Millie lifts her corgi head as I pull my clothes on in the dark. While tying my shoes, I hear the tags on her collar jingling jangling as she’s likely thinking, “Hey, it’s way too early in the morning! I was still dreaming of bacon and cheese. (You’d only just opened the refrigerator door. Though about that dollop of bacon and cheese: I’d run over to ‘Sit,’ but hadn’t yet ask for, yapping, anything more.) So let me, please, go back to happily napping sprawled across the bedroom floor.”
Since a month ago, this has been my morning routine, when I went out early on a tip that a Raven pair had been recently seen: near Westbeth, usually early in the morning spotted, so why not check it out, just to be sure?
That murky morning, on Washington Street, before the sun rose, I headed north. The sparrows, of course, were long past the exposition of their dawn chorus, while the Robins and Starlings were happily embellishing those harmonious chords. The mournful notes of the Mourning Doves waddling across the shadowed cobblestones and the percussive wingbeats of the circling pigeons—oh, the contrapuntal crescendo in this avian score. Finally, the cacophonous Blue Jays wittingly crashed this grand fugue coda—just these common birds, and nothing more.
At Bank Street I stopped and waited. Waited on the corner for: a wedge-shaped tail, a croaking voice, a black silhouette, a ragged throat—merely these and nothing more.
At the corner, the sky was pinking and the Mimosa’s pink pompons were starting to glow. Compatriot dawn dog walkers asked, “Where’s Millie?” I confessed she was still napping, splayed out upon my bedroom floor (or curled against the foyer door). Another friend out at that hour (not having seen me in years) implored, “Do you still have the same dog? What was her name?” Ah, too, too long it has been, I assured—then, that was the lovely Gracie, another corgi I adored.
I stood just listening, looking, waiting. Is this what I got up so early for?
I scanned the cornice lines and towers, the rows of scaffolding, the ivy bowers. Then I heard the hoped for croaking, or was it just a window opening, or a taxi wheezing, or just the wind and nothing more?
From the backyards of Bank Street, there it was distinctly: a rasping scraping voice, and now, another, answering back succinctly. Then, as reported from before, up and around the Westbeth chimneys, a huge black gainly bird did soar, and flapping grandly, a second followed—their wedge-shaped tails and croaking clinched it: this was indeed the Raven pair! I couldn’t’ve asked for anything more.
As I fumbled camera and binoculars, the pair, with wingtips nearly touching, circled once then headed o’er. I ran down Washington until I’d lost them, though I was smiling, laughing still. Raven: my West Village bird species #100! (Not, of course, that I’m keeping score, and not an omen as in days of yore, just great birding. What next’s in store?) I had really seen them, easily; nearly just walked out my front door—and little more.
At Charles I caught up with the Ravens, briefly pausing, perching on a lofty tower (the water tower of the Memphis—ha!—not upon the bust of Pallas just above a chamber door). I do wish the pair had perched, and sat, (at least above a brownstone door) and nothing more. Snapping, snapping with my camera, but its battery did fail me, and by the time I changed it, the Ravens perched upon the tower—no more.
Back to Millie’s morning napping, on her back, sprawled upon my bedroom floor. Around my neck, binoculars and camera, my pockets stuffed with keys and wallet—into the darkness peering, going out; still wishing to see the Ravens more.
Every day I’ve gone out looking. Every day I’ve come back lacking. By now, Millie’s waiting by the apartment door.
My sighting of the Raven pair, I’m hoping, was not just that once—and nevermore.
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