Lisa Couturier is the author of The Hopes of Snakes & Other Tales from the Urban Landscape (Beacon Press, 2006), a collection of essays that explores the relationship between the human and the nonhuman. She holds a master's degree from New York University and is a former articles editor and environmental writer. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous national magazines and anthologies. In 2006 she was listed as a notable essayist in Best American Essays. She lives within the Agricultural Reserve in the countryside of Maryland.
Being the holiday season, it's a good time to share stories. I'd like to tell the story of my friends who congregate in our city near the Bed, Bath and Beyond. They know a good deal when they see it and will follow one another from Bed, Bath and Beyond to a free doughnut here or some French fries there, which will prompt them to fight and chase and play and scream at one another. Though they prefer to sleep in the city this wintry time of year, they spend the daylight hours out where I live now, in the country, where they work in the cornfields and in the woods. They commute, like many of us. A good chance to visit with them is in the late afternoon, when, on their way home, they stop here and there in and around the city's strip malls, where, though generally it's a good idea to avoid such chaos, I also occasionally stop, and spend time with my friends—these resourceful commuters, the crows.
I have two kids: I do a lot of stopping along the long list of things to do and places to be that my life has become. But stopping can be good. It forces me to attend to what is there. My daughter Madeleine’s ballet school, which was and still is buried behind franchise restaurants, boutiques, and the usual smattering of mega-stores, was also near Starbucks—how convenient—for my fill up of gingerbread latte. And of course the ubiquitous Bed, Bath and Beyond. It was after my scurrying through the autumn rains and winds, from store to store, with my younger daughter Lucienne, first as a baby, then a toddler, then a preschooler, in the carriage, on my hip, or riding piggy back, and it was after stocking up like a mama squirrel on all the treats the city stores offered, that Lucienne and I came to a different sort of stopping. While Madeleine pirouetted into the early evening, Lucienne and I piled our packages into our car parked behind Bed, Bath and Beyond, where we could sit. Where we could sip latte and suck lollipop. Where we could visit with our friends the crows.