July 13th, 2003

caillebotte_man at his window


A moon this bright reflects from every shiny surface -- telephone cables, insulators, chrome on parked cars, the glass and metal of my non-functioning decorative carriage lamps. The oak leaves glow, too, and the pine needles, so all the night is glittering and glowing. A moon this low sends long shadows across the ground and up the walls, so the night is like a late afternoon in a melancholy afterworld, where all is pale light and indistinct shadow, and breezes are like passing ghosts who whisper and sigh. The low full moon of summer suits my mood, or induces it -- no matter which. I let my thoughts stretch out on the dark lawn like a newly laid out corpse. A night such as this is like a lucid dream in which there is no need to breathe and from which there is no need to wake. I look up at wan stars and wait for the moon to pass beyond sight, and drink in the cooled air and the quiet. However much I might will the night to stay, the earth will turn away from my desire and expose the sun, and thus itself, and send me into another day.
caillebotte_the balcony

Instrument of Flight

There was something dark sticking out of the lawn. It vanished as I was looking at it. Going over to the spot where it had been, I saw that it was a feather which had twisted sideways in a slight breeze. It was a blue tail feather, probably from a blue jay. I wonder if the bird simply shed the feather, or if it had a close encounter with a cat. Perhaps the bird needs Rogaine. More likely, it was the cat. Blue jays torment the cats, diving at them and screeching. The cats hate the blue jays, and seldom catch one. Most often, the cats will slink away from the jay attacks, and take refuge under a bush. But, once in a while, a jay will miscalculate. I once saw a cat, having been repeatedly attacked by a jay, at last seize the opportunity to retaliate. As the bird swooped low over the cats head, the cat, instead of going into its customary defensive crouch, quickly flipped over onto its back and reached up with its paws, deftly snagging the bird in mid flight. It happened so quickly that I was as surprised as the bird must have been. The bird didn't feel surprise for long, though. Instead of playing with the tormentor as it would with most prey, the cat flipped back over, dragging the jay down, and immediately snapped the bird's neck. Then it tossed the cadaver about for a bit, while the other jays screamed from the trees. The cat never ate that bird. After grasping it and shaking it one last time, the cat turned and walked away, with its tail straight up. I expected the other jays to attack, but they didn't.

Something of that sort may have happened to the bird whose tail feather I found on the lawn -- but with less dire consequences for the jay. Better to lose a tail feather to a quick cat's claw than to have your neck broken by a slightly quicker cat. I'm not fond of blue jays. They screech and chatter and harass the other birds, just as do their larger cousins the crows. But, looking at the feather, its deep blue color slightly iridescent, and feeling the softness of it, I must acknowledge it a beautiful object. I might regret, but only in passing, that the jays don't have a disposition to match their feathers. Of course, then they wouldn't be blue jays, and if the jays weren't there to fill whatever niche it is that they occupy, then nothing else could be quite what it it is, either. Lacking the wisdom to create a balanced system in which no bird was obnoxious, I must accept the blue jay for what it is, and be pleased that, at least, it has the redeeming aesthetic feature of this marvelous feather.