I imagine how the press of cooling air might feel against its wings

For some weeks, I’ve been worried about the health of family and friends. Today I’ve stared at a computer screen for hours. My eyes hurt. My heart does, too. Feeling the need for air, I sit on the step of my open back door and see a rook, a sociable species of European crow, flying low toward my house through gray evening air. Straightaway I use the trick I learned as a child, and all my difficult emotions lessen as I imagine how the press of cooling air might feel against its wings. But my deepest relief doesn’t come from imagining I can feel what the rook feels, know what the rook knows — instead, it’s slow delight in recognizing that I cannot. These days I take emotional solace from understanding that animals are not like me, that their lives are not about us at all. The house it’s flying over has meaning for both of us. To me, it is home. To a rook? A way point on a journey, a collection of tiles and slopes, useful as a perch or a thing to drop walnuts on in autumn to make them shatter and let it winkle out the flesh inside.

Then there is something else. As it passes overhead, the rook tilts its head to regard me briefly before flying on. And with that glance I feel a prickling in my skin that runs down my spine, and my sense of place shifts. The rook and I have shared no purpose. For one brief moment we noticed each other, is all. When I looked at the rook and the rook looked at me, I became a feature of its landscape as much as it became a feature of mine. Our separate lives, for that moment, coincided, and all my anxiety vanished in that one fugitive moment, when a bird in the sky on its way somewhere else pulled me back into the world by sending a glance across the divide.

~ Helen MacDonald, excerpt from “What Animals Taught Me About Being Human” (The New York Times, May 16, 2017)

Photo: Gregory Colbert (Thank you Sawsan via Last Tambourine)


  1. This is so beautiful. One of the best things that I have read today 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “… in that one fugitive moment,
    when a bird in the sky on its way somewhere else pulled me back into the world by sending a glance across the divide.”

    And the photo pairing makes the photo and words so much more magical.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. and what power that momentary glance holds. a beautiful piece.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, it is so beautiful. Your though reminds me of:

      “The moment” is a figurative expression, and therefore it is not easy to deal with. However, it is a beautiful word to consider. Nothing is as swift as a blink of the eye, and yet it is commensurable with the content of the eternal Thus understood, the moment is not properly an atom of time but an atom of eternity. It is the first reflection of eternity in time, its first attempt, as it were, at stopping time.

      ~ Soren Kierkegaard, The Essential Kierkegaard

      Liked by 3 people

  4. It always feels like magic to me when an animal I am looking at looks back at me. ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Connections across the species’ divide…transcendent, truly

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Transcendent, love that description of this, all this.


  7. Powerful words; I love them. Cher xo

    Liked by 1 person

  8. There is always a message in that connection. Beautiful writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Because I’m an observer and am in nature so much, I often find myself thinking how infinitesimally small my inner drama is compared to the volumes of beauty and necessary goings-on of the creature kingdoms. I don’t often get stuck for long, realizing the futiilty of it, in any case. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I know that feeling! I love this quote! I have a large Flicker ( woodpecker ) who comes knocking at my upstairs window every so often. When I arrive he doesn’t keep knocking. He just sits there on the ledge and stares at me. And I stare back at him. And somehow, I feel soothed.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Christie says:

    Such a fantastic photo…soon I will be along the bank of a wild and scenic,river, staying in a cabin . (the family that lives there are descendants of the original settlers.)…It was in this spot two years ago I was alone at the ranch it was quiet except for the river, a crow came out of the dry pines , he was so low near me that I could hear the air movement with each flaps of his wings as he flew past. I was grateful for the experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. roseanne333 says:

    Such a beautiful passage, David.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Enchanting.

    Liked by 1 person

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