I eat my Jumbo Jack cheeseburger in the driver’s seat of my mother’s red Kia. I am in the Descanso Gardens parking lot in the shade of a small big-leafead tree. I have no real illusions about going for a walk (much less a hike), but later I will be very glad I chose to park here. There are three glossy ravens poking around. I wonder if they are hoping for leftovers. I toss french fries out the open window. They surprise me—timid, wary. As I watch a braver gray squirrel shows them up, makes off with the first few fries, her warm brown eyes on me the whole time. When I finish eating, I read the latest book by my favorite author, All the Seas of the World. My exhaustion settles on me like a blanket, but there is ease in being used up, too, a kind of quiet by default inside me. The ravens grow a little bolder, make away with the rest of the french fries, one of them taking five of them at once in sharp, dramatic thrusts of his strong, curved beak. (I think greed in the moment, but later I wonder if it was really a desperate hunger.) I toss more fries, look up from my book now and then to watch them, see the squirrel bury hers a time or two (off in the distance). I do this for hours. There is a peace in me now I have been missing (desperate, too?). My book transports and feeds me, lulls me. There is a deep comfort in my connection to these wild creatures. And there is a deep sweetness in me and a surprising sorrow when I have to drive away and leave them behind.
It is two months now since I fell. I returned to my yoga for the first time yesterday. Today I do four sun salutes. My hands hurt when I lower myself to the green mat from plank pose, when I push up, when I move into downward dog. I am slow, careful, feeling into it to be sure I’m not causing harm. After, in chavasana, I let out all my air, relieved and grateful to be here again, the place I come to after my yoga, even after this little bit. I open my eyes and watch the turkey vulture glide by above me, skirting the ridge. “Be safe,” I whisper to her. “Be careful in this wind.” Earlier today I walked out into the street to see if I could see Catalina. The long, curving shape of her was there, downtown L.A. close enough to touch, the sea shimmering between them. My red-tailed hawks’ offspring was there, too. He wavered in the wind, landed on the ridge, seemed to be eating, though I was not close enough to tell. I think of him now when I open my eyes again, lying on the yoga mat, and there are two ravens playing high in the sky.
I heard my favorite raven calls yesterday morning, those round sounds that seem like love talk, like overhearing the quiet morning murmur of two people in bed, their own little bubble, lovers who have been together for a long time talking about the day to come, about last night, people who know how to rest together, how to share peace.
[Spontaneous writing prompt, revised. Words were round and rest.]
I ride my orange bike on the creek path, the world quick glimpses. Five ravens in the middle of the street eating roadkill. A strip of water beside the curb on the other side, sprinkler runoff. They slow hop and waddle between the two, easy together. I grin at this offer of adjacent food and drink, this perfect impromptu dining. When I am past, I see one lone raven sitting in the shade beside the path watching them. And then they are all behind me, and I ride toward the San Jacintos. I think about going back to move the dead animal off the road and onto the sand beside the path to keep the scavengers safe from speeding cars. But I decide the car that hit the squirrel or rabbit has adhered it to the asphalt, so it’s perfect for pecking out morsels, and if I moved it, it would be loose and flap around when they tried to eat and be harder to share. That settles it for me. I don’t have to debate further, consider every angle, wonder if I might cause a fuss moving it, get a raven hit by a car, cause harm trying to help. But sometimes it feels impossible to know, and choosing is agony. Later, on my ride home, one raven stands in the center of the street. The water has dried up, as if it was never there. The other ravens sit quiet and still beside the path in that same spot of shade beneath the two short palms and the desert orchid tree, each strong, curved beak open wide in the late morning heat.
Two white-crowned sparrows peck at the seeds in the small tray feeder I have tucked inside the bougainvillea for them. I watch them from my spot on the couch, the sliding glass door open to the courtyard, mountains and wispy clouds in the background. I savor the quiet in my neighborhood. It seems extraordinary today, and then I understand. Mild desert winter day, no loud heater, no A/C running, rare, unexpected quiet. I woke to unusual bird calls, black birds gathered on the telephone pole outside my window. I craned to see them through the open louvers, then banged the pot I used to boil my water for tea against the sink, loud, inadvertent, and the birds scattered. Off and on all morning in between my work I relish the calls of the ravens in the distance. Once, I close my eyes to listen to one raven’s wingbeats, loud and slow and sure, as she flies past outside my window.
I am walking north along a busy street. A raven flies south, and I look up, see his dark silhouette. A small black bird is flapping hard to keep up, and I see something in the raven’s mouth. A newborn baby bird, translucent in the morning light. The small bird gives up, flies north, fast. She disappears two blocks ahead. I can feel her fresh horror, having chased the raven because she had to, now panicked the others in the nest might be harmed in her absence. I don’t want to believe any of it, but the knowledge sits in me. I return my books to the library. In the park, I walk beneath the jacaranda trees. They are just beginning to bloom. It lifts my spirits to look up and see their purple buds. But the other tragic sight settles back inside me while I walk, heavy in my chest.
I turn toward hope, and then
the half moon and I watch three silent ravens
wing across the daylight sky.