Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Murder of Crows

When I arrived in Alaska in late 2006, I was surprised to see how many crows shared trees with eagles. There would be about 15 crows to every eagle. You always hear about eagles in Alaska, but never the crow. There is a lot of lore to the crow in Alaska, as the bird that stole the sun, and then the moon. And I'm thinking of this grackle, not really a crow but close enough, that hit me in the shoulder this past summer as I was walking to Austin Zen Center.

I could admit that I went to Alaska for the eagle, but what I got was the crow. I went for the grand scale adventure, the grizzly bear, the hunting, and the epic wilderness. What I got was sleep deprivation, hunger, mangy moose, slaughter, and a burned landscape, vast and white, prickled by charred spruce.

While you look for the eagle, what you get is the crow, may be the first noble truth. What happens if you look for the crow?


  1. Looking for the crow sounds wise.

    There is a pair of verses in the Dhamapada that your post seems to be quite in line with:

    Whoever lives; Focused on the pleasant, senses unguarded, immoderate with food, lazy and sluggish, will be overpowered by Mara. As a week tree is bent in the wind.

    Whoever lives; Focused on the unpleasant, Senses guarded, moderate with food, faithful and diligent will not be overpowered by Mara. As a stone mountain is unmoved by the wind.

  2. I thought you'd like my poem about crows, inspired by the lines at the zoo to see a rare panda.

    One Crow
    by Jeanne Desy

    There is only one common crow left,
    perched on a dead branch in a big cage.
    We shuffle past, keep the line going,
    marvel at the solid black plumage,
    and wish to hear the distinctive caw
    it used to sound when there were others.

    The docent tells us crows seldom glided
    more than a few seconds,
    but used a frequent steady flapping
    except in a strong updraft
    or when descending.
    On the ground they walked rather than hopping.
    We watch silently, hoping to see it walk,
    but the bird sits still.

    Other facts are on the signs:
    crows posted a sentinel when the flock fed;
    they flew in long lines to and from their roosts.
    What a sight that must have been!
    No one thought they could ever die off,
    they were such a common pest.

    We admire the last crow's strong beak,
    the capable claws grasping the branch,
    the improbable size of the thing.
    As it ruffles its glossy wings and settles,
    we hold our breath in awe and gratitude
    while peacocks strut and shriek behind our backs
    and sparrows feed unnoticed at our feet.
    from Cat! The Animal that Hides in Your Heart