Crow Time

When my kids were little, they had a hobby that we called, “crow time”, which is the few moments that happen at dawn and dusk when the crows go from their night roost to their daytime activities, and vice versa.  In the evening, it happens just when dusk settles in, as the world slips from full color into black and white.  A mob of cawing black birds flies over our yard at a precise time each night that changes ever-so-gradually as the season progresses.

Their hobby:  they would go outside at crow time and wait for a feather to fall from a bird overhead; they would try to spot and catch a feather before it hit the ground.  They called these “fresh feathers”.  As in, “We caught a fresh feather last night, Mom.  We had to wait for a long time for it to get down to us.”  They only ever caught one, but it didn’t stop them from trying every night. 
It makes my heart ache to think of it.  Their gentle, patient little souls.  That’s what they’ve got.  What I’ve got is 30 seconds, and something better happen or I’m moving on.  To go out each evening and hope for a feather to fall.  If, on the off chance that it does, and if they actually see it fall in the dim light, amidst all of the other crepuscular bugs and such flying around, and if you’re able to position yourself to where you might be able to catch it, and then wait and wait and wait for it to reach you, and then  -- well, you have a feather.
Did I mention that the one fresh feather they ever caught was a downy inner chest feather?  It must have taken forever to get down to them.  And they didn’t keep it.  They put it as high in a bush as they could reach, maybe 4 and a half feet up, hoping it would never touch the ground.
That’s what it’s like to be in the present.
What its like to be me right now is to worry about M., whom I haven’t heard from in a week.  I spend a lot of time talking myself down, imagining that she’s fine, and there are good reasons that I haven’t heard from her.  Reasons that don’t involve seizures and fevers and assaults. 
This isn’t the first time she’s gone to a far away in a place that I’ve never been to, gaining fluency in a language that I don’t speak, and having adventures that I can’t quite imagine.  But this time is different, because she’s completely on her own – there’s no college or other parent or anyone whom I could contact to find out what she’s doing if I don’t hear from her.  She’s moving around a three-country area at her own whim, by herself.
When I consider it, she’s just a tourist in another part of the world; this isn’t the riskiest thing anyone’s ever done.  And yet.  I am feeling a huge amount of empathy for mothers of soldiers.
I’m not good at missing people.  It’s not exactly “out of sight out of mind”, but more that I don’t like that pang that occurs when I think of someone I won’t see, so I try not to.  It’s exactly like the sensation you get when you jump into an icy lake, where you can’t breathe for a minute, and the feeling is so intense that you can’t decide it its good or bad, but with missing someone, instead of subsiding as your cells get accustomed to their new surroundings, it just stays there.  You can’t breathe, or think. All you can do is feel that huge feeling.
While I was writing this, I got an e-mail from Little Miss M., and that feeling disappeared.
She said that people in Nicaragua think it’s very strange that American young people are out loose in the world, because they should stay with their mother until marriage.  I’m starting to think I should be a Nicaraguan madre.


  1. This is such a lovely, evocative post. I keep thinking about the hope involved, waiting for a feather to fall, and the care taken to put the feather where it wouldn't reach the ground.
    Your kids are truly amazing, and it's all your fault.
    I think Crow Time should be in your book.

  2. ps why am I years late with this comment? I was re-reading your latest post, because I love your horoscopes so much. I was noticing how often you post, and saw that in 2010, before I met you, you had a lot to say, so I went there. I really don't have this kind of time, but I could spend all day perusing your archives. I'm so glad you keep writing.


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