Outside Casa Cuervo the crows have gathered. Their sleek black feathers and raucous voices remind me of those images of Inquisition judges in thirteenth century paintings. I suspect, though, that this rather odious reputation didn’t enter John’s head when he named the cottage. He tends to have more the mind and heart of a St. Francis when it comes to ‘all creatures great and small.’ So I take another look. The crows waddle along the roadside cleaning things up. One of them sits on the bird bath under the cedars and gets himself a drink of rainwater from the storm we had yesterday and last night. About six gather and croak at each other like the fellows down at the coffee shop in town. Maybe they are nature’s editors.
I sit upstairs in the writing room on the left. John’s on the right in the room with all his research books lined up on shelves. The Writer’s Guide to Medieval Life, and historical references to St. Francis, to towns and cities in the Middle Ages, to ancient maps of Italy which I imagine have felt his fingers tracing the old roads from Assisi to Perugia. I pause for a moment to call out, “How do you spell Perugia,” and he asks if I’m writing about a pilgrimage we plan to make in October. Not right now, I call back, and then draft the sentence you just read.
A few blocks from the cottage is Birch Bay off the Strait of Georgia on the Washington coast. It’s a good walk down to the water. John is helps me that way—intent on exercise—and I’d go today except for the rain and my lingering winter cold. It must be gorgeous in the summer with the Canadian Cascades and Mt. Baker cutting jags into the sky.
The cottage itself is probably a good place for a writing retreat. It’s small, very little work to keep up. For a while we’d thought of selling it, but now that we are here again it feels complementary with Sunshine Hill—a place to go where life is even simpler. A place where the call of the crow inspires us to strip away all that is not essential, to get to the bones of reality, the essence of truth.