Crows remember the faces of people who’ve wronged them. They have a long memory and they share their memories with other crows. Researchers disguised as Dick Cheney when banding crows were afterwards mobbed by the same crows when they returned. Crows that weren’t witness to the original harassment also came to recognize the danger posed by Dick Cheney. Wherever Cheney went on campus he was mobbed and met with shrill derision.
After 58 years of memories, many of them crowded out of awareness by the sheer volume, the jostling mass, there are several that always remain salient. They are like familiar faces at the front of the crowd. One of those is of the coast north of San Francisco. It was 1969. I was 19. The Coast Highway was a two lane road threading the edge of the continent between cliffs falling away to the wide Pacific and old hills rounded by time and shaded by live oak. I was hitching on an empty road in the company of a few sheep. The scattered clouds looked like fleece. I had new camping gear and a sleeping bag Id bought in Haight Ashbury. I threw my rucksack over a rusted barbed wire fence and climbed to the crown of a hill and laid down in the summer grass that waved in the sea wind. The sky was pale blue, as fragile as egg shell. The skirling cry of a hawk carried down the wind. I was utterly alone, free of the past, unburdened by the future, without expectations or demands. I was perfectly, completely in that moment, of that moment, and nowhere else. But the moment was unsustainable.
I slept there that night without a fire or tent, laying in the grass, at the bottom of a sea of stars. They seemed a vast adventure.
I felt like a taut string vibrating with the tension between solitude and the need for community. Those are conflicting demands Ive never resolved. Perhaps the function of life isnt resolution but living within the tension like a water ouzel swimming in a mountain torrent.
The sound track of that moment is always Cat Stevens song Miles From Nowhere.