Fascinating Live and Dead Things

March 11, 2010 @ 8:26 pm | Filed under: , , ,

OK, I am really enchanted by these crows. We had such fun today, watching them at work on a nest in the top of an enormous tree just the other side of our back fence. Our house backs up to an elementary school (I know, ironic) and in the schoolyard quite near the fence is a very large widespread Moreton Bay fig tree. (I think that’s what it is.) One crow went back and forth to the tippy-top carrying twigs, while another perched in a supervisory manner in a nearby eucalyptus.

At intervals we’d see four crows wheeling about between the fig and another clump of very tall eucalyptus trees on the other side of the school. Perhaps there is another nest over there.

They ate up the peanuts we left them—when we weren’t looking. When I was looking, they only made low swoops over the table, eyeing the nuts and uttering baleful remarks to the wind.

In the evening I saw one of the crows inspecting our driveway, stepping deliberately up its length beside the minivan. Probably he knows it is a reliable source of crushed goldfish crackers.

It was a quite interesting day, though we were stuck at home with the remnants of fevers-and-sniffles. A man came to investigate the scrabblings in our attic; he found two dead rats (horrors) and earned Beanie’s forever-friendship by letting the kids look at one. It was repulsive, she told me. I should think so. Rose now says she wants to pursue a career in pest control so she can see more “fascinating dead things.” There is a moral here somewhere, having to do with what happens when you strew the house with poetry and music and art, I’m sure. Apparently our mental diet has been low in fascinating dead things.

Plenty of fascinating live things in my flower garden: I did a lot of pruning today, and the middle kids had a grand time stripping leaves off the long canes of cape honeysuckle and then swishing them over one another’s heads and being indignant about how they almost knocked each other’s heads off. Swoosh! Like crows swooping low over the peanuts. I left the butterfly bush lopsided because just when I was poised for the final series of whacks, I realized there was a nice little bower behind the honeysuckle and the butterfly bush, if I stopped where I was. So now there’s a comical view from the patio, and a Secret Hideout in the back. They are stocking it with plenty of canes for knocking off each other’s heads.

Things people read today: Jane finished Don’t Know Much About Geography and began the History volume; Rose finished Tuck Everlasting and said she wasn’t sure how she felt about it but wasn’t ready to talk about it yet (I get that, especially with that book); Beanie began The Saturdays; and I finished Charles and Emma, which I greatly enjoyed. Darwin’s personality was not at all as I had envisioned it—I think I’ve imagined him more as a curmudgeonly, uninterruptible sort, very much like the grandfather in Calpurnia Tate. But it seems he was quite a teddy bear of a father, deeply affectionate with his children, so reluctant to spoil their fun by making them stop jumping on the furniture that he’d turn and leave the room rather than tell them to cut it out. And completely adoring of his wife, Emma, respecting her candor and insight even on the very serious questions for which they had quite different answers.

I loved this bit about Charles’s reaction to a wedding present—it begins with a quote from one of his letters:

“My good old friend Herbert sent me a very nice little note, with a massive silver weapon, which he called a Forficula (the Latin for an earwig) and which I thought was to catch hold of soles and flounders.” But Erasmus, who knew these things, told him it was for asparagus.


I’m poking around the stacks now, trying to fix upon which of a dozen promising tomes to read next. I’m craving a really absorbing piece of fiction, something I can fall into. There are a good many likely prospects in previous TBR posts on this blog: I still haven’t made time for I Capture the Castle, which so many of you have enthusiastically suggested, and I STILL haven’t gotten to The Elegance of the Hedgehog, nor The Thirteenth Tale, nor the second Mysterious Benedict Society book, nor In This House of Brede…not to mention this whole list of requests from my kids…plus you’ve got me all fired up to read those Patrick O’Brian books you were talking up in the comments the other day. And Girl of the Limberlost, which I did download to my iPod after your fervent recommendations.

I suppose I might get more reading done if there weren’t so many interesting things happening in my backyard.

Here’s how Beanie settles the problem:

(Speaking of books I mean to read.)

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12 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Sara says:

    Patrick O’Brian….hmmm…I don’t know. I read the first one sometime after seeing the movie Master and Commander. It really didn’t grab me. I’ve always wondered if I should go back and try again. Now, the Horatio Hornblower books, if you’re looking for seagoing adventure, I just adored. Devoured the whole series as fast as I could get them from the various libraries! And then there is is the eye candy of the BBC (I think) productions with Ioan Gruffud to watch.

  2. Carlie says:

    Ah! You really make me want to live in the neighborhood so my kids can come tumble around in your backyard with me and we can compare book notes in person. Love that the crows are building a nest right there! How great!

  3. Su says:

    Sara, it took me, I think, three tries to get into Patrick O’Brian, for some reason. I loved Hornblower, and by comparison Jack Aubrey in that first volume just wasn’t a guy I liked–too fleshy and adulterous and crude. My first reaction was that he was like a frat boy at sea.

    But people kept recommending him, and there are only so many Hornblower novels, and I hated Flashman even more when I tried those–and the O’Brian books have turned out to be an enduring favorite for me. I’m on my third read-through now. The development of Jack & Stephen’s friendship, the witty writing, the way a passing comment on one page can turn out to be the set-up for a laugh-out-loud joke ten pages later–I really do understand why people compare him to Jane Austen.

    So, for me, trying again did eventually pay off. FWIW.

  4. LisaE says:

    There is a great chapter on Silverspot the crow in Wild Animals I Have Known. It made us look at crows in a whole new light.

  5. Kay says:

    Have you read/reviewed CROW PLANET?


    I may have got this book on my list from a post here…I can’t remember.

  6. christine says:

    so, somehow when i switched readers you fell off. or rather, i didn’t move you over. but its fixed now – and just in time. i’m starving for a good read!

  7. Amy C. says:

    My 8yo dd is dying to know what Beanie’s reading . . . Do tell, please!

  8. Pam says:

    I suggest Brede — absolutely compelling. Got the Darwin book on my list.

  9. MelanieB says:

    Here’s my suggestion for that enormous TBR pile of yours: Do what I did with Brede my first time through: take a page out of Charlotte Mason and read slowly, no more than a chapter a day from any one book. (At least that’s what I did until the end when I lost all self-discipline and gobbled it at once.) That way you can be savoring a bunch of books at once. (Or are you already doing that?) I can also see reading Patrick O’Brien slowly and savoring the goodness.

  10. Rachael in Australia says:

    A Moreton Bay fig?! I live near Moreton Bay. It’s a long way from home!

  11. Melissa Wiley says:

    Rachael, yes, evidently the first one in California was planted by an Aussie sailor. (I think that’s what I read.) They seem to thrive here in Southern Cali. There’s a huge one at Balboa Park (probably more than one but I’m thinking of the enormous one by the Natl. History Museum).