a venue of vultures

I woke up early in an empty house this morning. I often wake up early in a quiet house filed with sleeping children, but waking up in an empty house has a completely different feeling. Time moves silently and slowly in a luxurious way. I stayed in bed and watched the dawn gently push back the night and marveled at the daily ritual of the sunrise, and the individual way that it announces each day. The show is over now. There are just a few lingering patches of pink. The sky is turning blue and the mountains across the canyon are emerging from the darkness. The crows, that had been cawing in the trees and circling outside my windows like dawns personal cheering section, are still now. Except for the very faint rhythm of a few bird songs, and the slow in and out breathing of one of the dogs beside me, the world is completely silent -no cars, no neighbors, no coyotes, no kids, no roosters.

It has been almost 2 years since I began living without a partner.  It took a bit of time to get used to the complete silence of being in an empty house. It took time to adjust to coming home at the end of the day, or waking up, knowing that no one would be home to share my experiences with me, or great me, or need me to do anything for or with them.  Sometimes it feels like freedom and sometimes it feels lonely. Mostly, I love that I have been given this opportunity to experience space and free time at this point in my life even though it is not always easy.  I love my solitude, but I do not believe that it is natural for people to live completely alone. In my head as I write this I am hearing The Eels song, “Lone Wolf”.  The lyrics conjure up images of wolf packs, of being shunned by a community, and of leaving everything familiar behind and going out into the world alone.  I often initially link being separated from a community with being an outcaste.  I associate it with feeling shame, wrong doing or dishonor. I think of retreating and licking wounds. I know there is another tradition of being alone and in retreat by choice, but out of habit it is not my first thought.  I am experiencing this time alone as a little bit of both.  I feel both shame and failure around my marriage ending, but underneath that I feel the rich deep stillness of being with myself and getting to know myself for the very first time in my life.

I am not sure how this happened but I seem to be becoming the eccentric woman who lives alone with her animals and herbs in the house at the edge of the woods. Without planning or intention the animals I live with have become my community. We live in such constant harmony that yesterday the deer that had wandered into the pasture simply acknowledged my presence when we ran into each other and went right back to foraging.  I have become a member of a pack of dogs, a flock of chickens, a warren of rabbits, a clutter of cats, and a herd of horses. I have resisted becoming part of the swarm of rats but even we have reached an easy alliance.  Most recently, I was invited to become part of a storytelling of crows.  The crows have started meeting on the roof right over my room early most mornings while I am still in bed. The first time they rendezvoused on top of my house I woke up frightened by the noise. I woke from a dream and it took a minute to realize that awake, there was no reason why intruders would be trying to break into my house through the roof. In my semi conscious haze, I imagined that a Special Forces unit was about to crash feet first through my windows. My next thought was that it was an earthquake or that my house was simply falling apart and about to slide down the hill. I got out of bed more quickly than usual and rushed out to feed the horses half expecting to see the hillside behind me swallow my house whole. It took a few mornings to realize that the heavy stomping above my head was the sound of a congress of crows meeting over important business. Once I understood what was happening I began to notice them fly past my window one at a time and I listened to them land on the roof with a thud. I am always in the room below them when they gather and feel honored to be included in their proceedings. In my minds eye I see them sitting in a circle on our flat white roof.  It is such an unexpected setting for a gathering of black birds that I cannot understand what draws them there. I fantasize about sleeping tucked into a corner of the roof one night so that I can spy on their secret sunrise meetings and see the stunning sight of coal black crows roosting on top of solar panels on our shiny white vinyl roof.

The sun is completely up now. The clouds have passed from pink through shades of gray and become white and delicate against the pale blue morning sky. A lone coyote is yipping a little ways off in the hills and the neighborhood dogs are barking in reply. The rooster has begun to crow reminding me that it is time to get up and feed the animals that are waiting for me. In another part of the city the morning sounds I wake up to of birds, coyotes, and the rustle of leaves in the gentle breezes are replaced by the sounds of garbage trucks, sirens, car horns, and hundreds of people rushing off just a little too late to start their day. Those human sounds of the community beginning a new day have their own rhythm, and beauty. From my perch in the mountains I am content for now and grateful to be able to retreat within the community,  and harmony of nature.

1 comment to Collectives

  • Dear Marlene,

    A few days ago I was driving home from work and began to compose a letter to you about how I so miss your writings. I have come to look forward to how you are moving
    from within your soul to strengthen in your new life. And now you have graced me again with your writings. I bow to you and thank you.

    Your writing is unfolding and I find myself drawn in to what you are living, how you are living, to your tremendous courage, to your very curious spirit. Your writings have pulled together now into much more than who you are, to opening up other worlds of knowing.

    Robert Bly has talked about how a man or woman who wants to be a writer needs to go off alone for one to two years into solitude with few people coming around, with little outside world contact, to confront what is inside, deep down inside where the water for writing lives. I absolutely trust you know how to float where the water is.

    Blessings to you and your family,

    Ann Garrett

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