Archive for the ‘crows’ Category

Raven in the fog

January 29, 2007

raven in the snowWe were socked in by fog almost all day yesterday. It was so thick during my daughter’s soccer game, we could hardly see the opposite end of the field (couldn’t at all when we first arrived). When we were walking across the parking lot after the game, a raven flew over, trailed by several cawing crows.

Lying awake in bed last night (I always have a hard time falling asleep Sunday nights), I had to jump up and jot down this haiku:

raven in the fog

if not for the noisy crows

might have passed unseen

CBC radio is having a contest right now, calling for poetry, short stories and songs about ravens, so it seems timely to have had a visit from a raven. Now, what to submit?

The Three-legged crow

January 22, 2007

crow statue, MiyajimaIn Japan, when people look up at the night sky they don’t see a “man” in the moon, they see a rabbit. In the day, they see a crow in the sun.

Anyone who has read this blog knows I am intrigued by crows. Before I travelled to Japan, I didn’t know whether or not I would see crows there. On my first day in Japan, I woke up to familar caws coming from the rice field outside my window. I was thrilled to discover that Japan does indeed have crows, and not just ordinary crows — but giant Jungle crows.

The crows I saw that first morning were not this kind, however, though they were a little bigger and had a slightly different pitch to their calls than the Northwestern or Common crows I see at home. My first encounter with Jungle crows did not happen until my visit to a Tokyo cemetary.

Tokyo cemetery
Although crows (and ravens) are often associated with prophecy, wisdom and longevity (positives for the most part), when you see the huge, heavy-shouldered, bulky-beaked black shapes swooping and skulking around an old graveyard, it’s hard to forget that they are also somethimes linked to death and bad fortune. Unnerving, to say the least (although personally, I thought they were great and spent about an hour following them around with my camera, trying, unsuccessfully, to get close enough to take a recognizable photo).

While ordinary crows may be considered bad luck in Japan (especially since they have started attacking people in Ueno Park and other areas of Tokyo), if a crow happens to have three legs, it’s a totally different story.

A Japanese legends tells of how, long ago a monster was about to devour the sun. To prevent this, the rulers of heaven created the first crow, who flew into the monster’s mouth and choked him (I assume this crow had three legs, since the “crow in the sun” is supposed to have three legs, representing dawn, noon and dusk). Another story tells of how the first Japanese soccer emblemEmperor of Japan was travelling through the mountains and became lost. The sun-goddess sent a three-legged crow to guide him, and from that day on, the three-legged crow became an emblem of Japanese imperial rule (and the Japanese National soccer team).

crows and cats, Ueno Park                                          Note: the top photo is a crow statue outside the shrine of Miyajima near Hiroshima, and the photo at left shows a crow and some stray cats who were “sharing” food scraps at the back of a restaurant in Ueno Park, Tokyo (see, the Jungle crows really are big!). Although the story I’m working on right now is not specifically about any of these things, I’m having fun working them in (manga-loving North American girl on an exchange trip to Japan discovers Japan is not quite what she expected…. learns a lesson from some Tokyo crows….).


January 17, 2007

My dog, Dylan, usually goes to work with my husband, but today my husband went to a meeting and couldn’t take him. So, when I walked my daughter to school, the dog came too. Dylan, a blond Lab-cross adopted from the local animal shelter, knows the streets of our neighbourhood and knows his mind. After saying goodbye to my daughter, I turned to head home, and Dylan turned purposefully in the opposite direction. I gave in.

As we walked, I watched birds and composed haiku (sorry, couldn’t help myself). Dylan, interested only in checking out the various odours along the way, didn’t care at all about the birds (even when a Northern Flicker flew up right in front of his nose).

The dog:dog








The haiku:

new snow softly falls

black crow glides over white field

— silent watcher


in the middle of snow

crow sits in bare-branched tree

centre of the world


on our snow walk

my dog and I, in two worlds

mine sight, his smell


More wind! (and a story hint)

January 10, 2007

How many wind storms can we have in one winter? Right now, the trees in my yard are dipping and dancing, and a rolling current of crows just flowed over the neighbourhood rooftops like snowboarders over a mountain.

The crows do seem to be enjoying themselves, but the dancing frenzy of the trees is getting me nervous. I should probably get off the computer before a branch falls on the power lines again.

To be honest, what I really need to do is get off the internet and get to work on my current story. I have a deadline looming, and I’m not as far along in the writing as I’d like to be. I need to stay away from internet distractions (and the urge to write crow and wind haiku) until I get a serious chunk of writing done.

I’ll leave you with two hints about the story I’m working on:

1. I found out last spring that there are crows in Japan (really big crows).

2. The oldest comic, or manga, in Japan is said to be the 12th century Choju jinbutsu giga (Frolicking Animals and Figures Scrolls).

Tokyo crow

(crow in Ueno Park, Tokyo, Spring 2006)

Blizzard of birds

December 12, 2006

I didn’t plan to write about crows today, but I went to pick up my daughter from school, and it was like walking into the Alfred Hitchcock movie, “The Birds.” There were crows everywhere! So many, that it was freaking out the kids. I tried to take photos, but the wind was blowing in black clouds and rain, and it was getting so dark there wasn’t enough light to focus properly.

I’ve seen crows out sky surfing on windy days before (they actually seem to enjoy the wind), but I’ve never seen anything like this in my neighbourhood — they were in the sky, on roof tops, on the ground, on fences, in trees.

It was like being near the roost when the crows all start arriving for the night. And it was all focused mostly around the school.

I wonder if the loss of trees at the crows’ usual roost has set them searching for somewhere new to hang out. . . .

Biker birds

November 30, 2006

crow collageI’m trying to figure out why I’m so fascinated by crows. Maybe it’s because they seem so aware of what’s going on around them. The smaller song birds appear self-absorbed, focused only on food and survival, while the crows take time to look around, think, play games — and even play tricks. They’re not so predictable, which makes them more interesting to watch. They are, after all, cousin to that mythical trickster, Raven

The fact that some people don’t like crows, perhaps also adds to their appeal. I remember a time when I was a kid and visiting a cousin whose dad, my uncle, was kind of scary. He was threatening to shoot some crows he considered pests, and I stood up in defence of the crows despite being intimidated by him.

Recently, a friend confided to me that she finds crows unnerving. They eat road kill and stand on the road when you’re driving toward them, almost daring you to keep coming. You don’t want to swerve and cause an accident, but they don’t fly away until the absolute last minute, giving you a dirty look as they go.

Crows are the bikers of the bird world. They wear the feather equivalent of black leather. They’re in your face — even rude. They hang out in gangs. They attack other birds (ravens, hawks, owls)  who fly into their territory. I’ve also seen individual crows attack people (usually when protecting their nests).

When my dad was about 14, he stole a baby crow out of its nest (he wanted to keep it as a pet and see if he could teach it to talk). One of the adult crows must have seen what happened. Every time my dad came out of the house after that, an angry crow would kaw and fly at his head. For years, the crow continued to pester my dad. The crow even knew when my dad got off work and would be waiting for him. Pretty smart.

Perhaps crows are fascinating because they are so much like us and, at the same time, they are totally alien. Any thoughts on this?

Haiku snapshot

November 29, 2006

I was hoping to post a photo that combined the two themes I have going so far (crows and snow), but the crows weren’t cooperating. Here is a haiku image instead:

black shape on white snow

fathomless as a deep hole

until the crow kaws



Call of the wild

November 24, 2006

crowsIt happens at the same time every night — just before dark. One by one, winged black silhouettes begin to move across the sky. All over the city, as if in response to some mysterious signal, they abandon their day-time haunts, rise up and join the exodus. By ones at first, then twos, tens, hundreds….. they head in the same direction — silent, purposeful.

I look out the window of the Skytrain as I head home and catch sight of them, scrawled like graffiti on the pink-streaked sky — a secret code of moving black marks. A message of crows. I feel a thrill, a tug at my edges. As if something in me wants to pass through the hard Skytrain metal and glass, fly out into the night and join them? Or maybe it’s just the satisfaction of knowing they’re out there — beyond the control of city-planning, a mystery, a wildness……