April 13th, 2014

Ruffled feathers, folded wings tucked neatly away against a lithe black and grey body, a raven sits atop a wind bent tree. The long slender tree sways under the pressure of the coming storm looming in the distance, yet so close on the dark horizon. The raven sits unheeded, the sentry set to duty atop a watch tower made before the brick buildings and red thatched roofs knew their beginning.

It was a cry, a melancholy call that caught my attention. Pulling my gaze away from the landscape to the fellow watcher, the other who gazes beside me posted in his sentry tower like a soldier at hand to a distant calling war. I could barely make out his shape against the dark green of the tree he had made his home in, it was his call that rang clear like a gunshot across the sky. Head thrown forward to utter his wretched cry. But he had the same vantage point as I, as I leaned against the wrought iron railing of the Villa Borghese garden overlook. I had paused in my wanderings around the city of Rome, having traveled from Piazza Navona to the Spanish Steps, finally finding my way to Villa Borghese to stop and watch the sun be swallowed up by the returning storm at sunset.

IMG_6862Rome lay before me in all of its sprawling glory. It is hard to contemplate a scene such as that. A vast city full of endless wonders viewed from a single vantage point that is far removed from the hustle and bustle of every moment happening within that view. Every building, every street, every shop, every alleyway has a separate and entirely unique occurrence in that very moment that I looked upon all of the Historic City Center. Moments I will never see, never know, and never have the pleasure of understanding. All across this city lives are being led. Lives as equally important, if not more important than my own. Not lives like those depicted in movies or reality TV shows; just normal everyday lives like the one I am leading here. It is strange to stand at a viewpoint or an overlook because it is not just a view, and you cannot quite understand what it is you are overlooking. Yet I return to these overlooks all the same because somewhere inside you can feel the heartbeat of every single person in Rome if you just close your eyes and breathe in the breath of a city that seems to be ever exhaling.

It was this multitude of heartbeats that rang out in the cry of a crow. We shared that moment, an animal and I. Strange enough as it sounds, I could not help but look at it and wonder,

Do birds sit on treetops for the view? 

Every moment, for a bird like the one that cried to me, is constantly caught between living a life from the most pristine of vantage points to the squalor of the dirtiest streets, rushing back and forth between uncaring human feet. Did it appreciate the view? Did it see what I saw, did it know the magnitude of what lay before it? Did I?

IMG_6863Tourism is myopic, living is the widening of a vantage point to include the lives of all those around you. To consider the heartbeat of every stranger that may never know, nor care to know yours, in a city that pulses with movement like the pumping of blood through your veins. I keep climbing to the tops of mountains thinking the farther up I go the more I will understand about this labyrinthine city. But what I am beginning to understand is the vantage point of the crow that cries to me. The juxtaposition of the highest trees to the dirty streets, and living unperturbed by elements battering up against me.

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