Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Commute of the Crows

Since my household move I have a long commute to work. About an hour going; an hour or more coming home again. Hey, it’s the economy. Over the months I’ve fallen in to a nomadic routine, and have come to appreciate the time I get to myself zipping down the freeway and back again. I’ve come to appreciate that my trip has a rhythm of its own, and this appreciation instructs me to see other rhythms that play out near by.

One of my favorites is The Commute of the Crows.

Each morning as I head out at dawn and leap on the freeway I see a huge murder of crows also taking flight for the day. They rise in masses of at least several hundred and circle as they gather their bearings and then split off in to squadrons of smaller numbers. Each squadron takes off in its own direction. So as we car-bound humans wait in line at the meter to get down the ramp and on the thoroughfare, so the crows circle and establish their pecking order, organize, align, and head out in all directions.

I think the birds gather some sort of altitude advantage from the warmer air over the interstate. In some odd way the exhaust from thousands of cars gives them that boost they crave. At least I can’t think of any other reason they’d always be there, rising up over the road, and circling, circling, ranking, ordering, and then pulling off in their many separate groups for a day of hunting and whatever it is that crows do. I’ve taken to calling Good Morning to them and wishing them well.

Returning home at dusk I witness the reverse happen. I see the crows again, only now massing together and coalescing. They come in from all directions to the same space at the same place on the highway and swirl together and head off again. They rise and fall and gain in number and then traject to wherever they spend their evenings and sleep.

What is this? Is it some great crow party? Do they mass for society? For protection? For warmth? Do they have a culture? Do they tell stories of what they did all day; the adventures they had and the sights they saw? Do they remark on the cars on the road? Do they notice us at all? The gridlock, the speeders, the crashes, the arrogance, the close calls?

As I commute to and from my day, so do they. As I rise each morning, shamble out the door and get to work with thousands of my fellow humans , several thousand crows get about their day and apparently conclude and come home the same time I do. What an odd parallel. Yet their commute is more dimensional than mine. I inch forward in a straight line with glazed over weary workers in line with me. They rise and fall and move in all directions: high, low, side to side. They have energy and agility. We hunch over our steering wheels and listen to subscription radio.

I call Good Evening to them at dusk and wonder whether any of my fellow travelers notice them. How could they not? They are beautiful. My fellow commuters in the sky. I’m in good company.