning fan. One stared through the bookshelf glass, stared through to my Poe collection, which, by happenstance, was sitting upright against The Holy Bible. I watched them there until they noticed me, until they left their perches circling, until they converged into a singular swirling black cloud and dissolved at once into the bandwidth of my computer. There they were, behind the screen, sixty beady eyes blinkering, blinkering, blinkering as they called to me. Between the cacophony of caws they pecked at one another's unpreened feathers. (Oh how hard it is to preen when your blinkering eyes and squawking beak want only to pick apart your neighbor!)
I watched these crows pecking and such, heard the crows--or rather the translation of the crows, which was made possible through some Google application. It was a mechanical rendering, one which transmitted all the deciphered squawks at once, delivered them in a monotonous robotic echoing that came as if being spoken through a cold tin can which has had both top and bottom removed. One crow said God is such and such, and so and so--if he really was at all, that is. Another said with such certainty that God simply Is--He the very definition of goodness, and calling us to careful preening by way of his eternal and frightful thundering. Three crows squawked this second notion down for some other reason, which was undecipherable on account of the fact that it was all said at once. Google has its limitations, see, and it translated this three-bird call into nonsensical words like "flitteration," and "Timwittery."
These are the things I saw on the morning after the tornadoes.
I have heard, though, that caws and pecking do not comprise the whole of birddom. There are barn swallows who occupy themselves first with the creation of safe places, with piling mud pellets up, one atop the next. Their act of creativity always starts at the same place--the dust from whence they came--and they turn that dust into something substantial and inhabitable. I've heard that these barn swallows incorporate beauty into their homes, that they add a flourish every now and then. But not the flourishes of all-too-heavy golden rings, mind you. Instead, they use discarded foil wrappers--simpler, overlooked things. I've heard that these barn swallows build the steady foundation first, then the walls, then they lay their eggs and wait. And while they wait, they do not groan. Instead, they sing beautiful benedictions.
(Original image by y Danny Chapman, Creative Commons, via Flickr.)