2001/05/23

Sheila and I do a lot of gardening. Our yard isn't big. We know every square inch of it.

So when little bits of aluminum foil and other shiny things show up here and there, we know it's birds.

It's not annoying, actually. If I act annoyed it's mock-annoyed, just because it's fun. "Oh, those crazy birds, what'll they do next?"

It's enoyably weird that the universe evolved this way, that there would be such a thing as aluminum foil and that crows would happen to distribute it around my yard from time to time.

It's surprising. Were I inventing a world as fiction, I would not have come up with this detail.

And why do crows have that raspy caw instead of the sweeter chirps of other birds? Why are crows always black -- why is there no brown crow, no yellow-breasted crow, no blue-crested crow?

Many readers naturally associate crows with Edgar Allen Poe's poem. Me I think of Kafka -- whose last name translates as jackdaw, a black bird related to the crow. Had he been American, his name would have been Frank Blackbird, which is kind of a cool name.

Kafka -- he had the imagination for detail, he would have come up with crows dropping bits of aluminum foil in one's backyard.

One thing I've always liked about Kafka's stories is that as metaphor they're usually opaque. When a guy turns into a beetle it's natural to think it's like a fable of some kind, somehow a metaphor for something. But it's not. It's really a story about a guy who turned into a beetle.

I'm ambivalent about metaphors. Like so many other people, my brain naturally draws connections. This is like that, and this other thing is like that other thing.

Metaphors help one to see clearly -- except when they don't. Too much metaphor and the world becomes an undifferentiated, unaesthetic soup, where everything is like everything else but nothing is itself.

So the crows' weird habit of littering shiny objects in my yard -- it doesn't remind me of anything else. It's not like anything else. As metaphor it's opaque. (At least to me.) It's just what it is, surprising and beautiful on its own.

So I like it.

(This weblog entry was composed as I was falling asleep last night. That's just in case I don't seem to be making sense.)

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23 May 2001

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