Even though I’ve got used to them over the years, in the first hours after Dad died, leaving me with this place he built and all its charms, I wasn't sure I could live here. I couldn’t look outside and see anything except for his bones in the branches of every tree, his gray bits of hair in the moss that clings to the birch branches and hangs limp, growing each day, getting scraggly. He was in every piece of nature I looked at. And none of it was good. None of it looked healthy to my worn out gaze. No daughter should see her father that way, or remember him as a helpless bit of body with skin thrown in. Especially when once he'd been a vibrant, wide-shouldered, bellowing man.
It’s because of the crows that I stay. They’ve become a sort of family. This morning, their incessant cawing started at dawn, reminding me of how as a kid, I’d hung with my brother as though we were bats from the branches of the trees. There'd been a spectacular murder that fall: at least two dozen crows picked at the compost heap, trailing rags of pumpkin innards all over the driveway, shitting on Dad's hand-carved totem pole. The wolf at the top wore a salt-and-pepper beard from the fecal matter that Dad couldn't hose off, and when he scrubbed it, he took off some of the paint that made the wolf's teeth gleam. Now almost two decades later those teeth are frayed.
I remember Dad that day, throwing down the bristle brush and picking his way down the ladder. "Dammit all," he'd said to no one in particular, pushing past my tire swing and making me sway wildly. He stormed into the house and came back out holding his .12 gauge. "Get off that swing, Liv, and get in the house."
"What you gonna do?"
He looked at me as though he was looking through me, and I was skinny enough at eight anyway to nearly disappear at will. I checked behind me to see if maybe someone was out there in the woods threatening our half-acre of home, but all I could see were shadows in the cat spruce, shadows that fidgeted now and then and took flight.
"Get, I told you." Dad used the butt of the gun, jerking it beneath his armpit, to point to the house -- he was too much aware of safety, too aware of guns to point with the muzzle. "Well, what are you waiting for?"