Archive for April, 2012

Requiem for a Crow

Call me crazy-crows are my favorite birds.  I have a family of them that lives in the woods behind my house.  I feed them bread and scraps every day.  Crows are very intelligent birds, the have a society much like wolves, with a hierarchy or “pecking order”.  The alpha crows get to eat before the others.  They have a look-out who sits in dead tree at the edge of the woods, watching for me, or anyone else to throw out anything edible.

A lot of people, especially farmers have a disdain for crows that is largely undeserved. They are much more likely to be found eating the carcases of roadkill than raiding gardens.  Of course, if there are seeds that are buried shallowly or above ground crops that smell edible, they will eat them.  They might be seen feasting on sunflower seeds or a dead mole.  The are scavengers-that is how they make their living.

Like most creatures, crows have a place in nature, they help return nutrients to the earth by consuming them and excreting their wastes. I remember my grandmother simply despising crows, she would shake here head in amazement when I told her that I both liked and admired them. “A crow will eat anything,” she would say, “but nothing will eat a crow!”

Today, there were several severe thunderstorms near our house.  The windows were shaking and the lightning was streaking the dark sky. When the storms had passed, I became aware of the loud “caws” of my family of crows.  They were in my front yard, where they rarely go.  I looked out and saw them surrounding what appeared to be a dead animal. My son watched my grandsons while I went out to see what it was. When the crows saw me coming, they retreated to a nearby tree.  Sadly, I discovered the body of one of their flock below a maple in my yard. I walked out to it and saw it was newly dead.  Its eyes, still open and a dark chestnut brown, its feet frozen in a position as if it were trying to land.  I felt its chest and it was still warm.

It isn’t very often that we get to see an apparently uninjured bird close up.I took the opportunity to show it to my son, his friend and my young grandsons. I told them that the crows were cawing because they were mourning their friend. I don’t know what sort of consciousness a crow has about death, but they obviously knew something was wrong and were acting with obvious emotion over the sight of their dead comrad.

My son suggested that the crow may have been struck by lightning, and I agreed that it was a good possibility since the crow showed no sign of injury, no blood, no broken neck. I called the local  nature center to see if they took donations of such creature for display after taxidermy, but they said, “No.” I asked the kids if they wanted to bury the crow so its friends wouldn’t be so sad, and they excitedly agreed.

We took some pictures of this beautiful creature, touched its talons, observed the strong, sharp curve of its black bill. We noticed the texture and color of the scales on its feet.We explored its black feathers that covered soft white feathers below them. It may sound a little silly, but we were all a bit emotional.

We dug a hole at the edge of the forest, under a pine tree and wrapped the crow in soft paper and newspapers. I covered up the hole and piled a bit of extra dirt on top.  My grandson said a little prayer “to let the crow go to heaven and see its mother and daddy.” Ok, I admit it, I had tears in my eyes.  I took two sticks and some twine and made a little cross.  My grandson and I put it on the grave.

If you’ve ever lost a beloved pet, perhaps you can understand our feelings.  Life is precious, it matters, each creature has its place. The black bear who walked by as we waited on the bus, the wild turkeys aimlessly pecking away in the field, they live among us and they matter.

I know that each of the people at our little requiem was touched in some way-whether they were toddlers, teens or grandmothers. I got to teach young people to respect life, to see its beauty and value. The teens gained an awareness of how fragile life is, that even lesser creatures often feel and acknowledge loss.The young ones got to touch and explore a creature first hand as we rarely are allowed.

After the “funeral”, I followed another human tradition, I saw the crow who watches me from the “look-out” tree and offered them a meal of bread crumbs, much as friends bring food to a grieving family. Not many crows get such a burial ceremony, but these birds are my friends. I felt honored to catch a glimpse into the complexity of simple lives, to share some knowledge with young people. I imagine they will remember “Bee Bee and the crow funeral” long after they forget the many other things they learned today.

 

 

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Thinking about Why we Need an “Earth Day”

Many years ago, when I was young, I sought a quiet place where I could think, reflect, breathe. A place where I could dream, allowing  the pieces of my life to come together. I loved walking in my grandparents pasture, where there were gentle comforting streams, fragrant wild flowers, and soft breezes.  On a day when my soul seemed empty, I walked beyond the borders of the farmland and came upon an old logging road, long abandoned.  It was spring and the mountain sides were filled with wild flowers.With the crunch of leaves under my feet, I  saw the delicate white blossoms of bloodroot, the tiny pink leaves of spring beauties and soft mosses covering the mountains all around me. The scampering of wild life filtered through the silence of the forest. I could hear the rumbling water of a stream growing closer and closer as I went further down the trail.  Outcroppings of stone reminded me that the world I had entered was very old. The fire scarred trees reminded me that time never stood still.  Nature had renewed its self in this place, time and time again.

After a while, I reached a place where the pathway crossed the stream.  I stopped and listened to the comforting waters as they made their way down the mountainside.  Just above this crossing, someone had built a pond many years before.  An oak tree had fallen near the waters edge and I found myself sitting on a limb that hovered near the waters edge, bouncing, slowly, rhythmically,as I let my sorrows disappear-if only for a moment-in the tranquility of this forgotten place.

The pond trail became my “thinking place”.  A respite from a world that I felt no part of.  I could walk and dream, engulfed in nature. I could set my soul free and feel the healing of this place that seemed lost in time.  For many years, I ventured to this place and it lifted my spirits and comforted my soul.

Once, I took my children to this place. They scampered on the odd formations of rocks and wiggled their toes in cold mountain water. I told them the names of all the wild flowers, let them smell the bark of the sassafras trees. I showed them the now-decaying oak tree I had bounced on in my youth. “It is returning to earth, to enrich the soil.” I told them.

Not long after this marvelous day, I walked the trail alone and my journey was interrupted by the sound of bulldozers.  Horrified, I ran down the old road to the pond.  Man had once again found this place and was destroying it. I sat, one last time on the oak tree and cried.

A few months later, with autumns leaves ablaze on the mountain, I drove down the scenic route above the lake. A road had been carved out of the forest and houses were springing  up above the place that the pond had been.  I parked my car and raced down the slope where giant oaks had once stood and saw the remnants of the pond, still there amidst the ruins of what had been my “thinking place”.

Suddenly, I felt very old. The greed of men who had material wealth but no soul had invaded the forest. I mourned as I thought of the people who had traveled these trails seeking peace for so long and now, could come no more. True, it had happened here before, when the logging roads were built and the trees cut  down nearly a hundred years ago.  Everywhere I looked, the forest was being destroyed and houses popping up in their place.  This time, though, the forest would not be allowed to renew its self.

Many times since that day, I have longed to go back, but could not face the desecration of my precious solace from this evil world.  My “thinking place”, where my tears had fallen, and a flower had grown, was gone.  My children would have to find another place to heal their youthful souls.

There is  a Native American quote that states, “We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Sadly, in this selfish time, many do not adhere to this code.  Our children will inherit a lesser place. That we have to proclaim an “Earth Day” portrays how far from what “should be” we have traveled. We all deserve a place to cleanse our souls. Let us not forget that only man can destroy or preserve the beauty of our world.  Close your eyes and imagine the beauty of the places we have thoughtlessly taken from tomorrows children.

Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir and many others saw the importance of protecting the most magnificent of  these special places a century ago. We must be grateful of their foresight while remembering that even the tranquility of a gentle mountainside or the sound of a stream rushing through a lush valley is worth saving. My grandfather, who was born before cars or urban sprawl, used to tell me, “Sister, its was different then.”  How sadly profound his statement seems today. What I would give to walk with my grandchildren through the world as it looked to him as a child! We cannot recreate a world that we have  destroyed to its same beauty and simplicity.  It is far past the time when we should think past our own pleasure.. Our descendants deserve that we treat the earth as our own child. We are not separate from it, we are its keepers.

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Child of Innocence

Child of Innocence, child of Change

the world rushing around you, and you, unknowing.

The wars waging on, and your peace.

The flowers booming, dying and your growing.

You becoming a child of change-

lost innocence.

Seeing the wars and asking, “Why?”

Seeing the world and calling it “mad”.

watching the seasons pass

sayimg they are jesters.

Child of innosence, child of change,

growing up before my eyes

as I am growing old.

1979

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Writing in the Sand Again

With my heart dying and my soul long dead,

 I feel the soft sand beneath my warm bare feet.

I remember long ago when I would write

 my trouble in the sand and watch, smiling,

as the waves washed my words and my cares away.

 But that was then and this is now.

I was young and now I”m old.

 My son played beside me and now he plays no more.

I know the waves can’t wash away the pain

 or loss, the grief and sorrow.

The shimmering sunrise no longer holds hope

 for a new start, a new day.

His life WAS, his absence IS.

 The shadows around me move pointlessly,

slowly toward nothing.

 Writing in the sand with my tears

falling like scars into its softness.

 As the waves crash around me,

I struggle to remember.

 

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the Heart of a Man

We can move like the waves on the ocean,

bare feet caressing the sand.

Or dance, with only the moonlight

shadows reflecting the land.

I can feel like I love you completely,

But, still, I cannot understand

why I always feel love is hiding

deep in the heart of a man.

Across hills, we can journey together,

our souls become one with the light.

The whispers of autumn approaching,

yet we lie like two strangers at night.

For miles, we have traveled this highway,

and still I do not understand

what keeps the emotions so silent

In the heart of a man.

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Autumn Alone

The oak leaf changes to scarlet

and the golden maple leaves tumble down

Softly joining the others in the frosted field.

I remember autumn when you were here,

the peace, the joy of your presence,

The warmth in the growing cold.

From long ago, come memories,

Not of joyful autumns or your touch,

of your hair thrashing in the wind,

but of those seasons -

of this season-

when the world and I saw autumn-alone.

1978

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Peace Again

Crystal rivers rolling by

Night hawks-dark and lonely sky.

Mountains, valleys, rolling plains.

When will I find peace again?

One new morning, somewhere far away,

sandy beaches, swelter of mid-day

Heard him calling-calling in the wind,

When will I find peace again?

Peace again-like the autumn breeze,

painting flowers under rainbow trees.

Snow-filled valleys-old time friend,

When will I find peace again?

1979

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