The lawn mower rattles disconcertingly as I push it into the tall grass of my back yard. A vague image crosses my mind of the mower blade coming loose and hurling treacherously into space like errant nunchucks, and I remind myself to check under the mower deck once the machine cools down and make sure everything is secure.
I’ve always enjoyed mowing. Perhaps it’s the smell of fresh-cut grass, or maybe the instant gratification of transforming a ragged landscape swath by swath into a uniform carpet, literally right beneath my feet. And while I am averse to loud noises, the engine’s sound actually buffers me from the aural intrusions of other human activity.
I can be in my own world as I follow the pattern of circling the perimeter of the yard and working in an ever-tightening spiral until there is no more uncut grass. My mind disengages yet remains alert, and in that alertness I catch a slight movement to my left. A western scrub jay is perched on a branch just beyond my property line.
Blue and white with a soft grey chest, scrub jays are among the prettier birds that frequent my back yard. Known for their intelligence and their raucous, grating call, scrub jays are a mixed bag as far as cohabiters go. That’s okay with me, though. I’m a mixed bag, too.
To the right of the jay and closer in, a black crow rests on my reed fence. I’m surprised I didn’t notice the crow right away; it’s only ten feet from where I’m standing, and looks the size of a well fed cat. Shiny black eyes stare at me. I stare back. Politely, of course.
Crows – just like the jays — are highly intelligent and highly raucous. They have excellent facial recognition skills, and long memories – so long that a memory can be passed down generationally such that offspring can also “recognize” a face and know if it’s friend or foe without ever having seen the face before. As I do not want to be perpetually blacklisted amongst the crow population, I try to maintain good relations with the local murder (the term for a flock of crows). Hopefully my friendly overtures have paid off. This colossal crow could probably cart me away if it were so inclined.
The scrub jay flits away as I approach, but the crow stands its ground. I take my first pass with the mower and look behind to see that the crow has dropped to the ground to survey my handiwork. Perhaps the mower and I have uncovered some tasty morsels in the lawn.
The crow stays close but keeps relocating, from the lawn to the wall that demarcates the eastern border of my property, then to perch in the tree by the back deck. It doesn’t dislodge until I am within ten feet of it.
It would appear that I was not meant to escape to my internal landscape today. I will allow my erudite feathered companion to share my mental space just as we share our physical space.
With my mowing completed, I push the machine into a shaded spot and move to the deck to rest beneath the now crow-deficient tree. So much for communing with the birds.
Maybe the crow wasn’t there to facilitate my “crow whisperer” aspirations. Maybe it was there to tell me to shut the damn mower off, so it could escape the intrusion of human activity just as I try to do. The thought hurts, but I can respect that. And I will try to comply as best I can.
I rise to head indoors, a bit deflated that my whole “I am one with the animals” fantasy has been trounced. A shadow crosses over the deck where I am standing and I turn just in time to see the crow, flying low straight over me as if to acknowledge my respect and say, “thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” I whisper. “You’re most certainly welcome.”
The Daily Post one-word prompt: Exposed