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Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Crow walking in the rain

What day of the week it is constitutes an ongoing mystery in the house. Neither Jr nor I is of this world enough to keep up with it. Sometimes, say on a Tuesday, he'll ask if it's Saturday. And I don't know. I have to go to the calendar and figure it out by days since the last time I knew the date. The radio never plays. The tv never plays. CDs never get played. Several months ago I played one.

The birds and the tires on Hwy 18 are the sounds I hear. The vehicles go by at random intervals, or random as can be done. The sounds of the birds are random, anyway from my perspective with no understanding of what they're saying. Random sounds are like a fire for random shapes that are never the same. It's the random, visual and auditory, that relaxes. The first sign of a pattern catches the mind and holds it. Patterns become pictures and music that pull the attention out of a relaxed state. Can't say one is better than the other. It's just what we want for a given time. I'm enjoying this time outside my life's patterns.

Jr is the random in behavior. He has taught me never to expect. Around here, whatever I expect is never the case, and everything is a surprise. I stay open to whatever comes next, little to no anticipation. I find I don't even hope for anything, except that Jr be as comfortable as possible. For myself, I want to be open to the flow of whatever is going on. Like right now I'm sitting on the couch with the laptop on a chair by the window. Between sentences I watch crows march around in the lawn. I threw sliced apple out there earlier. They're making their pre-roosting search for a bit of something good before bedtime. I'm more and more able to differentiate between the ones that come here regularly.

One of them, I got a photo of walking in the rain. I believe this one is the cock. His (I presume) breast feathers are always showing several patches of what appear to be ruffled feathers, like he's been in a fight. But it's like that every day and I doubt he fights every day. Perhaps he just doesn't take care of his breast feathers. Or it could be insignia marking his status in the greater crow colony, like scarification in our more primitive societies, like medals on an officer's chest. He is the only one that will walk through the lawn by himself when I'm standing on the porch. I sit still and he walks by, looking at me and scanning for an apple slice too. When we look at each other like that, I feel like we're communicating. I don't mean any kind of big deal something or other, just that I, from the species that kills everything, and he from the species that warns all the forest creatures of possible threats, we, with several leaps in consciousness between us, like evolution's generation gaps, can only look at each other in the eyes and say, "Howdy," with a feeling of peace between us.

To be an adult bird and walk so near a human is the bravest of the brave. This leads me to suspect his mottled chest is significant of rank and bravery, because it's that way every day. I even have a feeling that he keeps this place for his hen and their five younguns. No other crows come here, except when I've thrown out an abundance of something. I never put "garbage" in the trash. Anything I throw outside but onions, egg shells and watermelon rinds, the crows consume within ten minutes of it going out the door.

They never bothered the garden that I could hit easily with a rock from the house, leading me to suspect it was a gesture of gratitude. After things were grown up in the garden, I've seen a crow walk through picking bugs from the leaves and the ground. There was quite a lot of corn in the garden and it looks like every seedling made it. I mention the crows to illustrate how quiet I've become in mind. Getting acquainted with country crows cannot be done on the go. Thinking of how wary they are, I've noticed they are not hatched that way. I've seen the adult birds teach wariness to the younger birds. Early on, the younger birds would walk toward me sitting on the porch with no apprehension until mama flies off a few feet to get their attention shifted to flight. By now, they don't seem as wary as the older birds, but they're learning.

I never had any idea it takes crows months to wean fledglings. Never thought about it. The young ones hatched back in the spring continue to go to mama with fluttering wings and beaks open calling to her. The flattest, most monotone sound of a "caw" you hear that has no music in the tone, is the young ones calling to mama for a morsel. They've learned to eat on their own by now, but they still get overtaken by childhood impulses. Sometimes mama chases them away, sometimes she feeds them, mostly she tries the best she can to ignore them. She's patient with them like only a mother can be.

The sky is changing, not so much light coming through the clouds. Everything is in shade before sunset. The crows have stopped their barking, gone to roost. I believe my friends roost in the trees at the top of the hill behind the house. I hear all the different sounds crows make and wonder now if they need to be taught to the young ones coming up. I have a feeling they do. They certainly have a natural inclination to the particular crow calls, but evidently need to learn them too. Only the young ones make that monotone caw of feed-me, evidently all summer long. I've been wondering if crow calls amount to a language, minimal to be sure, compared to ours, but complex and advanced in the world of birds. Suspecting strongly they have to learn their language like we do, leads me to suspect they have accents from tribe to tribe, and know their own by accent. Perhaps. Whatever the case, I'm glad to be going slow enough to appreciate a more subtle world outside the realm of the human mind.

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