meowing overhead

by Jamie Lutton.

I have always encountered other animals on my walks to and from work. Mostly dogs. I like dogs; never owned one as an adult. Never had the time. But I like to pet dogs, and like all dogs. Big rottweilers and little chiawawas all. I have favorites; there is a Australian Shepard called Sheila who used to mob me every time I saw her, usually late at night when her owner was walking her.

When I started to carry dog biscuits, the dogs knew. The tolerance they had for my petting them changed to an eager sniffing as they caught the scent of my biscuits. With the owner's permission, I usually gave biscuits out to the dogs. So, my trips to work and home I usually encounter a dog or two, and gave out largess.

There is one dog who does not know me well, the husky who lives above my shop. I see him nearly every day, as he sticks his head out the second story window to watch passers by.  He is as much a fixture of the street as my cat neon sign, which is right by that window. Tourists and locals who snap camera photos of him usually get in the cat neon sign. He hangs his head and his front paws out the window, and makes stink eye at other dogs, as well as just observing the passing scene.  He enjoys watching my crows, but they do not seem to upset him much.

Today, walking to work, feeding a few crows, taking my time as it was a Sunday, I heard a chattering meow.  I looked around, then overhead. There was a cat looking out of the second story window, at my crows getting snacks. The cat, a charming black and white, was making chattering, hungry meowing sounds. I hurried by, so I would not tempt the cat to make a jump.  I trusted the husky not to jump, no matter how tempted he was, but not this cat.

Before I fed crows, perhaps most of my adult life, I walked around in a fog. I woke up when I was at work, handling books, looking at books. But the natural world was a fog to me. I was looking at a crow the other day, perched in a tree near the pet food shop. I suddenly looked up, and up, at the tree. It was some sort of survivor from the days before humans took over this part of the world, and called it Capitol Hill. It was a huge tree, a pine tree of some kind. Hundreds of feet tall. My looking for crows, looking up, as I never did before, made me really see this  tree for the first time. And I had been walking by this tree for over 20 years.   I started to notice other beautiful trees in the neigborhood.

There are three cherry trees in bloom, behind the construction site. They have pink ribbons tied to them. Will they die, be cut down? All the houses behind them are doomed.  I stood beneath them, the cherry blooms all above my head, I mourned for these trees. They were mature; at least 50 years old. Will they die soon, be cut down soon?

The death of flowering trees is a travesty. And yet, I had walked by them or near them for 20 years, and barely noticed them; until their last year on earth.

It is the crows that got me to look up, and out. Instead of looking at the ground, or out vacantly into space, I am looking at the trees more, and the flowering bushes, and the spring flowers.