A few days ago I witnessed a violent confrontation in and above the massive eucalyptus tree in the canyon behind the house. There was much outraged squawking, mid-air collisions and black feathers tumbling loose in the wind. I imagine the dialogue went something like this –
She: What part of NO! don’t you get? I told you already, I need some space, maybe some time at the beach. I’m not doing this again, NO!
(Crashing leaves, he falls but manages an upward swoop and returns)
He: Beach? What, you think you’re a seagull? Take a look in a mirror. Come on, honey, it’s spring and you know what that means.
She: I do. 35 interminable days sitting in a pile of twigs full of smelly egg shells and screaming kids. Been there, done that. I’m going to Mexico, maybe shred papel picano for a trendy new nest decoration or learn to sing corridos.
He: (Leering) Crows don’t sing and you’re not going anywhere. The biological imperative, remember?
She: (Wings threatening, black eyes blazing) Take your biological imperative and…
(Savage swooping and screeching above the eucalyptus, collisions and slashing beaks, both fly away in opposite directions.)
At dusk she’s back in the eucalyptus, and from across the canyon he executes an elegant series of calligraphic maneuvers toward her, a black pen writing across lavender sky. In his beak is a succulent grub and a bit of pink ribbon snatched from a neighborhood birthday party. These he offers on the branch at her feet.
She: (Giving in) Awww…
In the morning their conversation has changed. Both fly back and forth with sticks and twigs and bits of string. They still argue, but the tone is different, the squawks individual and opinionated.
He: I still think the pepper tree would have been better.
She: No, I don’t like the smell and the sap irritates my claws.
On the second day he flies in with what looks like a red cocktail straw.
She: (Loudly) Plastic? I thought we were going green this year. No synthetics!
He shrugs black shoulders and tosses the cocktail straw into the air. It falls and catches on a lower branch of the eucalyptus. They both fly in and out all day, each trailing building material from beaks. They rustle and squawk, heads bobbing with effort, until gradually a dark lump is visible at the top of the eucalyptus. The nest. Both try to sit in it but it isn’t big enough and over and over again one falls out, wings flapping.
On the third day they seem hurried, rushing more and more palm strings, twigs and wooden popsicle sticks into the eucalyptus. They’re making clucking sounds now, and cooing.
He: Pretty nice, huh?
She: I love it. Wonderful view and way too high for the raccoons and cats.
He: So you’re not, you know, upset about Mexico and all that?
She: (Pensively) Some day I’m not going to do this, you know. Some day I’m just going to fly away, learn things, just be me. Don’t you ever want that?
He: Sure, I think about it, but then spring comes and I forget. Spring comes and we have to make more crows. Why fight it?
She: If you don’t know I can’t tell you.
On day four she’s alone in the eucalyptus. She’s silent and still. I can see the flat edge of her tail feathers hanging over the edge of the nest, a black smudge amid purple stems and green leaves. She can’t leave now. She’s trapped.
From the balcony upstairs, only fifteen yards from the nest, I read to her from murdered Rosario Castellanos’ play, The Eternal Feminine.
“It’s not good enough to imitate
the models proposed for us that are answers to circumstances
other than our own. It isn’t even enough to discover who we are.
We have to invent ourselves.”
I know she tried. Maybe next year…