Dawn in Manhattan

As I write, dawn is breaking over Manhattan. My attention was drawn to it from the sound of crows signaling to each other in Riverside Park which our apartment overlooks.

Crows, if one is not familiar with them, are amongst the cleverest of birds. They work together in flocks and post ‘guard’ crows to warn them of any impending dangers — a hawk on the horizon, a fox stalking or whatever. I used to hear the same calls when I was a kid living in rural Connecticut, a quarter mile away from our nearest neighbor. It is amazing how much of the same wild life we have here in the city — I recall watching a terrified squirrel hiding on the opposite side of a tree trunk from a huge hawk that had settled there. Eventually the hawk flew off and the terrified squirrel fled to safer places. We probably don’t host the larger mammals, but we do the smaller ones such as squirrels, rats, and mice. We had one of the last once which would pop out of the space from a pipe from a radiator into our floor and dance around for a minute in the middle of our floor before popping back into his retreat. We named him Herman and eventually sealed off his approach route as we had a new baby who would be sharing the floor with him.

We urbanites try to make do with our dogs and cats and pet birds and fish. But we miss the richness of nature which some of us try to recapture at places still available on summer vacations. As a kid I learned how to imitate a number of the animal calls and would occasionally carry on a conversation with some crows trying to feed peacefully in our vicinity. Being able to speak the animal languages gave one a sense of identification with creatures of all kinds. One tended, however, to rank them in order of intelligence which is manifest in farm animals as well as wild ones. Many of our proverbs follow therefrom — the fox in the hen house, for instance. Foxes are quite clever both in their ability to live on the richness of nature and to avoid being harmed by it. I hope our pollution is not doing in our wild ones. The demise of the honey bee necessary to produce many of our crops may be a warning sign of bad things to come. The world out there is a far different place than it used to be. I saw, perhaps, the beginnings of change when as an eight year old I would train in observers at our front yard airplane observation post on guard against WW2 invading enemies. I could tell a plane’s identify by sound with my keen child’s hearing. It was an awesome thing to be protecting against enemies at that age. I mourn for all those children around the world who are now facing horrendous horrors that threaten them day and night. The stress must be killing something in them that we so richly enjoyed as children growing up in a world not distorted by sound bites and deadly images on TV screens.

And so it goes.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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