Sabbatical Post #2: This sabbatical is for the birds!

This past Saturday, I participated in a community-wide garage sale in my neighborhood. My house was listed along with others in my community, and people in search of goods receive the list and drive around the neighborhoods looking at what’s available. Early on that morning, my neighbor-friend helped me set out the fruits of my uncluttering on my driveway. She then said, “I need to leave. Are you going to be all right all by yourself?”

I replied, “I have my phone if I get bored.”

It turns out that I had quite a few visitors and buyers the first hour. I noticed cars zipping by, eyeing my driveway, and if they saw someone looking intently at my wares, they too would park and would buy something. One person after another would join until I had three or four people hunting and pecking at a time. They were like a flock of birds.

It did become quite slow and quiet and unseasonably hot later that morning, and so I finally did pick up my phone to amuse myself. Suddenly, I heard a bird call I didn’t recognize: a sound that seemed identical to the sound humans make when they cluck their tongues: Cluck Cluck Cluck Cluck Cluck. Always a series of five clucks.

I searched for the bird. Where was it? I could hear the usual tweeters and warblers of my neighborhood, and I know the trees and shrubs they dwell in. But this clucking bird was hidden and higher up. I kept scanning the trees, looking for the sound. And I asked myself, “What kind of bird is that? And what are they saying?”

Cluck Cluck Cluck Cluck Cluck. It almost sounded like someone knocking on the door. Every now and then, the bird was silent. After waiting a bit, I would pick up my phone, and as soon as I did, I heard the Cluck Cluck Cluck Cluck Cluck again. This happened multiple times. I would wait for a long period of silence, and pick up my phone, only to hear the clucking start up immediately again. As improbable as it seemed, I believed that the bird was communicating with me, or playing with me. Somehow, this bird knew I was paying attention. After all, I was the only human out on the street on that hot morning when there where no customers.

I described this experience to a woman in my book group–an environmental sciences teacher–and she said that I was hearing a crow, and studies prove that crows interact with human beings and recognize human faces and intentions. Crows have been known to leave gifts of human items (such as hair pieces) for human beings. She said it was highly likely that the crow was noticing that she had caught my attention and was communicating with me.

Although I enjoyed all the human interactions I had that morning with neighbors and shoppers, the more remarkable interaction was the crow that kept me company during the slow sales period.

And there was a postlude: When I sat down next to my open kitchen window to eat breakfast and pray this morning, I looked out at the tree canopy visible from my window. Just as I took my first bite of oatmeal, I was serenaded again, this time from a tree much closer to my house: Cluck Cluck Cluck Cluck Cluck.

I hope she comes back.

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