November 25, 2009
About 10:30 this morning I had just checked my e-mail and was getting ready to sit down to work on the lecture I am scheduled to deliver in Ohio next week on the subject of the Filioque controversy — a subject about which the Preacher, the son of David, may have been prophetically thinking when he observed that he who increases knowledge increases sorrow, that of the making of books there is no end, and that much study is a weariness of the flesh. Much other business also urgently awaits my attention: I need to clean up the house and make other preparations in advance of a visit from an aunt and uncle, who are coming down from Boston this Friday to attend my Aunt Becky’s funeral (she died early this past Monday, aged 80, of cancer of the liver; with all the misery and horror of approaching death, she managed to look beautiful even to the end). Anyway, at just about 10:30 a.m. I heard a scuffling noise outside, a great, noisy confabulation, which seemed to be coming from all directions. I looked out the window and saw that the roof and the ground and the bare trees were all covered with crows, like an army of well-trained paratroopers, surveying the territory or moving about in search of food; many of them were scouring the gutters of my house for insects, pulling out the decaying leaves that had collected there and letting them fall to the ground, making easier for me the job I will eventually have to do to clean these gutters out. From the kitchen window, I could see their tails moving directly overhead as they scavenged, while others, on adjacent parts of the roof, looked about, with sharp, no-nonsense eyes and bluish heads: certainly enough to strike terror into the heart of any beetle or ant who should have had the misfortune of being caught out in the open. I was wondering to myself how many they were, and was thinking that there must have been at least a thousand of them; after some minutes, when I sat down and began working on the computer, the birds must have been startled by a noise which I didn’t hear, or by a movement somewhere which I didn’t see, because they all suddenly took off like a great black horde, briefly filling the whole grey sky like a dark, self-propelled cloud; and I could see that my guess of a thousand was a serious underestimate: there may well have been ten thousand of them or more.
And now, as I write this, and look again out the window, they seem to be returning, perhaps flattered at having received all this attention. I had better get to work on more serious things.