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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A crow here, a cat there

by Jamie Lutton

John. has urged me to consider writing about books instead of crows, as spring is here, and the crows are not quite as hungry.

But that does not mean they are not still interesting now and then.

This morning,  half way to work, I threw a treat to a crow standing on the sidewalk, an older, fat one; and he took it in his beak and hopped over to bury it under some trash by a drain in the gutter. A younger crow came up behind him to steal his treat. The older fat crow wrestled that crow on the ground with a great deal of squeaking, waving of wings, very fast thrashing.  I threw another treat to break up the fight and to satisfy the younger one. The older crow scurried over to grab that treat too, blocking the other, younger crow in a manner similar to blocks seen in ice hockey; with a quick scurry that was, again, too fast for my eyes to follow.. He was mad, I think, at the younger crow's attempted theft and hustle.

I could have tossed out a big handful to dilute the perceived shortage of crow treats, but was too fascinated watching the scuffle. This is where a young crow was learning not to steal from an older crow.

A few days ago, I was going home at about 5 pm, and the North nest crows - second of the three -- that seldom in the morning had spotted me. My home cat, Piglet, had run out the front door as I opened it. She likes to dash merrily up and down the lanai, so I have to catch her. These two crows flew to a nearby tree and watched me catch her and pop her back into my apartment.

But still, one of them came and perched on my lanai's railing, to ask for a treat.  I tossed one down on the floor of the lanai.

What emotion that passed over that crow was interesting. He -- fluffed up, all over, as he stared at the treat.   His feathers stood on end; he doubled in size for a moment or two; I think this was - Cat Alert.  I knelt down, so I was not threatening, and put my hands in my lap.  He stared at the crow treat, which was about 10 feet in front of me on the floor, and at me; looking around the leni for the cat he had seen. His mate was in the tree behind him, watching both of us, but could not see over the edge.  The crow suddenly flew down, and grabbed the one treat, made a sudden grab for the second, missed that one, then bounded out and flew away into the sky, out. The second crow stared at  me from the tree, but did not budge from  her perch. More cautious. We looked at each other, then I went inside my apartment.

It is a quiet day at work while I write this. I put some peanuts out on the railing; a few crows have visited me to carry them off. My shop cats watch these crows, and are content; Cat TV.

I should write about books, but have a bit of writers block.

I picked up a copy of a children's book called The Little Engine That Could. This is the earliest book I can remember, and the book I can remember my mother reading to me. I can remember her reading to me what the train said, when faced with a steep hill, and a heavy load "I think I can, I think I can".  I do believe, in the long version of that book that she read to me, several trains had turned down the load, and would not help move a heavy load of toys and things (it is a very bright book of toys, and dolls, and pretend trains).

The point being, the littlest train not only did the tough job, but did the job turned down by other, busy trains.  That sort of stayed with me, as a morality tale, plus, even more, the sound of my mother's voice. She was sober, reading to me. She put on her story-telling voice, but she was clear, and sober, and funny.  So rare in my memories of her. Most of my memories of her she is in the sack, and not thinking of me or anyone else. Mostly, she is complaining; intoxicated, scary even. Commanding that I listen to her as she drank sometimes. When she was sober, in my childhood, she was buried in one book or another, often a murder mystery, cranking through them rapidly.  This is my main memory of her; though she was pretty good mother, she was an addict, an alcoholic, and was very difficult to deal with, especially. in the evenings.

She did tell me about good authors when I got to my teens; authors she loved, authors I still read; authors I want to write about. She was a speed reader like me.  Dad would also tell me about authors and books I should read; sometimes they both agreed on some books; classics, poetry, history. I recall once when they were grabbing volumes off the shelf and reading poetry to me,  to each other, when I was a teen.

I keep stopping, seizing up, as I miss them both, when I try to write about books.  Book memories lie next to my parents in my mind, and they have died too recently for me to go there without me disturbing my memories of them.  I pick up Make Way For Duckings, and I hear my Mother's voice when I was four. Or, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe; and Daddy read that to me each evening when I was in third grad, until I took it away from him and started to read ahead so far that I left him behind.

Third grade was my crucible grade. I began to read everything; it was the year school became hell, the year we moved to Richland, and it was the year my soul decended into hell, too; I think my illness began to be really bad. The next year, the school insisted I take Ritalin to keep me quiet in school.

But books sustained me, and kept me sane, until the day I am writing this, for the ether, for you.  

My next blog will be about the great books of my youth that  I can still reread today with pleasure. What the experts call  classic 'chapter books' or 'young adult books'.  Later blogs will be about adult nonfiction and fiction, and about the great books for my book project/list, books of all kinds that should not be missed.

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