Originally published summer 2003

In the evening, in summertime, just before sunset, the crows come in for the night.

They fly in over the lake.  Sometimes they come in a huge flock, hundreds of birds trailing in a black veil, and sometimes they come in waves, groups of ten, twenty, thirty birds every minute or so.  Single stragglers come in at the very end, a couple of minutes after the rest, like tardy students running to class.

They roost in the greenbelt on the on the other side of Aurora.  The first birds start at the north end, crossing over where the elder trees and English ivy have been allowed to run wild in someone’s yard.  As the trees fill up, the pattern shifts south, over the stairs, over the building due north of us, over our building.  The stragglers always come in over the building due south of us, without fail.

And as the crows head to the greenbelt on the other side of Aurora, their paths cross with flocks of smaller birds, the sparrows and finches, as they head southeast, to their own nighttime roosts–where, I don’t know, I just know they’re southeast of here.

Tonight, when I saw the first wave (tonight was a wave night), I went onto the balcony, and I watched them, watched the waves sweep in over the lake and to the north and over my head, till they were all in.  There appeared to be some cross-currents up where they were; several seemed to stop in the air, as if against a wall, for a second or so, beating their wings hard, until the air current shifted and they suddenly burst forward again.  The very last straggler had a great deal of trouble with the currents; I watched it come from high and east over the lake for a good minute or more, fighting the air the whole way.  And when it finally got the best of the currents, it went over the building to the south of us, without fail.

And now the sun is gone and the air is lavender, quickly going blue, and there is not a bird to be seen anywhere around.

Good night, friends.  I’m glad to share my city with you.

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