Crow wears a band of silver on his ankle, holds it out to watch it glint in the sun like cool creek water. It is noon. He is the only one out. All others have sought shelter under the canopy of live oak, the leaves beneath the chaparral, Crow the only one among them unafraid to cast a shadow. He is a black body to absorb the sun’s heat, and yet unheated.
He's silver studded with stones, turquoise to match the cloudless sky. He stretches out his leg again, watches sky and water glisten on his ankle.
He flexes claws and brings his foot beneath him again, stretches out his other, naked foot for balance. His feet are beautiful, furrowed skin like charcoal scales, sharp and onyx claws. As flexible as hands, good for grasping new-hatched thrushes or pulling gate hooks from eye bolts, and sleek. The humans see crow’s feet in the faces of their most seasoned elders, the scars of a learned life spent laughing. Crows’ feet, the mark of craft and cunning, crow’s feet a sense of humor made skin and sinew.
He swings down on the branch, holds himself upside down and swinging, the silver falling down around his upper leg as he barks in delight. Sky below his feet and swaying, silver pools above his head. The world so beautifully inverted, he cannot keep from laughing. This is beauty: the world turned upside down. You can keep your lithe ingénues, your florid sunsets and cloying sentiment: beauty is all that cleft in two, a cunning spark suspended by crow’s feet, a fall from a deadly height and then the swoop of wing, the thickening of the air beneath splayed feathers. Seeing air rising within air and climbing on it, sun glinting blue-black as night sky off your feathers? Night colours blazing brilliant from your feathers? Beauty is day turned to night and night to day.
Heart beats furious beneath that dark breast, mind burns in onyx eyes. Beauty a glint of laughter in a bottomless dark eye. He barks again.
Sun above live oak, a thousand suns refracted on the earth below. Grasshoppers leap into the air clicking. Wild oats, tawn in the summer heat, lean eastward with the breeze, and a wall of fog on the ocean twenty miles west.
All this beauty: all this.
Story from "Coyote Crossing"