Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Diane's drawing of her favorite bird.
How many reams I’ve written about crows, much to the annoyance of people who regard them as public nuisances! This morning, the first relaxed morning I’ve enjoyed in the New Year, I went outdoors to look at a sea of newly-grown rye grass and above me I heard the familiar caw of my favorite bird, the crow. It perched at the top of a towering oak near the coulee, eyeing me and talking (yes, crows can even learn to speak words and short sentences more clearly than parrots!).

Crows, the most intelligent of all the birds, are reputed to be guardians of the hidden and sacred, as well as interpreters of the unknown, but if you don’t have a drop of Scots superstition in your bloodline, as I do, you probably won’t regard them as masters of mystery or messengers who remind us to pay attention to connections to our ancestors.

Despite the cold this morning, I stood awhile in the yard, clothed only in my pajamas, and made echoing caws, but the crow turned up his “nose” at my poor imitations of its birdcalls. I think it may have been trying to drive a hawk away, as crows dislike hawks and owls, but he may have been trying to convey news of what is going on in town. In Nordic mythology, the god Rodin had two crows named Hugin and Munin who went about gathering news of happenings in the world, then would fly down and sit on the god’s shoulders, informing him of what they had seen. However, the crow this morning may have been looking for plant materials to create hooks that he could use to remove grubs from old logs –crows are experienced toolmakers.

Crows hover over the Tower of London in the UK, and some people (probably Scots) believe that if they disappear from the Tower, the English monarchy will topple. According to the superstition, Beefeaters (guards of the Tower) make sure that ravens have a home in the Tower so their kingdom on this earth won’t perish.

In 2007, the skies suddenly began to rain cane toads in Australia, and when scientists investigated the cause of this phenomenon, they found that crows were the culprits. They had toppled cane toads from tree limbs, then swooped down and carried them back to the limbs to consume the insides of the reptiles. People in this remote Northern Territory of Australia seem to prefer the crows to ugly cane toads.

From my 2011 book of poetry, Alchemy, the poem “No Messages from Crows:”

The savage birds scorn Table Rock,
a long standing tower, stripped
of branch and inviting green;
perhaps the light is too extreme
above the unbroken rock,
they miss concealment and rubbish piles,
scenes of malice where they can haggle
and strut, their expressive tongues
now unable to stir the clear air,
this place free of litigation.
I miss the raucous voices,
their sleek coats glistening
in an incautious sky,
their songs raised,
the primitive incantations
of holy, unholy dark princes.

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