An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of May 18, 2006
written at Polly's Bend, Garrard County, in Kentucky's Bluegrass Region, USA

COLD CROW OVER WINDY GRASS

Sometimes it's as if everything in a landscape chimes in with the same voice. In a concentrated, harmonizing instant lasting less than a second the voice sums up everything around you. You never know when such moments might crop up. At the end of life, maybe all that'll stick with us will be the echoes of such vividly alive moments.

I experienced such a moment the other day biking to the mailbox. We're on a ridge here so we're open to the wind. A cold-front was blowing in and that day the wind made whole trees heave and twist, showing the silvery bottoms of their leaves and sounding like waterfalls. On our ridge the sky is wide open so clouds say a lot. That day everything said was dark, ragged and cold. Most upland here is in hayfields and pastures, so fast-moving, almost violent waves of grass rampaged across too-green hayfields.

It was hard keeping my balance on the bike, less because of the wind than because with dramatic, fast- changing clouds like that, it's hard to keep from looking at them. You want to know if that dark gray downpouring just to the west is about to soak you, and you want to see how that cloud curling upon itself so ominously will turn out. Looking up, you start falling to the side. Even the hayfields disorient with their inconstant, heaving borders. The coldness makes everything sharp, everything you feel, see, smell and hear is sharp, sharpness and raw greenness roaring and heaving and you're right there inside it all.

A crow launched from a big Black-Cherry tree, or maybe it was blown from it, for it looked out of control, flying sideways and dipping and cawing. Then seven black birds -- maybe grackles, but my eyes were too teary to focus wel -- but those black birds erupted from the hayfield's boiling grass and went after the crow. At a time like this, they went chasing a crow!

In that half second of black birds converging on the crow alone in the terrible sky I saw it all and understood it all, how even at a time like this seven black birds can feel such rage that they'll leave cozy pockets down in the grass to go screaming and swooping in a gyrating senseless world. I understood it all in that half second, laughed at it all in a fast, convulsive way almost like inhaling a mosquito, and then it was all gone, all gone and everything not a millionth as meaningful and intense as it'd been just a second earlier.

I rode on, got the mail, and peddled back home, things still cold and windy, but now things not meaning much more than what they really were.

Still, that day, I had that half second of vividness, and in that half second the whole thing had managed to get itself inside me OK. Henceforward, all cold, windy things will have an element of crow-in-the-sky for me. All heaving, bubbling reality will be black birds crazily exploding out of ocean-grass, I know that for sure, and I'm going to remember just how cold-green that ocean-grass was.

In fact, when you meet me next time, that look in my face will be wind in a blustery, curdly sky, me trying to remember just how that curling black cloud resolved itself, and how that crow ever did get away. Facebook Icon.