crows


TV Show pitch: This Old Crone
Like the PBS seres, This Old House (the original remodeling show), but featuring the transformation of an old crone rather than an old home. It should be hosted by the person who really knows how to do the work rather than the half-assed dilettante hosebag. In this series, instead of covering up the flaws in the crone, we shine a bright spotlight on them so that anyone, including the crone, can learn from them. And the eccentricities of construction will be celebrated rather than trying to turn them into something sleek and modern. Repair work will be done, of course, but with the knowledge that decrepitude is inevitable and the only sure and certain principle ruling the Universe is entropy. Rather than mourning this, the show will encourage us to accept it with as much grace and dignity as possible and learn from it, as well. But we must also remember that if entropy rules the Universe, irony is its only begotten daughter.

Everyone’s path is their own. No path is superior. Everyone has to find their own way. The path of quiet contemplation is as valid as the full-throated war cry. Anyone who judges your path isn’t as secure in their own as they think they are. One person has trouble crossing a room without pain; another climbs mountains. In the end, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is the flame in your heart. If it dies, you’ve failed. If it’s still burning, you’re still burning, and you’re where you need to be.

One of my ancestors is named Mary Polly Armor and I always want to read that as Mary Polyamory. #BecauseThatsJustTheSortOfBrainIHave

What’s the first major news event you remember in your lifetime? I was going to say the assassination of JFK but it’s really the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember those drills, our young teacher herding us little bitty kids into the cloakroom to shelter. I remember her crying each time and I didn’t figure out until later that it was because she never knew if we were hiding out because it was real and the bombs were on the way or if it was just another drill. I was terrified and didn’t really know why.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the notion that paranormal activity is caused by places being built on Indian burial grounds. It’s quite prevalent in paranormal research and I’ve also fallen prey to the thought of vengeful native spirits. Lately, I’ve reconsidered this. It’s as essentially racist as the Ancient Aliens/Van Daniken notion that primitive (read “people of color”) societies could not possibly have invented the wonders they did—it had to be gifted to them from Space Overlords. The Indian burial ground notion has even pervaded popular horror movie culture. The one exception to this that I can think of in popular culture (rather than supposedly legit research) is the movie Poltergeist. The dead folks in that movie were just vengeful dead folks, not vengeful natives. I can’t think of such an exception in paranormal research. It makes me feel guilty that I even considered the Indian burial ground scenario. Although I’m not sure my white guilt is any more helpful than white appropriation or white nullification of culture. Mostly I realize it’s not about me except for when I can work for positive change.

Here near LAX we got a gentle rolling from the July 5th 7.1 earthquake (downgraded to only 6.9), but it did go on for a very long time. Sometimes they are gentle at first then the big whammy hits, so until things stop there’s always the fear it will get bigger. One of my neighbors was standing out in her front yard screaming, however, which I thought kind of extreme but it takes everybody different. I did feel seasick afterwards, though.

The only thing I know is that whatever negative thing you are when you’re young, you will still be that negative thing when you’re old, only more so. Unless you do a s*** ton of work on yourself between youth and age, if you’re a young rage monkey he’ll be in old age monkey; if you’re a judgmental young twat you’ll be a judgmental old twat. The good news is, if you’re a thoughtful, considerate person when you’re young you’ll most likely still be a thoughtful, considerate old person. The seeds of who our selves are planted at the moment of our birth.

I think the dictation on my Word program must be Scottish. It never wants to capitalize the name Ken.

I lived a block from the Sidewalk Cafe in the 80s. We often ate there in the day time, but knew to stay off the Boardwalk at night: too wild & dangerous for girls on their own. It sounds like things have changed—and not changed: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2019/05/08/a-night-with-a-bouncer/#.XRlOldiNsgk.twitter

I have to confess that as much as I loathe Ancient Aliens, it’s a good show to have on for background noise when I’m not feeling very well. I can read Twitter while it’s playing and look up every once in a while to yell very rude things at the screen. #NeverSaidIWasntWeird

I don’t feed the crows every day. But every time I do feed them, the day after one of them will perch on the rail near my open front door and yell at me to feed them again. #LoveThemCrows

The Detectorists – a lovely, gentle, funny show. One of my favorites.

I have a terrible confession to make. I hope you’ll still be my friends once you hear it: I like the lumps in cream of wheat.

The crow maintains a
wary eye. After years of
feeding him he still
keeps distant, unbelieving
in the kindness of mankind.

 

 

 

*For a definition of what constitutes haiku, tanka, and cinquains, and for an explanation of this poetry project, go here.

*To see all the poems in one place go here.

crows

I love crows. Yes, I know. Crows are a hard sell to many people, but I am unrepentant. I’m fascinated by their intelligence, their creativity, and that look of presence when their eyes meet yours. So I was eager to read this book.

It surprised me when it arrived: a thin volume, only 113 pages including the index, but unusually weighty because it’s lavishly illustrated (every other page) on high-quality, heavy paper and beautifully put together. It takes great advantage of the space between the covers, cramming in so much information that the weightiness of the book seemed as much from the information as the heavy paper. Using it, I was able to verify that, yes, that exceptionally large dominant crow hanging around my house was indeed a crow and not a raven; and I was able to pick out the adolescent packs and understand their behavior better. Also what some of those screaming matches were about.

Their intelligence and resourcefulness make it easy to understand why crows have become such an integral part of so many mythologies, so much folklore. Their association with the trickster mythology is so ancient that it is shared in both Australian Aboriginal mythology and Native American. Considering how long these populations must have been isolated from each other and from the rest of the world, that’s rather impressive. There are trickster associations in European mythology as well.

But they aren’t just viewed as tricksters and evil omens. In some Buddhist traditions, they are regarded as protectors of the Dharma—cosmic law and order, among other things. In Hinduism, they are considered to be embodiments of the recently deceased, and to be messengers and information-givers. This echoes the Norse idea of Huginn and Muninn, the ravens who constantly brought information to Odin. And in some American Indian tribes, crows are considered not only tricksters, but creators of the world.

Ms. Savage covers various mythologies concerning crows, the latest scientific research, as well as keen observations of crow behavior throughout the ages. I guarantee you’ll have a different appreciation of these wise guys once you’ve read this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Did you know—?

Crows are the only non-primates who make tools. Other critters use what they find around them as the occasional tool, but crows will actually take what they find and reshape it to accomplish tasks. They have complex social organizations and their own languages (topping 64,000 different calls). They love, they hate, they grieve, they practice deceit as well as bravery, they reason, are tender and harsh. They hit all the standards we declare are solely-human characteristics. They’re not only as amazing as I always suspected—they’re more amazing.

An excerpt:

[Avian researcher Carolee Caffrey] was observing a nest through a spotting scope when the breeding pair returned to feed their nestlings, only to discover that their nest had been raided by a raptor in their absence. “In all my life, I’ve never heard such horrible, bloodcurdling screams as the crows made at that nest. The male flew away after a minute or two, but the female stayed behind and, for the next four hours (until Caffrey reluctantly left), tended a surviving but injured nestling by nuzzling it, picking up its neck, and preening the side of its head. All the while, the crow uttered mournful-sounding oohs.

Another, more lighthearted one:

Scientists wanted to test the reasoning ability of some captive crows so they devised a complex series of boxes, some of which had bait inside, many that were empty.

[The crow named] Hugin figured out the rule on the first morning of the trials…His companion Munin, by contrast, couldn’t even be bothered to look. Instead, as the dominant bird in a group, he preferred to bide his time until Hugin found the food; then he would muscle in and gobble up one or more of the tasty tidbits….Socially subordinate though he was, Hugin was no pushover. On the first afternoon of the experiment, he came up with a countermove. When Munin began to press in on him, Hugin would interrupt his foraging, fly over to one of the unrewarded clusters, and start opening empty boxes. He kept at it, opening and opening, until Munin came to join him; then, as soon as he saw his rival nosing around the wrong cluster, Hugin would dash back to the rewarded boxes and take advantage of his head start to grab a few extra morsels.


crow

I love crows. I’m fascinated by them, although I never lose track of the fact that although they are intelligent and amazing animals, they are wild, and they are predators as well as scavengers. They survive in the real world any way they can—picking up road kill and pet food left outside, catching smaller birds and critters to eat. Whatever it takes.

In mythology, crows are often trickster deities. As the name implies, these deities exist to play tricks on humankind, but the tricks have a deeper meaning. They put people on alert to the shifting nature of reality, reminding them not to get so caught up in the surface of things, to not always believe what your eyes tell you. Beware. Be smart. Do what needs to be done. That’s how you survive.

It’s a tricky business when a human strikes a deal with a trickster. You may get what you asked for, but it won’t necessarily be in a form that’s any good to you, or it may come at a time when you no longer want it or need it. Knowing this, I saw a crow outside my window one day at work and thought how lovely one of his shiny black feathers would be in an art piece I was working on. So I thought, what the hell? I’ll ask him. (In my mind, of course, so my officemate wouldn’t think I was crazier than she already thought.)

“Mr. Crow, I would like one of your shiny black feathers to use in an art piece. If you agree to send me a feather, I will burn sage and juniper leaves in your honor.”

I waited for my feather. At lunchtime I even walked beneath his tree looking for it. No feather. I laughed at myself, but that night I burned the sage and juniper anyway. No feather. I stopped looking for it.

About three weeks later I was driving down the busy thoroughfare of Olympic Boulevard, late to a doctor’s appointment I absolutely had to make. The boulevard has a wide, parklike strip of green down the middle dividing the eastbound and westbound traffic, but absolutely no parking on that section of the street. I pulled to a stop at a light, not thinking about anything in particular except how late I was and what a hurry I was in. The light turned green and I stepped on the gas—and at just that moment a lovely, shiny black crow feather seemed to appear out of nowhere, blowing along the green strip of grass just beside my car.

In about five seconds flat I had a decision to make: do I stop the car in the intersection and run after the feather, provoking outrage in the cars behind me; or go east to the nearest turn around, come back and search for the feather, provoking the drivers on that side of the boulevard; or do I let the feather go and proceed to my appointment? Most people who have heard this story say at this point, “You should have stopped for the feather!” But in the seconds required to make my decision, I had an epiphany. I had to let the feather go. It was not that I had asked too much of Mr. Crow. He had been willing to give the feather, but wanted me to appreciate his cosmic joke. It was as if he said, “You make the decision whether you want to live in the world, or in the spirit world. The choice is yours, and my feather is the symbol.” On this day, I chose to live in the world, and continued on to my doctor’s appointment.

I laughed long and hard at the splendid joke I’d played on myself. The trickster cannot trick us unless we are willing participants. We are the ultimate cosmic jokers on ourselves. In the years since, I’ve also realized the other part of this lesson is that we sometimes have to let go of our notion that we can control life, nature, the randomness of events. . . anything, really. If we’re going to keep our sanity, we have to reconcile ourselves to this fundamental lack of power, and learn to live with life’s basic unpredictability. We have to be careful not to buy into the illusion of the world, of controlling and bending nature (life) to our will.

And so there came a day I told this story to F. while walking back to Avalon from the Wrigley Monument on Santa Catalina Island. She appreciated the irony and we laughed a great deal when I got to the part where the feather blew in front of my car and I had to leave. At that precise moment, the crows in the eucalyptus trees lining our path joined in, breaking into a loud and raucous cawing as we passed.

And so there came another day when I realized once and for all that a relationship had ended. It was a painful ending to an association that never stood much of a chance, but I’d walked into it with eyes wide shut, believing I could make of it what it wasn’t. On that day, I knew I had to give it up, that it had never really been mine. As I walked back to my car, I thought about the lessons of the tricksters and how very badly I had fooled myself. There on the ground, centered just behind my car’s back bumper, was a lovely, shining black crow feather.

 

I love crows. Yeah, I know. Crows are a hard sell to many people. But I’m fascinated by their intelligence, their creativity, and that look of presence when their eyes meet yours. So I was eager to read this book.

It surprised me when it arrived: it’s a thin volume, only 113 pages including the index, but unusually weighty because it’s lavishly illustrated (every other page) on high-quality, heavy paper and beautifully put together. It takes great advantage of the space between the covers, cramming in so much information that the weightiness of the book seemed as much from the information as the heavy paper. Using it, I was able to verify that, yes, that exceptionally large dominant crow that hangs around my house is indeed a crow and not a raven; and I was able to pick out the adolescent packs and understand their behavior better. Also what some of those screaming matches were about.

Ms. Savage covers the various mythologies concerning crows, the latest scientific research, as well as keen observations of crow behavior throughout the ages. I guarantee you’ll have a different appreciation of these wise guys once you’ve read this book.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Did you know—?

Crows are the only non-primates who make tools. Other critters use what they find around them as the occasional tool, but crows will actually take what they find a reshape them to accomplish tasks. They have complex social organizations and their own languages (topping 64,000 different calls). They love, they hate, they grieve, they practice deceit, as well as bravery, they reason, are tender and harsh. They hit all the standards we declare are solely-human characteristics. They’re not only as amazing as I always suspected they were—they’re more amazing.

An excerpt:

[Avian researcher Carolee Caffrey] was observing a nest through a spotting scope when the breeding pair returned to feed their nestlings, only to discover that their nest had been raided by a raptor in their absence. “In all my life, I’ve never heard such horrible, bloodcurdling screams as the crows made at that nest. The male flew away after a minute or two, but the female stayed behind and, for the next four hours (until Caffrey reluctantly left), tended a surviving but injured nestling by nuzzling it, picking up its neck, and preening the side of its head. All the while, the crow uttered mournful-sounding oohs.

Another, more lighthearted one:

Scientists wanted to test the reasoning ability of some captive crows so they devised a complex series of boxes, some of which had bait inside, many that were empty.

Hugin figured out the rule on the first morning of the trials…His companion Munin, by contrast, couldn’t even be bothered to look. Instead, as the dominant bird in a group, he preferred to bide his time until Hugin found the food; then he would muscle in a gobble up one or more of the tasty tidbits….Socially subordinate though he was, Hugin was no pushover. On the first afternoon of the experiment, he came up with a countermove. When Munin began to press in on him, Hugin would interrupt his foraging, fly over one of the unrewarded clusters, and start opening empty boxes. He kept at it, opening and opening, until Munin came to join him; then, as soon as he saw his rival nosing around the wrong cluster, Hugin would dash back to the rewarded boxes and take advantage of his head start to grab a few extra morsels.