Monday, June 11, 2007

Crows and Girlfriends

Yesterday, Sable shot off barking when Jane and Jen came to pick me up to ride to Laura's together for our weekly poetry group. For some reason, Jane had never been inside my house, so she wanted a tour of the mess I call home. She bounded around looking unabashedly at the books stacked on tables and unfinished paintings. Anyone with dignity would have been ashamed. Not me. Guess I need to work on that. She called out, "Hello," to my teenager in her room on the phone who didn't want to be disturbed. Jane is not easily quelled, but even "I love you!" yelled outside the shut door did not win it open. Jane's a sport, so she made sure I knew that the mess made her feel right at home. I gathered my things for the twenty minute ride out to the Miccosukee Land Co-op where Laura lives with her husband Terry and their two dogs.

Before they came, I had been sitting on the back porch sipping tea when I noticed a brown leaf was actually a hairless baby wren that had fallen from its nest in the roof. It looked dead so I picked up a twig and pushed it; it jumped and opened its beak wide. What to do? Worms? I was fresh out but figured I should give it some water so I found an eyedropper and wrenched open the little beak and squeezed. I was immediately sorry because it flipped over from the gulp, waddled, seemed to recover and went back to sleep (or died). I figured I better let mother nature do the caring for this chickadee, so I scooped it into a little bowl (yes, without touching it) and dumped it back into the nest. That's when Sable started barking.

I told Arielle's door I'd be home later, and we clamored into Jane's Volvo. As we picked up speed, I felt something strange. Jane rolled down the windows, and Jen opened the New York Times to read aloud and comment. Jane lit a cigarette and took a sip of her traveling tea. What was this familiar feeling? From the backseat, I watched them gesture and laugh, but I couldn't participate in the conversation because the music was too loud and the wind too strong, but I didn't care. I was having a flashback to 1978 when all we did was ride around in cars, doing laps around the Pahokee A & P, the Hoover dike, the library parking lot, down Main, through Vetville or down Bacom Point, then always back around. When something grabbed our interest, we stopped.

So, it was so nice to be back in a car with girls, riding through the country, feeling the sun on my arms, the wind tangling my hair, listening to Ryan Adams and feeling free of all obligations--like I wasn't a mother who worries . For 20 minutes, I went back 20 years. What a car ride can do!

So we workshopped our poems, drank Laura's coffee, visited and talked, then gathered to go back.

On the road home, Jane and Jen talked about a road trip to New Mexico and said I should come. I smiled at the thought. I imagined dusty roads, sweat on brown arms from camping or hitchhiking when we broke down. Ah, how good it'd feel. It made me realize I've never traveled across country with girlfriends. I'd be game, game, game as long as I traveled with the right group: one who followed maps loosely, who stopped on instinct and let signs lead us, who might while away hours in a strange little bookstore, and who might stop to pet some cows. Jane, Jen and Laura would be such a group. And they'd keep the laughs coming.

Jane sang "Afternoon Delight" into the wind and Jen and I joined her, crooning as loudly as we could. It's so rare to be a grownup and to sit in a backseat and let your singing girlfriend with the tangled hair do all the driving.

That evening walking Sable in Myers Park, I heard a loud bit of cackling up in the top of a Chestnut tree. I recognized the sporadic caw of crows but something seemed particularly disturbing. I dragged Sable closer so I could see. As the spray of an oak cleared from my view, I watched two crows chase a hawk away, then fly back to a branch. The branch was covered with crows. They were chatting and puffing out their chests and looking at me and ignoring me and fussing and then they flew off--a dozen or so, first one way, then a dip, a turn, another way, then a circling back. I sat down to watch. Again and again, they took flight, circled and returned to roost. Maybe they were scouting for a better tree or maybe they were just cruising the air, checking out the hot spots with some time to kill before nightfall.

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