The word observation can mean both attention and devotion, as if watching is both a scientific and a spiritual practice, as if there were a fascial connection between eye, heart, and beyond.
I see some faces with my eyes closed. I stared so long and hard I tattooed my retinas.
My girls want the weight of my eyes. They soak up my attention, greedy sprouts sucking rain. Watch this, mama. Look, mama, look, look at me.
There’s darkness collecting on my man’s face. His eyes have shrunk back into his skull. I’ve seen those shadows before, you don’t have to tell me.
Sometimes I keep my eyes to myself, watch my own feet plodding down the sidewalk. Looking takes so much energy. Pause in the crosswalk while the driver, who does not want to stop her car for me, glides by with her eyes fixed ahead, feigning blindness, but I force myself to look at the homeless man at least a moment, at least.
Some people don’t notice crows, but I see them everywhere. Once you start seeing crows, you can’t stop.
It must be a mile high but still I recognize that tiny black beating against the blue.
One sits at the top of the redwood, a dark star atop the christmas tree. One bashful female clutching the branch while her macho swain swoops down to investigate. The mob struts up and down the painted traffic line in front of our house, swaggering like noble gangsters, like they own the whole damn street. I scatter nuts and the crows plop down, select in the best, and flap off to secret caches.
The weight of a gaze is significant: a carat, kilogram, candela, kelvin, calorie. Before I open my eyes in the morning, I feel the lone crow outside my bedroom window, watching me.
On a scale from one to ten, my eyes must open to answer.
I have met my share of narcissists. The lines have been cut, there is no answer. All inroads go the other direction. Sorry, kid, you’re on your own.
The crows didn’t expect to be noticed. Maybe they were used to being ignored. Once, they took up hardly any space at all, blurred into the background, wings hunched, the hushed and eerie echo of a caw.
Now, they are accustomed to being seen. I walk out of my house and a familiar figure rattles and flaps to greet me, with one eye as is crow custom, one eye at a time, a butterfly kiss.
I see the crow is glad to see me; the crow sees the same in me.
Seeing and being seen, being fed and feeding, the arc and spark of energy fusing, fireworks in the air. You can’t stop once you start, the eyes open and out it flows.
Being seen by a crow is like being seen by a god. No, by a tree. No: a distant ancestor. A mile-high recognition, my heart tethered to the telephone pole.
Nothing is clear or spotless. Take a microscope to the murky contents of every pore: up close, even dandelions might terrify. I can’t tell one crow from another. I can’t make promises or see tomorrow or read without glasses and from my children, I can’t hide.
But the more I look, the closer I come to seeing and the more I see, the more I see.
Click to read this wonderful poem by Mary Oliver.