N. and I are having lunch. Through the balcony window I see a blackbird sitting in a tree, singing. It seems odd, the way it’s just sitting there, passing the time.
“There’s a bird in the tree,” I tell her.
“I know,” she said without turning to look.
“What do you mean, you know?”
“It’s been there for days. It’s been bothering me.”
“It’s bad luck.”
I laugh. “Stop thinking like that. You’re going to create bad luck.”
Later on, I saw it plucking berries off the vine on the wall near the tree and swallowing them.
“Wow, they must have an incredible digestive system. They don’t chew at all. I read somewhere that they eat grains of sand to help them digest.”
“Do you realise that in a few months we’re getting married and there’s a blackbird outside our window?”
* * * * *
When I first came to Greece, I went to visit an aunt of mine that I’d just met. She was from a part of my family that had long ago gone to Alexandria. We went for a walk in her neighbourhood and visited a cousin of hers, which of course made her an aunt of mine too. I’d never met her before, and have never seen her again. (I’m not in touch with the first aunt any more either.)
The woman we visited was named Dora, and she was an archaeologist, and from what I could tell, an eminent one. She told us about her excavations in Olympia, for which she had been responsible at a time when women did not do that kind of work. It was very difficult for her to get the workmen to do what she wanted them to do. She finally managed to assert herself (I don’t remember the details of this story) and things were better.
Years later, on the site in Olympia, a blackbird came and landed near her. She became so scared that she couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t understand why. She’d never been aware of such a fear before.
Later, she remembered that when she was a little girl, she liked jumping on her mother’s bed. Her mother was afraid she would fall and hurt herself, so she plucked a black feather from the feather duster and laid it in the middle of the bed, on the white blanket. Dora came to get up on the bed and saw the stark black feather in the middle of the bed, and was frightened. She did not jump on the bed again.