Its nice to wake up to crows. I've been waking up to the sound of television with backing vocals from pigeons that coo up in the attic above my attic. I used to read about this common complaint that non bhutanese, like the tourist sort go through and seem to get bugged by- the sound of strays barking all night long.
It sounded like they were offended and the strays were, to put it politely, a nuisance. I guess they are right, because where they come from dogs have been trained to become, sounds absurd but this is true- civilized. It sounded impressive; they said they had no right to disturb their neighbors or the neighborhood in keeping dogs that somehow 'Barked'. One time I was taking one of my walks in a beautiful park in Amsterdam just about 10 minutes walk away from where I used to live. The dog was a beautiful specimen, the sort that are big, furry, fluffy, long-eared and long snouted. He had a smile on his face when he came across me... (I actually think... and its not a pigment of my imagination, that dogs can flash the smile!-:) Anyways the dog and I cross looks and lock eyes and he smiles! The bugger is smiling and his glorious tail is wagging and he starts a sort of whispering bark that sounded more like a greet, as in, "Howdy Mate? And Where To?"
Being the polite chap that I am, especially when the mood in me is as good as the food they get to eat, I reciprocate and sort of nod and smile back at this lovable shag. The next thing I see is the man (or was it a woman?) telling that nice chap to shut it up and mind his own business and let the strange looking non-caucasian man go about his business. Our relationship lasted a few fleeting moments. But we both knew, and this is where man and so called beast do what people write about or talk about- the fact that words are really, only good for ordering food! Anyhow the shaggy looks at me and I look back and we are both thinking, "Every Dog Has Its Day!" and "Every Chap Has His Lap" and a Good Dog and a Good Chap will certainly have many.
I walked onto to the park and saw more of his ilk. But something was terribly amiss... What was it? I couldn't quite put the finger on the knob and then it hit me! The dogs are quiet! The dogs of war are silent! And in a Dog-Eat-Dog world of men, curiously enough, the Dogs aren't fighting! There were no Dogfights!
I've always liked dogs... well, generally any creature for that matter but I guess we all discover dogs first, cats coming in a close second and cows. My parents always kept the whole gang- Cows, Dogs and Cats. When I was a small man, we even had chickens! And really, there is nothing like going about the secret gardens and brushes and grasses hunting for the eggs (and the chicks always laid them in obscure places. Now I know; they wanted their eggs to hatch and not become someone's breakfast the next day). But I was good at locating their whereabouts and found the eggs no matter where they lay hidden. So in a way, I murdered a lot of chicks before they ever hatched. The cows were lovely to have but what a mess! All that bullshit! But whenever a calf came, it was pure joy. I never quite figured why beautiful calves that looked and moved like the deer would turn into rather odd-shaped cows as the months multiplied. But a cow will become a cow irrespective of how they look when they are young just as I look nothing like what I did when I was a small human being.
Whether I've grown up or not is another matter but the way I'm and the way I'll keep getting older is just as it is for all of us; whether we be beautiful new-born babes, pups, kitties, chicks, a calf or a fawn. But the point is this: the dogs had been trained to Un-Bark! And this kept me awake during my early days in the west. First up, in these places, you don't see stray dogs. When you do see one, it looks anything but a dog. So there I stood, mystified by these civilized dogs. It took time, as it always does, for me to get used to the sirens that wail all night long. Alarm bells from parked cars that shrilled the eerie quietness of noisy nights. New York is a city that never sleeps because the sirens come alive when the moon is up and about, and you realize its not the moon but man-made searchlights reflecting up above and the stars are really planes departing and landing into the city, with no pause.
Whenever I'd come back home, the nights were particularly enticing, more so when it was bed time and you get ready to hit the sack. You lay down your wearied body and try resting the mental chatter, and there it is! The sound of stray dogs barking! The only thing that is noisy in this world is the endless banter in your head and the man-made cacophony; which is just the opposite of the sound of nature. The bark of the dog, the mooing of the cows, the chicken chat, cooing pigeons and cawing crows are indeed songs of life...
Even the quiet forests come alive when you wander quietly into the woods. The trees branch out and whistle; the brushes come alive against the breeze; the waterfalls; the little brooks that wind their way down to the fields. And perhaps no sound is quite as brutal, or sincere, overpowering and real as the sound of silence that descends when your senses are totally relaxed, free and receptive.
Right now I'm down south at the border. This morning the crows woke me up with their enchanting mantra of AAA... It got me thinking about Thimphu and what seemed like something painfully absent- crows! Whatever happened to the crows and (Ravens?) of the capital?
There was a time when I'd collect stray-pups in the many back alleys and what used to be wild-wilderness right in the heart of the capital. We'd pick them up, concoct beautiful cross-bred long-winded tales about the pup's precious lineage and pass them off to well-to-do folks as 'Designer Dogs'! I saw quite a few of them prosper and they live on in their descendants. But what is reassuring is that they are allowed to bark, and hence retain their Doggedness. Now that's a comforter when you've to do an all-nighter!
***Bowwow till the next musing. Nb: Cats meow the world over. A Brazilian mate said Brazilian roosters go "Kukurikuow" like Bhutanese roosters as opposed to the English and American cocks that go "Cockadoodledoo" but when it comes to cows, the Bhutanese seem to hear it differently- as in "Ombaaa" whereas they go "Moo" in the rest of the world! And dogs in the west have stopped barking all together and should you telepathy randomly with one on a street, ask- "Howz the world treating you?" and this is what you'll hear: "Rough Rough!"
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
you were talking so brave and so sweet,
giving me head on the unmade bed,
while the limousines wait in the street.
Those were the reasons and that was New York,
we were running for the money and the flesh.
And that was called love for the workers in song
probably still is for those of them left.
Ah but you got away, didn't you babe,
you just turned your back on the crowd,
you got away, I never once heard you say,
I need you, I don't need you,
I need you, I don't need you
and all of that jiving around.
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
you were famous, your heart was a legend.
You told me again you preferred handsome men
but for me you would make an exception.
And clenching your fist for the ones like us
who are oppressed by the figures of beauty,
you fixed yourself, you said, "Well never mind,
we are ugly but we have the music."
And then you got away, didn't you babe...
I don't mean to suggest that I loved you the best,
I can't keep track of each fallen robin.
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
that's all, And now I even think of you that often! :)