“They say if you cut a crow’s tongue, right down the middle, it will talk. Like you or me. Speak right out its beak.”
She takes a drag on her cigarette and stares into the woods like the trees might grow legs and walk away. Dance up along the ridge. Wave a branch in the direction of the water, say let’s go for a swim. But they don’t do any of that. Because they’re trees. We don’t have the same excuse. I’m stuck between wanting to run away and total absorption, letting my toes grow into roots, listening to this Winona-Ryder-on-Quaaludes warn us about talking birds forever.
The crows have been shouting since 4am. That’s what started this episode in avian lore. We’ve just spent a night in a hostel straight out of Amityville and it’s lovely and painted in chipped white. It sits atop a wooded hill in a foggy valley spotted with decommissioned army barracks and missile launch sites and yes—this is the worst Scooby Doo parody you’ve ever seen. We couldn’t afford masks or a mystery machine, but we have snacks. And an unending attention span for the advice of strangers that are probably ghosts or escaped 90s stars. Can anyone locate Winona Ryder? Try Saks?
It’s the weekend in California and I’m 300 miles escaped from LA. Not for the first time and not for the last. Gone North, I’m following one bright star to get away from all the others. Everything’s still a little too crowded, a little too shining in Hollywood. Marin County, the foggy depression above the SF bay, offers the perfect inverse. Here I can wrap up in precipitation and jackets (I brought 4). Quiet myself among the trees and breathe in fresh air and maybe ectoplasm. Soak.
Winona fades into the woods behind the hostel and we head to the beach thinking about what a crow might say if given the chance and the knife. Probably “I’m hungry.” Crows can hang.
The beach is coated in mist and black sand. It’s 8:30am and it’s us and some dogs and rocks waking up as surf tears them away piece by piece. The wind kicks at our heels as we walk along paw prints toward the largest of the ocean-torn rocks. I can hear the crow shouting in the valley. I cross my arms, pulling my sweatshirt closer to my skin. If it weren’t for friends this would be eerie. Instead it’s comforting. It’s like a secret. I want to curl up in this hour.
Instead we take pictures. On top of weathered rocks, under them, against them. We capture this moment and this place so our respective audiences can experience it too. And maybe, also, so we don’t have to stare into it for too long. It’s hard to experience something greater than you. Easier to turn in on yourself.
Back in the car, I brush the dark sand off my shoes. It was too cold to take them off. I wish had though, skin to chill. But like photos are easy, like barriers, so too are shoes. This seems to permeate my life, this wall building. I'm not laying bricks, but there are hay bails. There are thin sheets of glass. There's cellophane. And there's me, rock in hand, hesitating to throw.As if the hay bails will fight back. They're hay bails. Cows eat them. And cows smell. But then again, so do I. So rank. Please point me to a shower. Bathe me if you must. But don't look at me. Don't look at me! Hey, I said—okay you can look.