I just realized that I have learned something from the crows. Since I have unexpectedly found myself stuck in the city, I have struggled to keep my connection to the natural world. Especially since I live in a very urban neighborhood. Most days the only birds I see are crows and grackles and starlings with the occasional sparrow thrown in. Now I don’t have anything against crows but I’ve always gotten a kick out of cardinals, mockingbirds, hawks, eagles, seagulls, pelicans, pink flamingos for pete’s sake. The magic of the bird world (who could imagine a hummingbird!) has always been a delight to me.
Now here I sit, trapped between a shopping center and a busy street, in my little apartment building with the little courtyard and the crows. I guess I shouldn’t be a snob. I probably look like an old crow too, in some people’s eyes. Where is the young woman who went out to tend her garden and looked up to see a red tail hawk in the sky, who watched the hummingbirds come right up to the hollyhocks by the front door, who laughed as the blue jay screamed at the skulking tom cat?
Those things live only in my memory. My reality is the crow. Me and the crow. Think about this – what if the crow didn’t show up? That would really be bad. I guess as long as there’s one bird, there’s hope. Even if it’s a tough old bird. I always thought the crow was a trickster anyway. We used to have our little jokes about crow. One day I was sitting on a rock on a beach near Port Angeles, Washington and a crow flew over my head and dropped a small unopened bag of potato chips on the rock beside me. The brand name on it was “Good Luck” and it had a four-leafed clover on it. I cracked up laughing. I kept that bag for years. It was my crow talisman.
The crows are still with me. I laugh when I watch them hop off the fence down into the enclosed patio of the Tex-Mex cafe and snatch a fallen nacho chip from the floor and swoop back out with their prize – perching on the fence and looking just as witty and wise as an old eagle who had just swept down in all his majesty and scored a shimmering silver trout from a cold mountain stream. I am seeing them knowing how much more there is but the children who are city-bound are only seeing the crows. Crows teach them birdness. Crows teach them about creatures that fly, feathers, things that are not bound by gravity. They teach them that there is air-space and not just ground-space and a whole freedom of motion no earthbound creature will ever know.
I can’t give my grandchildren the world I knew as a child. But I can teach them to attend to what is now, to watch the crow, and to learn.