July 1st, 2003

gericault_raft of the medusa 1


Over the last few weeks, I've written several things which I intended to post, then, on reading them, decided that I'd better not. I'm finding it difficult to focus, and to get the words in the right place. I'm uncertain if it is the result of the heat, or the disruptions I've been enduring, but something isn't right. There's weirdness in the air. I can smell it, along with the stench arising from my failed bits of prose. I'm hoping a great wind will soon blow.
caillebotte_man at his window

Air Show

This afternoon, as I sat under the mulberry tree, a pair of small, very cute birds alighted in its dense canopy and began a conversation. For such tiny creatures, they had surprisingly loud voices. Their sound was also quite gravelly, though high-pitched. I suddenly had the feeling that I was listening to a duet between Carol Channing and Axl Rose, played at too-high a speed. (Does anyone else remember playing 33RPM records at 78? It's odd to think that I was once so easily amused that I could find hilarity in such things.) I watched the birds for a while as they flitted from branch to branch, calling back and forth to one another, making their quick bird movements, their long tail feathers switching back and forth, up and down, to balance the movements of their outsized heads, their beaks opening and closing to emit the loud calls. One of the birds had a call which was entirely gravelly, and the other made the same call but always began it with a high-pitched squeak. This second bird, I decided, was Axl.

A bit of bright sun was poking through gaps in the leaves, and as I squinted to get a view of the birds perched on a thin branch only a short way above me and a couple of feet in front of me, the brightness of the sun brought on a sneeze. The loud noise must have scared the crap out of the birds -- not literally, fortunately, as my outstretched legs were directly under them -- and they flew higher into the tree and fell briefly silent. I had never before wondered how a human sneeze might sound to a bird. Since they had been cavorting not far from me, they must have been aware of my presence, and accounted me no threat. Perhaps, as their song had reminded me of some other sound, my sneeze had sounded to them as though it might have come from a predator of some sort. Whatever the cause of their initial reaction to it, they soon resumed their dialog, though they remained safely on a higher branch.

During this time, a blue jay had been pecking at some morsel atop the post of my mailbox a few dozen feet across the yard. At first, it paid no attention to the two small birds. As their song continued, the jay's attention was drawn and it hopped onto the fence and looked intently in our direction. After the small birds had moved to the top of the tree, the jay, who had remained silent all this time, suddenly let out a screech, which silenced the pair. Then he flew away, with another screech. I heard a couple more chirps from the foliage above, and then the flutter of tiny wings as the small birds departed. I don't know if it was the protestation of the jay which drove them away. Perhaps they feared the larger, aggressive bird. Perhaps they were polite, and regretted having disturbed the jay in his territory. And perhaps they simply had no desire to share a yard with so obnoxious a bird. I imagined Carol Channing saying to Axl, "Well, if they let that sort of bird hang around here, we'll just go someplace with more class!"</i> I like to think that they found their way to some place full of gentle wrens and sweet larks, and that whatever the subject of their dialog, it led to a happy conclusion.