I’m trying to write, but birds are squawking outside the window. Not just a few chirps. These guys are upset. OK. I press “save” on my computer and head outside to find six Steller’s Jays flapping about in a heated conversation. On the lawn is Obi, my sweet old Animal Save dog, his mouth slightly open with that evasive “I’m not going to show you” look.
Ignoring my demands to “drop it,” he heads downhill accompanied by an aerial Greek Chorus. He has his prize and isn’t going to relinquish it to me or the worrisome birds swooping overhead. I follow and corner him by his invisible fence, pry open his mouth and extract a bedraggled fledgling. Yes, it’s still alive.
Now the jays turn on me. Like the procession in Peter and the Wolf, I hold the bird high and head for home – dog leaping at my heels, ten birds now circling overhead.
With Obi locked in his dog yard, I set the soggy fledgling on the grass and watch from inside the house. I count twelve jays now. One lands next to little bird and gives him a poke, causing him to topple over, feet upright in the air. Another joins the poking. Parents, probably. I set the fledgling in a safer place and return to my computer.
After two hours of non-stop squawking, I realize the birds are now obsessed with my caged dog who is huddled tightly in a corner. They vent and dive. Obi’s eyes plead. I suggest he apologizes.
The Steller’s Jays continue their diatribe for four hours solid. They seem to have no scruples about raiding other bird’s nests and eating their eggs, but they watch each other’s back more than any bird I’ve seen.
© All materials copyright Shirley DicKard, 2012 – 2013, except as otherwise noted.
Walking alone in the woods, I’m hardly aware of the cacophony of chatter in my mind . . . Ah, a new wildflower . . . deer tracks . . . clouds building to the east. I’m also processing the day before, or day ahead, or re-visiting past emotions that disturbed or delighted me. I’m a bubble floating within myself, while all around me, the world swirls with its own awareness and stories.
I’ve been reading Becoming Animal by David Abram. He links the interior chatter of verbal thought with the advent of silent reading – a fairly recent acquisition in man’s development. A tight neurological coupling arose in the brain between the visual focus and inner speech, he posits.
Frankly, I’ve never thought about the ability to hear the words in my head as I read them on the page. It’s only natural, right? Yet Abram relates that before the twelfth century in Europe, the written word had to be spoken out loud to make sense of it. Greek and Latin writing had no spaces between words and little guiding punctuation. Semitic writing had no vowels and had to be sounded out loud to hear the meaning. Starting in the seventh century, monks put spaces between each word as they copied texts, making it easier to read the words without having to sound them out.
I’ve thought about this in the novel I’m working on, “The Desk.” Amisha has fled San Francisco in 2088 to find the family homestead and the desk that’s haunted generations of family women. She has gouged out the chip implanted at birth in her neck – the only communication device humans should have or need. Her mind no longer filled with HumanaCorp’s constant messaging, she wanders in silence. Without a cloud of inner dialogue obscuring her awareness, she is drawn into the animate and inanimate world surrounding her. She becomes a listener.
“Our intelligence struggles to think its way out of the mirrored labyrinth, but the actual exit is to be found only by turning aside now and then, from the churning of thought, dropping beneath the spell of inner speech to listen into the wordless silence.” (David Abram, Becoming Animal).