“It’s either a raven or a crow, a symbol of the void,” she added, in a mystical tone. “The void?” I’d asked, crestfallen. “It’s a good thing,” she said. “It’s the place where things are born, where they begin.” -Cheryl Strayed. My daughter Claire was flipping through Strayed’s book Wild today and when it opened to the chapter titled Corvidology I found my subject for today. The black, dusky, shadow side, out of which comes new beginnings and renewed life. As they were for the character in the book who talked to the author about a black feather Cheryl had found along the Pacific Crest Trail, those particular corvids are a powerful symbol for me, of regeneration and new starts.
In my last place I grew accustomed to the local crows. They often landed in my little triangle of yard as I sat on the outside stairs, or perched in the two ancient trees outside my window. They followed me around town as I walked. Punctated my thoughts with their vocalizations. Now these new birds hover at the borders of the farm where I’m staying and sound off, but they won’t venture near the little cabin. I saw a full murder of them the other day, swirling madly over the neighbor’s place, cawing racously, like a gang of avian toughs. They turned in the air at the common fence like it was a wall between two realities.
The lack of those black birds intruding into my awareness pecks at my consciousness. For the past few years they’ve been so present, often about, even hopping at my feet in the middle of Portland as I sat outside the Zeus Cafe drinking a beer at a sidewalk table. Now I can’t help but wonder what’s keeping them away. Is it the place? Did I do something wrong? I know it might sound a little…off. But consider the symbolism. The crows are the dark place where things begin. They’re muses, messengers that the energy to make changes in life is flowing. And now they’re missing.
Then again, NOT missing. Just distant. Far enough off that I can hear my own thoughts, be mindful of my situation and the underlying quiet of moments, but still there, at the edges, only quieter. They’re making me learn to wait, and listen. Terry Pratchett says the world is full of omens, and we choose the ones we like. I like the crows. Coincidence or not, the way they’re behaving here is focusing my thinking still. About what’s next. About what’s now, in this space between life paths, this little base camp to the next adventure.
Last Thursday they took pity on me. I took my children to the local state park to hear traditional music. On the way to the manor house to hear fiddling and banjos, a few crows came flying about us, beautifully noisy and playful. As they flew off, a black feather drifted down, and I picked it up and put it in my pocket. It got me thinking. Maybe they’re done being so skittish. Maybe they’ll start to fly closer, come up near the cabin. A black feather to say, “We trust you. We didn’t forget.” The omens we like. New beginnings from the death of the old, and…patience. Both lessons. I hear you, crow cousins.