Pierce street @ Ashland ave, St. Paul
Pierce street @ Ashland ave, St. Paul
Sunday, December 24th, 3:34pm
According to Google there are exactly 60 minutes before sundown. While idly exploring YouTube I couldn’t help but look up into the golden-blue skies and notice a few dozen (or even a hundred) flying monkeys up there. Of course by that I mean corvids. Couldn’t even keep count. They were flying northwest (or perhaps north by northwest) on some sort of invisible aerial highway:
Couldn’t tell you where they were coming from but……Seemed to be passing over towards the zone over Marshall Ave (by the railroad tracks, between Snelling and Cleveland). I’ve seen them hanging out in the tallest of treetops over in that area before. Here’s a broader view of their observed flight pattern today:
These birds seemed to be flying in a coordinated fashion. In the few moments where I’ve seen so many crows there was sometimes a commotion due to risk: Couldn’t see any birds of prey, but one lingering bird in the back of the formation was absolutely huge and barely flapping its wings. Seemed to be gliding more than flying but was still as black as night and unlikely to be an eagle or a hawk. Whatever.
As I was typing this I heard a few crows right in front of the house. Gotta go grab some snacks for them. Until next time!
of two pesky pumas
It’s worth questioning the distinction between the eater and the eaten. My sense of self is always adjusting in my head, and there are pretty much 2 assumptions that always underlie these feelings-of-me. The tight link between these two assumptions could most definitely be compared to an ongoing relationship. There is first the breadwinner: the thought of myself as a bag of skin. A self-contained, 3 dimensional bag of blood and bones, with a set mass and defined perimeter. This conception floats around in my head with a deep emotional attachment to another thought, which is a loving housekeeper and servant to the first. This is the thought of myself as something that eats. My separate-self must ingest or imbibe other objects in order to maintain the organization and mass of my bag of blood and bones, and this bag is comprised completely of these other objects. These beliefs – I exist in a bag of skin, and I consume various items to persist in this bag of skin – are wed in certainty, and forever monogamous. Right?
But every now and then these two concepts get separated during my thinking process, which opens the door to all sorts of extramarital troubles. This occurred just moments ago. At this morning hour my priorities are simple: coffee and cats. Getting some cuddle time with the boy cat, who is a quite the handsome fuzzy fellow, is always a plus. So here I sit with him. Moments ago I observed him become briefly entranced by the sound of a bird outside. Cuddle time interrupted. His head twisted towards the window, with an undeniable erectness and stiffness emerging in his spine, and his paws suddenly tightening. No doubt an image of killing projected brightly into his brain. This distraction-via-outside-stimulus got me thinking. Why was he looking out the window? Or, What compelled him to respond to the bird, but not to me?
This brought into my caffeine-soaked brain tissues a series of thoughts. A hungry cat is nothing special, but to wonder about it started to produce some strange thoughts.The formation of these thoughts was rapid, fleeting, and took on (as they normally do) a sort of dialectical and verbal nature. A common sense nature. Well, he’s a cat, so of course he looks towards the sound of a bird. Cats like bird. He’s hungry. If only he could stuff that bird into his mouth he could persist in his current form.
So immediately there was the image of my cat as an individual object, worthy of categorization and distinction – and also the image of it as an eating thing. Our long-term couple described above. These star-crossed assumptions comprised a sort of single, coherent reality. And yet there was a whispering and wondering – a suitor sitting at the end of the bar, asking – about why this cat turned his head. At first the circumlocution seemed without cause, and without direction: A cat looking towards a bird-sound is a natural thing. It is programmed into the cat via its experience and is therefore expected. Cats grow up experiencing birds, learn to associate them with pleasurable things, and then adjust automatically to the stimulus.
Then my thoughts stopped for a moment. They resumed.
But he has never clutched a bird – held a bird – caught a bird. He has also likely never seen this type of bird in the flesh: after all, he has been an indoor cat all his life.
Suddenly the two assumptions referenced above came to mind [Cat-as-separate entity, cat-as-an-eating-thing], and their union was threatened. The realization that my cat had never previously observed or experienced the consumption of one of these birds outside wedged itself uncomfortably in my mind, at first trying to be distilled and clarified in the presence of my presumptive framework. But soon it all fell apart – if my cat had never had this experience, one might think that cat-as-separate entity (and that eats) would not be motivated to respond to this stimulus. Surely if I feed and cuddle this cat morning after morning he would be more naturally inclined – based on his experience – to direct his attention towards me, bird-sounds notwithstanding. But he looked at the bird. The bird’s call, upon accessing the inside of cat’s brain, elicited a very specific response. Just for 1/2 a second. The bird was in him, despite never having been in him.
This is true of most stimuli. But.
There are roughly 13,109,553,920,105,377 stimuli that could have gotten this cat’s attention, and it was this single one that did it. So the existence of this cat in front of me must be presupposed by another thought, or assumption – that perhaps this cat can respond to birds without having experienced them. And these animals, remember, are assumed to be two separate objects. That means that this cat, in its essence – in its skull (which, remember, is contained in its bag of blood and bones) – comes pre-programmed with bird-ness inside of it. In the absence of any contact this one object still has a sharp and distinguishable resonance with the other. The cat’s behavior is non-distinct from the bird’s behavior.
Suddenly my two primary assumptions went from holy matrimony to a state of conflict and near-divorce. So if part of this stimulus, or some type of framework to respond to this stimulus, comes pre-programmed in the cat……then some inside-bit of the cat’s head is specifically and uniquely tailored to the bird-sound. And that bird-sound is only one of 13,109,553,920,105,377 stimuli surrounding the cat. So perhaps cat and bird are non-distinct, and the act of eating ought to be considered not a linkage of two separate objects, but a continual adjustment of one single object. The cat and the bird are a single object, and the void space between them is the hand that will soon serve a growling stomach.
The loose definition of a living being as being bound by a bag of skin had, as an assumption, offered no prescriptive value to my experience of watching my cat listen to the bird. But soon the loose definition of a living being as bound as a bag of skin had lost its value as a representative tale, and was replaced by ambiguity. Now I cannot tell if the bananas and Cheerios in the kitchen (yet uneaten) are truly separate from myself – after all, they will both be inside of my bag-of-skin in a matter of minutes. The breakdown of the separation between self-and-other offers no clear route ahead, and is more of a fancy folly than a scientific analysis. The circumlocution around these concepts has become tiring. Just ask yourself if it’s possible that the surrounding room-house-street-block-city might not be a part of your extended anatomy, and one that is as alive as you, rather than that you are a single bag of skin operating independently within that non-living framework. #EndRant
Wow that last entry was weird. Sky is looking right this morning. It is close to 8am and my location is the living room of Selby. Beeps from a large truck cut thru the dewey air as the sink starts running with floppy droppy plops. A car goes by. Sounds are among the best experiences to document because one can write while listening. And to remember a sound is easier, like re-playing a tape. I cannot much remember the visual scene directly out of the window in front of me should I look away from it for a moment. The details will just disappear. The sights out the window I’ve seen thousands of times and as recently as a minute ago and I still couldn’t draw them for you as easily as I could describe the sounds. And, wait – while trying to write a thought about work intruded into my awareness. Off with that. Anyway it is easier to remember sounds. Outside the sun marks prominent territories: the lawn on the south end of the street split by sprinting rays (& sitting shadows) who run left-right and east-west right now. As the day continues and the sun rolls by the shadows will shrink and change their direction, until the same sitting shadows point northwards towards the house. And ongoing the street will eventually be split again, by the evening sun. Neat to think – the sun coming from east strikes out long lines, as it rises up the lines shift 90 degrees and shrink by some margin, and then shift another 90 degrees further and are drawn out again at dusk.
Lawn-mower sound or perhaps leaf-blower sound itching the earports. It seems to hear the gnashing metal engine sound – at least this morning – is more bearable than when also experiencing the sight of them. The bottom edge of the windowsill currently occludes the street beneath, and I feel like a periscope of flesh and frivolity. Yee yee haa haa. The morning clouds – which were really more of a dotted cottony haze – have been boiled off the top by the sun. A stunning scream trickles in from that screen, conjuring Alex’s voice: “As clear as an unmuddied lake, sir. As clear as an azure sky of deepest summer.”
Had the crow experience of a lifetime this morning. Will try to recount it in the fullest detail possible.
Last night I didn’t sleep well. For a week or two I’ve been without much coffee but during the day yesterday had a few cups – normally these many cells process that caffeine quickly but it seems likely that was why I tossed and turned. At 4:41 a.m. I gingerly crawled out of bed to meditate – felt pretty distracted, with lots of intrusive thoughts – and then at 5:00 kept hearing crows. Sounding close but not necessarily outside of the house – at least 2 or 3 of them.
After a while they broke my attempt at a meditative trance and I had to go see them. Grabbed my bag of snacks (corn) and went out onto Selby. Thought I was hearing them a block west and ventured out – expecting to see them in the tall roost-spot past Pierce on the north side of the street. No luck. Turned left down Pierce and quickly realized there were about 3 or 4 crows a block in past Augustine’s. Walked up the street- their cacophony was remarkable and chattery almost to the point of annoyance. The thick, lush green trees – and dark-ish sky, perhaps on a 2.9/10 brightness setting – made it hard to see the little avian monkeys. Their caws were in bursts of three or four and extremely consistent. As I approached I made a few ‘kawwwhhh, kawwhhh’ noises and shook my keys. Then I walked directly beneath the trees, over a manhole cover next to a basketball hoop (east side of the street). I grabbed handfuls of corn and poured them onto the manhole cover. They clicked and clacked and rained their clattery sound onto the ground and to my surprise the crows were rather responsive. It seemed clear as I did this handful after handful – at least 5 or 6 of them – that the birds were watching, and one rearranged itself (seemingly to get a better view).
I continued to alert them with noise and the 4-or-so crows quickly became 10. The most I could count (as they were moving) was 10, but I believe a few were in my periphery. Continued south to the middle-end of the block and laid down a few noticeable ‘lines’ of corn – perhaps 12-18 inches long, 3 or 4 inches thick, and just about 1 layer of corn tall or heightwise. Yellow enough to be bright and visible but not voluminous enough to deplete my entire supply. I laid out one or two of these on the ground and another on a blue recycling can – the crows were extremely loud at this point, and many more were flying in (primarily from the west end of Pierce, above the trees).
Wow – it was exciting. Always I am hoping that they are comfortable or at least unalarmed by my presence, which is to some obvious extent intrusive and loud, and if they are not unalarmed or comfortable my second hope is that they will comfortably leave. Or fly away. What sucks is the possibility that crows needing rest, or really just trying to roost in one spot, or that are otherwise unwilling to take off and fly away from me, are irritated by my presence. So this morning as they screamed and gathered I kept wondering if I was bothering them – scaring them – enraging them – etc. But as they were summoning one another (within a matter of 5 minutes there were 2 dozen large birds) and screaming together over my head, which has certainly never happened in the absence of food before, I must think there was some positive reward response associated with their screams. (Later tomorrow I’ll get back over there to see if they snacked on any of it – do crows even eat corn? Don’t ask me!)
Waving my keys on my carabiner (this is a sort of Pavlovian stimulus that I introduce when I feed the crows anywhere) I walked south into the intersection of Pierce and Hague. Wave wave wave keys, drop drop drop some food, caw caw caw, sing sing sing. A common and monotonous attempt at engagement – and, for my neighbors, probably a sickening morning regularity. There were so many crows (or corvids? Ravens? Hm.) above me that I didn’t know what to do or think. Just black mass after black mass, dipping and swooping like planes, but never getting close or suggesting outward aggression. Unless I am completely ignorant to their own aggressive strategies. Together they could have shredded my scalp (or worse) and instead they simply screamed like an avian chorus and made me super duper happy. I kept laying out seeds and lovingly cooing “hello, babies!!!”
Walked back northward after a while. Those few moments with a zillion birds around me felt like a zillion years. Really admired the big fat one that was atop the roof on the NE intersection of Pierce & Hague. It was short, squat, and had the same inward neck-thrust (head upwards, body fat) as a few ravens on youtube – at least, that was what my memory suggested. For some reason this one bird (on a roof instead of trees or in the air) caught my attention as I was walking through the crowstorm back towards Selby. I walked past Selby and onto Dayton a bit, seeing yet another fatty (maybe the same one from the roof) doing the inward-neck-thrust-guttural-call from atop a tree. NE end of Dayton & Pierce. Hm.
Went home. Scattered corn around the house as I arrived – also put a few round masses of the yellow stuff onto the roof. Then crawled back into bed with a cute girl as the crows kept hollering outside.
Out on the railroad tracks. Left home with a mug of coffee, still rather sleepy (especially in the eyes and face) – walked to the tracks by Marshall & Fry. Am sitting on one rail facing the sun – the entire length of tracks here along the highway are sort of sunken into the landscape; the highway behind me being perhaps 10-15 feet higher, & the block/street/backyards in front of me being up by 30 feet (?). In front of me the sun is just now scaling over & past the rooftops & trees over the top of the mini-hill/valley thing. It was quite remarkable a few moments ago to see the highway side of the mini-valley (behind me) illuminated while the tracks & street-side (in front of me) were dark. In the time I’ve been writing this the sun has risen enough to directly light the page of this journal – but if I tip it even slightly towards me the page is again a darker blueish. Unlike the living room at home this spot offers a wide & expansive outdoor scene to sit in- at least extending in 2 directions. The massive steel tendons cast thru the middle (indeed, the only reason this urban boulevard and associated mini-valley even exist) are obtrusive and the chunky rocks beneath them are as well.
Like the living room at home the sonic environment is barraged and beaten by the roar of hungry vehicles. That screaming gnashing engine sound. The sun is now past the branches – wondering if the paper will need sunscreen. Heh. A few sights while walking here – the graffiti over the Marshall/Snelling bridge is ever-evolving. I enjoyed the bright easter-green of a large piece on the northern side – some white scribblings by another atop it. The same green speckled & splattered all over the tracks a few yards up. I couldn’t decide which of the rusted wires or steady chunks of glass or jagged corpses of old spraypaint cans seemed the most ominous. Paused on the bridge to drink some coffee – cars on either side down on street & it felt best to sip in private. Kept walking.
The body of a rabbit – recently deceased. Was sipping on coffee & taking a big gulp when I noticed it. Super dead. Like…wayyyyy dead. A bit bloodied on its hips – but not really mangled or bitten or whatever. Train incident? My wonderings were unsatisfied – kept walking. A bit further on: a perfectly formed fetus of some kind – 3, maybe 5 inches long. Shiny, grey, more pig-looking than rabbit. Or squirrel. Abdomen ripped open, perhaps snacked on but not entirely ‘gutted’ (heh). Lots of birds along the way – pigeons, a few mystery characters, one corvid. My energy level picked up some 20 minutes into my walk – sitting here now I am a bit sleepy again. The slightest suggestion of a shortage in sustenance signals my senses – maybe it’s food time soon. I’ll walk back. My butt is pleasantly cold from sitting on the track.