“Storytelling is the most ancient form of education. It is about the remembering, making, and sharing of images that bind together time, nature and people. Stories, like the sacred plants, are medicine and food come from the Earth. They remind us that we do not stand alone. Through them, we live in the body of coyote and crow, tree and stone..In this way, we confirm our relationship with all of creation.”
Last night while on my nightly walk, an unruly commotion broke out amongst crows on the other side of the pond. My first thought was that something was being attacked or was involved in a fight.
Within minutes, the flock of a dozen or so flew overhead, to a location in the forest just beyond the tree line. They sent up a great racket – it seemed obvious something had happened and everyone was reporting on it at once. Within minutes, the air above me filled with dark shapes – like debris in a funnel cloud, they swept in from all directions.
The mosquitoes kept me from venturing into the wood to spy, so I stood still on the road and listened as more continued to gather. It seemed to be an event of great excitement. Everyone had something to say and I was reminded of the story of Pat’s grandfather, overheard muttering at a family gathering, ‘Is anyone listening?’
I must admit a fascination with the crow. We have a family of four at my place and I enjoy watching their comical antics, as they stride about in their black knickers, nattering about this or that, and cleaning up wild berries or the leftovers in the compost bin.
In her thought-provoking book, Crow Planet, Lyanda Lynn Haupt describes a number of unusual crow behaviours and observations, and points out that humans have always written or told the stories of wild things in our own way, but that “the wild beings have their own stories to tell, and in the reading of their singular alphabet – their tracks, voices, homes, scat, feathers, presence, and absence – we may find that they sometimes to object to things we have always believed to be true.”
I’m not sure what particular tale this group was telling, but sometimes the chorus found a rhythm and the voices synchronized into a steady beat, as if in agreement. Then the notes separated again and cacophonous clamour reigned once more. After about 10 minutes, the din began to die down, until only a few adamant complainers remained.
In the sudden quiet, first one crow spoke…then another…and another, followed by two more. Almost as if this was a ‘passing the feather’ ritual.
It was a council of the clans, with the old wise ones finally voicing their opinion to the quieted crowd. Their voices were stern and formidable – each speaking his or her piece, but then, I’m not sure I’ve heard docile or subservient crow-speak.
Then everyone began talking again and the raucous debate resumed for another five minutes or so. Eventually, the discussion appeared to be nearing its conclusion, so I moved on, wondering what kind of wild event I had eavesdropped upon. I’ve heard of crow funerals – and my friend has encountered crows mourning a fallen comrade at roadside – but as this gathering seemed to be taking place away from the original point of conflict, I doubted it was a show of grief.
Later I read a story about crow trials – where rebel crows are judged by their peers – and that seemed to make some sense – if a limited human can make sense of crow life at all.
What is your crow story? Pass the feather.
(And if you, too, have a thing for crows, do pop over to Desideratum where the incredibly talented Gwen has crafted the most lovely earrings to celebrate this intelligent species..you may also see something else in her 12 new designs for 2012 to ruffle your feathers.)