Posted in Essay, Michael Watson, Nature

The Crow

A few weeks ago we posted a Facebook video about a raven asking people for aid. The raven had encountered a porcupine and had quills embedded in its face. A couple of weeks later, we returned from our time in Maine to discover a severely injured a crow (close cousin to the Raven) in our back yard. Neighbors informed us the crow had slowly, with great intent, worked its way from the woods to our yard.

Beach Roses, MaineThe crow appeared to have a broken wing and was having difficulty standing. Upon closer inspection we discovered its foot was caught in a vine. The crow allowed me to release the trapped foot which appeared to help a little. We then offer the bird food and water, which it mostly ignored; it seemed to welcome a little gentle stroking. We then made phone calls. A former bird rehabilitator suggested we provide a box for shelter for the night as rain threatened. We then waited to hear from the crow specialist.

Yesterday morning the crow was still in our yard. Jennie took a neighbor’s advice and offered it some hard-boiled egg. The crow ate a very small portion. It seemed to be in pain so we talked over next steps, carefully weighing our options. Then the rehibilitator called; he could not make it to our house till evening, but suggested we place the crow in a cat carrier to keep it safe until he arrived. I carefully lifted the bird into the carrier and the crow fell on its side. We removed the bird briefly and placed some rags in the base of the carrier to offer some cushioning. When we returned the very large crow to the carrier we realized the bird, given the broken wing, was too large for it. We also realized the bird was not likely to survive, and after consulting the crow specialist, decided to take it to a vet to be put down.

I lifted it once more and placed it in a large recycling tub. As I was about to put the tub in the car, the crow looked me squarely in the eye, squawked loudly three times, and died. My strong impression was that the crow was expressing appreciation for our efforts, and probably chastising us a little for causing it pain. Anthropomorphizing? One had to be there.

We carefully buried the crow, performing ceremony for it. We had seen no other crows since our return, a strange absence given their frequenting of our yard and woods, and the presence of an injured member of the flock. We wondered whether the visiting crow had been ostracized by the flock. During the burial and ceremony I heard a solitary squawk from far away.

We were left with great sadness that we had, in our efforts to aid, caused the crow suffering, yet gratitude the crow had come to us. Today the sadness lingers. We are reminded of Crow’s large spirit, great intelligence and keen intent. We wish this crow a speedy and safe journey into the spirit world.

Michael Watson, Ph.D.

© 2013, essay and photographs (includes the one below), Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

15 thoughts on “The Crow

  1. My living area usually gathers a quantity of crows and they’ve become company for me since I am usually bedridden and homebound ~the distinct, piercing and beautiful to me. Thank you for a sentimental, heartfelt narrative ~ Sincerely Debbie

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  2. Michael: Thanks for sharing this moving story with us. I have a close relationship with the ravens that live around our house and the street where I live. I have found them very intelligent and playful, and strangely attentive after my wife, Phyllis died. I believe they have a special “liminal” place/role around the underworld.

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  3. Michael, I’ve read your story with joy and sadness.

    Liz, I do think birds do feel warmth or cold, definitely. Not to the degree as we do, that is to say, they are better insulated than we. But yes, they seek warmth. I see that from my windows. Jackdaws sit side to side near the chimney to enjoy the warm airflow, or warmer bricks.

    Michael, I do believe the crow did say farewell or so much for a crow-like ‘thank-you’. I’ve seen it before and although I was sceptical, it was very obvious. Anthropomorphizing? I hope more people start anthropomorphizing and so noticing there is far less difference between us (humans) and them (animals). It is the start of vegetarianism, vegan-ism, better care for animals, and less suffering in this world.

    Two thumbs up for your caring for the crow and your story telling.

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    1. Paula, I imagine the truth of the experience is in the experience. For those of us present, there was no doubt the crow was communicating. I agree that anthropomorphizing fails to fit. Yes, it is long past time for Western culture to understand the mystery, personhood, and magic of the wild ones.

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  4. There are not words enough to express my gratitude for this story and your part in it. I am sorry for your your loss of crow. I guess as I sit here thinking … what comes to mind is that crow brings magic (among other things), but that is something that you already know. Sometimes I have gotten on crow’s back and traveled. I think that a crow has a vocabulary of 18 words. I am urbanized, living in St Louis but it is always a treat for me when the crows come in during the winter from either the country or the burbs. They come to get warmI am told, by people. But I don’t believe that they can feel hot or cold, can they? Anyway I do love it when they come as we are related. Liz … an old Vermonter from Weston. A.k.a. Raven … Lady Ravenspirit, but just Liz today. Yes, this was a delight but sad to read.

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    1. Liz, I am glad the story touched you, just as the crow touched us. Yes, they feel cold, and they are smart enough to seek warmth when they need it. As you say, it is best not to underestimate their knowledge and intelligence. Blessings.

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  5. I have learned to love the crows since living in the place I’m in now. They and ravens are ever present and delightfully raucous and clearly intelligent and surprisingly innovative. This is a lovely story, Michael. Thank you for sharing it here with us.

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    1. Thanks, Jamie. I have grown to love and respect crows and ravens. Spending time with them in India, where they are revered, helped. Before that, I met them repeatedly in the mountains, and in our traditional stories. I often think that Raven is a powerful and engaging deity.

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