As I drove through the underpass, the dark mass swooped in front of my truck. I pressed the brakes quickly, watching the huge bird land on the roof of the local brick company building . Traffic came to a sudden halt. The driver in front of me pointed to the creature, perched ominously, turning to his passenger as traffic moved in front of him. Passerbys stopped and turned, like on command, resembling a sidewalk of Easter Island figures, all facing west.
A vulture, ugly simply by dint of its role in the ecosystem, creepily turned towards me, its back to the yard at hand. They are massive heaving creatures. Last year, the omens would have been writ. The vision all but condemning me to walk the land of the dead. I would have imagined my little fetus Thor doomed. My family thrust into a world of darkness.
This year, I beeped the horn. "Move it, jackass. It's a vulture, not Jesus."
This is New Jersey after all. If we heeded omens, most of our towns would have been abandoned. But it occurred to me that I am in a different place than last summer. Still, the most googled way to find my blog is Dead Bird Omen or any such variation of that phrase. Written in questions. Written in sentences. Misspelled. Desperate acts of anonymity. Last summer, I had a series of unfortunate experiences: my mother's house caught on fire a few feet from where I was sitting upwind, I almost amputated my finger in a hand blender, dead birds were ending up in my house. I clung to superstition. I clung to fear.
After Lucy died, I lost my faith in science. I once believed that science could basically answer all my questions about this physical world, and then they couldn't answer the simplest of questions, "How did my daughter die?" And so I lost that particular faith. And so I was left, doubtful of God, hateful of science, unconnected to nature. I began heeding omens. Burning sage. Watching for eclipses. I even consulted a five buck psychic on Etsy. And that psychic told me some amazing things, but most important, she said, "You are creating your own bad energy by worrying about omens."
I think in psychological speak, I am integrating my experience into my being. There are proverbial before and after pictures of me. Before: a warm welcoming smile, direct eyes. After: a huge scythe and a kind of Orphean guilt/depression frown saying, "I turned around, goddamn it. I wanted to wait, but I was impatient. I brought this on myself by not understanding the mysteries of the universe and my own human failings.". They are now juxtaposed on one on top of the other giving the eerie illusion that I am a smiling Angel of Death, or perhaps more accurately, a happy person grieving. Whatever it is called, this feels more me, a little guilt, a little smile, a little depression, a little scythe.
I am not a believer in signs anymore. I am not contributing to fear anymore. It has enough fuel without believing that the gods are telling me something terrible. And so, I am hereby giving the proverbial finger to all vultures, scarabs, dead birds, disembodied chimes and wails, hooves outside my door, cracked mirrors and owls in the daytimes. Fuck all y'all.