In the Time of COVID. Day 23
April 10, 2020
When the laughter of crows kept me sane
It’s been over three weeks of staying home. Mid-day today I got cranky. If it’s happening to me, it’s happening to you. I took some headache meds and took a nap. I could have savored the mood, like a tongue against a sore tooth but when I got up, I attacked one of those things on the list. The list, the reminder that we can improve our nests. As Gandhi said “It doesn’t matter what you do, it matters that you do it”. It all gets down to busy hands. If you are feeling whacked out, get your hands busy.
Busy hands bring to mind when I was 26 and crazy as hell.
Hitch-hiking can get pointless. Sure, you can learn some cosmic lessons like, you are invisible until your ride shows, but standing along a Texas interstate, west of Amarillo with nothin’ anywhere, flat, flat, flat, hours ticking by, cars flying buy, it gives you a chance to revisit your life’s choices. At 26 I was washed up on the on-ramp of life. Something had to change.
Some weeks and a few multi-day odd jobs along the way, I rolled into the Baker Farm on West Dry Creek Road, in Sonoma County. It was harvest time and Ol’ Man Baker had prunes to shake, and pears and apples to pick and prunes to sun dry out in the big field beyond the trees. Man it was hot, it was hard work, but it kept me busy. For a time I lived in a little trailer under a shady Paulownia Tree. I walked the three miles each way to the country store. Eventually a little blue cabin came available on the hillside above the barn. I lived in that haven for three years.
I was in self imposed isolation. I wasn’t fit company for man nor beast. and I spent my free time rehashing all the mistakes I’d made. The trail of broken hearts. I was steeped in a stew pot of self pity. When I wasn’t working I was either drinking or reading my one book, a dictionary. Ya, crazy.
I’ve known guys that got locked up in their own dungeon of self pity and never found the key to escape. I was scared it would happen to me. It may be the stuff of country western songs but I didn’t want to end up that way.
Fortune smiled on me. A lady at the CEDA trailer in Healdsburg gave me a paper that said “if you hire this guy for a wage he would earn after 6 months training, and you promise to keep him on after that, CEDA will pay half his wages for the first 6 months”. Then she said to me “Now it’s up to you. Go find a job”. I did.
A nature book publishing company was run out of a house, barn and warehouse further west out my road. I was hired as a bindery apprentice. I was trained to operate a paper folder and a big old paper cutter with a “deadman switch”. I worked a machine that bound paperback books and I did that job for nearly two years. I walked 3 miles each way to work.
Rhythm came into my life. The haunts lessened. But it was the crows that helped with that. Rural Sonoma County is covered with patchwork’s of vineyards and orchards. Walking 6 to 12 miles a day on a country lane in wine country has a calming effect. I was still in a deep pout but while walking to work I was greeted by hundreds of crows. Try as I might to bum myself out, the crows laughed at me. They became my social critics. I still love the laughter of crows. They say “what do you have to cry about? Get your shit together”. They are black angels of chaos, black jokers in swarming diving clouds.
I agreed to take care of an old brown mare at the pasture by my cabin. I was paid a refurbished Underwood Typewriter, a couple of reams of paper and and a new ribbon. I started to write myself out of hell. Busy fingers at work, busy fingers on the typewriter, busy walking with the crows. I wrote some letters to people I hadn’t seen in years, my confidence was growing.
A female visitor was coming from Washington State, a chance at some romance? I was unnerved and loosing focus. As I dressed for work, I looked out my bedroom window to the artichoke patch. There sat a huge jack rabbit looking away toward the horse pasture. Suddenly it turned to look my way. It’s right eye was red and swollen 3 times it’s normal size. It just gave me that stare. Ever seen an evil eye? Now, that’s another story.