This morning on my walk to work I stopped to watch a currajong sitting on a fence just off the main road. For those of you who are not aware, a currajong is a native bird, almost identical to a crow but for the slightly curved beak and the white splashes on its wings and underside. They have a sharp intellect, the capacity to catch moving flies with a surprisingly loud snap! of their beak (I have seen them do this – it’s very impressive), and a beautiful burbling song not unlike that of a magpie. I watched this one for a while, charmed, and then followed it with my eyes as it took wing up to the branches of a nearby eucalyptus tree. Then, re-called to boring and mundane demands like actually showing up at work, I somewhat reluctantly continued on my way.
As I started to walk I noticed a woman walking towards me. I think she works in one of the car dealerships which line the main road, because I often see her on my walk to work. This morning she met my eye and I wondered if she was going to ask me something about what had caught my attention. Instead, she asked merely, “Is he swooping?”
I was surprised. I shouldn’t have been – many humans, especially city dwellers, tend to separate non-human creatures into two categories: Harmless and Not Harmless. The currajong (which presumably she thought was a magpie) had the potential to be Not Harmless until I reassured her that currajongs don’t actually swoop humans. What surprised me though was that two people could react so differently – for me catching sight of the currajnong was a moment of beauty and peace and miracle in my day. For her, it was a potential threat. Possibly it ceased to exist in her mind the moment it no longer contained the potential to be a danger to her. Because I’m a nerd (and proud of it!) it made me reflect on the power of how we interpret our world. That moment was beautiful for me, but a cause of wariness, even fear, for her. How many other moments do we colour with our own human darkness, and miss their beauty?
(Unless the birds in question are curlews, of course. They are terrifying and there’s no way of painting it otherwise. One of the most frightening moments of my life was being bailed up by a crew of seven curlews who thought I was threatening their eggs. I had to climb a dumpster to escape.)