a persistent daydream
Hello. This post is about Death & Birds.
During that first Covid year, at 8pm on every Thursday evening people across the country would briefly exit the homes in which they were ‘locked down’. They would stand on doorsteps, or hang out of windows to applaud, cheer and hit pots and pans by way of acknowledging the extraordinary effort and sacrifice of the key-workers across the country. The same, heroic key-workers who, just months later, were denied raises by the very government who encouraged the practice.
I had a persistent daydream, at the time. I imagined that, of a Thursday evening, every person across the country would eye their clocks as 8pm approached, before collectively rising and amassing on doorsteps and at open windows. There would be a quiet, solemn hush, dense with reverence and solidarity. Then, in the few seconds before the clocks struck the hour, one collective inhale, followed by a 67 million-person strong primal scream—raw, guttural, not an inch of lung wasted, doubled over, fists clenched, gasp-inducing howls. From 8.00 till 8.01, everyone joined in a minute of shared grief, rage and anguish—before picking themselves up, bowing respectfully to their neighbours and faithful witnesses, then continuing on with their evenings.
I still wish that there were places where one might fully express the depth of feeling which is so often kept caged, so as to be accepted, so as to function within the parameters set. What a kindness it would be to have on every High Street a ‘Scream Room’—a specialised, soundproofed room which one might take five minutes to step inside and release some of what sits so heavy on the heart. There is vitality in grief. We need not fear it.
During the Spring, I was awoken one morning by the sound of something hard banging against our bedroom windows. The noise was repetitive, and accompanied by a frantic scratching in-between ardent thumps. I jumped out of bed and pulled up the blinds to see an enormous Crow hurling itself violently at the window. I hit the glass with my palm, pleading with him to stop. He flew away, leaving the window bloodied and me stunned.
David was away at the time. He was in France, at a ‘darkness retreat’, spending six days in silence and total darkness—a meditation, of sorts, restricting all visual input in order to access that which sensory distraction might typically keep at bay. I was confident that David’s psyche could handle the challenge, though I was gripped by a recurring fear that, in the darkness, he would lose his footing and hit his head. So, when I was awoken by a Crow hitting its head over and over into our bedroom window, I saw it as a sign that David was in mortal danger.
I spent the days that followed trying to reason with myself, as the seemingly crazed Crow proceeded to attack every single window of the house with an unrelenting fervour. My friend at the rescue centre told me that there was likely a nest near the house, and that the male Crow was seeing his own reflection in our windows, then attacking who he saw as trespassing in his territory. I systematically went round, cleaning blood off each window pane before smearing wax over the glass, in attempt to make it less reflective—a deed which proved relatively effective, though the Crow took to patrolling back and forth outside.
I adore Crows. I’ve had the great privilege of feeding and cleaning orphaned baby Crows, who make some of my most favourite sounds in the entire world. They are fiercely intelligent, kind, playful and bold. I know this, and yet, in those days I became caught up in the Western folkloric belief that they are somehow the harbingers of doom. How easy it can be, to forget ourselves.
In the wild, when a Crow dies, all the Crows nearby (whether relatives or otherwise) will gather around and let out a collective rattle call.
This week, as I sit here writing, I feel my own rattle call lodged uncomfortably in my throat; immovable, however hard I swallow. I find myself longing for a pack, alongside whom I might howl.
Yours in aimless flight,