August 19th, 2002

gericault_the raft of the medusa 2

Stir of Disturbing Memories

A few minutes ago, a car passed on the road a block west, and it was making a strange whining noise. A cockeyed headlight was flashing up into the trees. I had a momentary chill, remembering one of the scary games my older sister used to make up. (She made a lot of things scary. She used to do "Bloody Bones and Butcher Knives" at bedtime every night, when I was about four or five years old and we shared a room.) The particular game I just remembered was her version of Statues. It was played in the front yard, in the evening, when the cars passing had their headlights on. When the cars passed, we had to freeze in whatever position we were in. She said that if we moved while in the light from the cars, we would be killed. Most of her games involved death as a punishment for breaking a rule.

One of the results of this game was that I had nightmares in which I was running to stay out of the headlight beams of cars, sure that I would suffer some horrible death if I were caught in them. Somewhere, (probably from my sister again,) I had picked up the idea that there were people who drove around in trucks, and kidnapped children, and in the backs of those trucks the children would be dismembered. I had dreams about those trucks, too. I sometimes dreamed that I had been captured, and that I was tied up in the back of a truck, and tall figures, masked and hooded, were cutting into me with shiny butcher knives. It didn't hurt, but the knives felt very cold. All the while, even though I couldn't see the outside, I knew that the truck was driving around my neighborhood, past my house again and again, but I couldn't escape because my legs had been cut off. I would just sit there bleeding, and wondering when I was going to die. Then I would wake up in a cold sweat, shaking. If my sister was awake, she would usually tell "Bloody Bones and Butcher Knives" again. Is it any wonder I'm so weird? Ah, childhood. I'm so glad I only had to go through it once.
caillebotte_man at his window

A Day for the Birds

Before dawn, the acorn woodpecker was back, perched atop the telephone pole in front of my house, bowing and dancing, waking the other birds with his odd song. In the afternoon, I was awakened by blue jays screeching outside my window. In the evening, I noticed more crows cawing than usual. Then, there was a sudden burst of loud caws from a large number of crows somewhere up the street. I went out to see what the fuss was about, and saw about two dozen crows perched in two adjacent pine trees. Every few minutes, they would start their screeching, and it sounded as though there were dozens of them that I couldn't see. I watched the trees for a while. From time to time, two or three crows would take off, circle about, and return to the trees, always accompanied by an eruption of squawking.

Finally, there was a huge explosion of noise from the crows, and a great mass of them took off at once. The sky was full of wheeling shapes, and I could hear the flutter of their wings as well as their caws. There must have been close to a hundred of them swooping and darting about. About a dozen of the crows veered off from the mass and flew south, passing over my house, making an amazing amount of noise. The other birds returned to the trees. A few minutes later, most of that group took to the air and flew away to the north. Whatever the disturbance had been about, it was clearly over, at least for the moment.

About an hour later, I went outside again, and there was my old friend the acorn woodpecker, doing his dance atop the telephone pole in the gathering dusk, ending the day as it had begun. Birds are just born entertainers.