It's an Aviary
On a scrap of paper next to my keyboard are the words “Leonard Cohen makes my pain go away.” Yes, it’s a trifle melodramatic but at the moment I saw those words written in a comment below a YouTube clip of Cohen, the aged poet and songwriter who continues to amaze, they struck a nerve. Or a chord.
Today when I was talking of a bird on the wire (“Bird on a Wire,” written by Cohen, made famous by others) I thought of a song with words I couldn’t quite remember about an eagle. The tumblers rolled over and over until I remembered “I thought I saw an eagle, it may have been a vulture, I never could decide” (from Cohen’s “Story of Isaac”).
The bird was on the wire on the Mansion Road when I came home the other night. I never notice them until I am nearly beneath them, these night perchers, and it is too late to stop before they fly away. There was light in the sky, that wonderful blue readying itself to fade to black, and the hawk, I thought, was a perfect silhouette spreading its wings and drifting off across the field.
I thought it was a hawk, but it may have been an owl, I realized as it attempted to light on another wire, one running up above the brush that fills my lot. This time I was prepared to stop and watch, and as I did it could not balance itself, but wavered back and forth, never quite folding its wings until it gave up and went off to the north where there are no wires, but surely better hunting grounds.
I think it was an owl, but it was just beyond my headlights, there was no tell-tale moon face of a barn caught in the white beam, neither enough to show itself a hawk. I’d prefer an owl; there is no difficulty in that decision.
There was, of course, a cow in the barnyard, the same red and white one that is becoming a regular haunt. She no longer makes even a superficial effort, not any pretense of knowing she is the one who does not belong. Perhaps if I yelled and waved my arms she would move but the grass is new and green and I’m not sure she’d bother, knowing she’d only be returning as soon as I disappeared. At least I am no longer startled by her formidable presence.
It rained earlier, as it seems wont to do on Wednesdays, gentle rain, silver rain, rain falling straighter than the fluttering flags would indicate. The still greening earth is greedy, welcoming it, and hours later, after it has ceased, there will still be the sound of it near trees where water collected on leaves spatters slowly downward, leaf to leaf.
It is puddling on the mainland, the voice on the radio warns, and at first I think “puddling, you don’t know puddling” then recall driving with my older brother on the Merritt Parkway in the pouring rain, and of another trip, also with him at the wheel, from Lansing to Grosse Pointe in a torrential cloudburst, and realizing Connecticut and Michigan shared the same oceans in the underpasses. Worsened by heavy traffic.
By afternoon it was only gray, another June day.
The birds are especially active this year, or especially inquisitive, or, perhaps, especially emboldened, living near that cow. It seems every other morning I am awakened by the sound of fluttering wings. I don’t bother with them; sure they will find their way out. It is a bit of a miracle there is never more than one.
This afternoon I heard the familiar noise, chose to ignore it, until it caught my eye, a sparrow of sorts, on the top of the bathroom door. The window is not open that wide and the sill is covered with a variety of products, none of which were toppled by the bird’s entrance. There was faltering sunlight and I closed the door, sure the little creature would go to the only light, the window, and escape, which it did.
I don’t remember there ever being so many, the windows aren’t more open than usual, or the door and there isn’t any food to draw them, and, miracle of miracles, there being no evidence of their little journeys. It’s an aviary, a very exclusive one that accepts one visitor at a time.
A small moth, yellow and tan, blends into the wall above the kitchen window and I think of another, larger, which beats its wings against the window by the desk the other night. It, in turn, reminded me of a friend whose family once owned a house over on the edge of the Great Pond. It was, it remains, a simple house set to take advantage of the view out across the north end of the harbor, with sliding glass doors and a ceiling of wood. Long before I knew the family, when I was in high school and wandering about the neighborhood was an after school pastime, I discovered the place, with its own railway, actual rails rails set to facilitate the launching and hauling of a boat. They had been installed back when there were so few people and structures around the pond no one worried about such things.
My friend would turn on the lights and open the sliders and moths would come into the house, great moths, larger than I’d ever seen, with great dark “eyes” on their wings. They would lie on the ceiling, in the upside down way of moths. I thought he was half mad, my friend, not in an especially bad way, sort of like his father, of the railway and special sinks in the basement, designed for cleaning of fish.
The house was sold but is still simple, and still with its grand view of an area that will never be developed, the north end of the pond and the barrier that separate it from the ocean. I wonder what happened to those sinks.