Crow Lessons

american_crow_6Early last spring a messenger came to me. He perched in the ancient oak tree outside my studio and peered into the window inquisitively. Crows are very curious.

Image found here: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Crow/id

All the while I was sitting there tippy tapping on my keyboard, this crow watched me, tilting his head this way and that like he was wondering what I was all about.

We connected on some deep level—me trapped inside and this bit of wild mystery. I named him “Clawed”, he didn’t seem to mind.

After a long while I got up from my perch and went to the cellar to gather some cracked corn and sunflower seeds. I threw them beneath the oak among the walking stones in the moss garden.

Clawed watched intently, cawed his thanks from his more distant perch atop the shed at the back of the property and returned when I retreated back into the house.

I worried whether Clawed would get much of that gift.

You see, he earned his name – he had a badly damaged right foot and I thought other more agile corvids might scoop up this easy meal. But day after day, we practiced this ritual and all the other birds respected the agreement – contract if you will – between Clawed and me. They ate at the back feeder and under it. Rarely venturing to the deck and walking stones nearer the house; and only after Clawed had had his fill.

I’ve since learned that this is the way of crow. Crow takes care of the injured and old – it’s like they respect the challenges of those less agile and able than they.

I’m always learning new things about crow and this time, I gained even more respect for crow than I already possessed.

Since childhood when we had a pet crow on the farm, I’ve been drawn to crows. I love the raucous cawing early mornings. I know the feeders are safe for the songbirds and wee ones – safe from the gluttonous starlings and grackles.

But crows do more than caw, caw, caw. They have a rich language of chortles, clicks and even purrs. Overhearing two or three crows communicating, you feel that each of those sounds are like phonemes of a true language full of secrets. Few have cracked the code, but the ancient Druids certainly tried so that they could learn the magical powers and obtain the secret knowledge they believed each crow possessed.

Crows are cunning Tricksters. And that’s maybe not what you might think. They are cleverer than we imagine. Do you remember the Aesop’s tale about the thirsty crow? He found a pitcher with a little bit of water on the bottom. He couldn’t reach that water. But he used his noggin. He began dropping pebbles into that pitcher until the water rose enough for him to dip his parched beak into it and quench his thirst.

Nobody taught him that. This signifies to me that crows are able to analyse and visualize and certainly use tools. (check out the link to see scientific proof) I wonder how much else they could teach me?

From childhood, I remember that they love the glitter of sunshine on objects. They need resilience to endure the vagaries of weather and they need a good sense of humour to carry them through the hard times.

When I was a little girl, and I lost a barrette, I’d find it in the rafters of the derelict barn … our pet crow rocking above me on a high branch laughing in mirth at our game. You see he wasn’t laughing AT me, but WITH ME. That makes all the difference. From this, I take it that he not only likes a good joke, but wanted me to know that he admired my taste.

Clawed taught me about resilience, dealing with weather whether I liked it or not, and he demonstrated a great sense of humour and respect for the other, those different from himself.

Three seasons I enjoyed Clawed’s company.

Those were three lonely seasons or they would have been so if not for Clawed’s company. You really can’t be in a bad mood around a solitary crow. There was always some kind of conversation going on. Great conversationalists they are, but not gossips. They know how to keep a secret. Clawed and I mostly talked about ideas. I wrote, clackety clack and he echoed the sounds of the keyboard and my words.

Why am I telling you all this today?

I recently had surgery and got to feeling kind of trapped, housebound because of cold, damp weather and then I remembered Clawed and focused on the good, on what I could do, not what I couldn’t.

Clawed, wounded and different, just carried on. He found a friend to cheer on – me – and we developed a symbiotic relationship – a relationship rooted on mutual need and compassion. Clawed understood that he was supported by a circle of friends whether or not he could see them or even understand them.

So I resolved to do the same, to seek out opportunities to do and be all I could do and be and to help others to do the same.

I learned from him to fix what I could, however I could, but to admit to what I couldn’t fix, change, or make different—like other people or the limitations that I lived with day by day.

For me those limitations were short term and have pretty much subsided. The surgery was a roaring success and every day I need to express my undying gratitude to the surgeon (Dr. Patrik Nechala) the surgeon who assisted (Dr. John Caulfeild), anesthesiologist, nurses … oh just everyone who spent long hours helping me right after the surgery. And to friends who visited, brought food for Jeff and me. Their compassion and caring held us through some shaky times. I still remember that first taste of tomato juice as a friend and I sat and talked poetry.

It turns out, I have to say thanks to surgery for slowing me down so that I could have these kinds of experiences. We tend to take too much for granted. We tend to miss so many opportunities to connect.

I managed to keep busy during this past month while I recovered. Since I couldn’t really eat what I normally would, being on a liquid diet, I found things that weren’t energy draining, but that were productive just the same. And I found that I was content almost all the time. I wasn’t in pain. I wasn’t hungry. And I certainly wasn’t bored. I felt supported by my circle of friends (and family) and indeed that circle seemed to grow.

I watched for him again this year, hoping against hope that our bond carried him over a stark, hungry winter. I made sure there was always cracked corn out in the back feeder and some under the oak.

But he didn’t return. His work here is done.

And I bow to him in gratitude.

namaste-little-girl

Photo Credit:  http://theblissfollower.com/2013/07/02/why-i-say-namaste/

Tomorrow a poem…

International Fake Journal Month is just around the corner…

And … I’m taking this opportunity to jump back into the fray of journaling and blogging.

2015_IFJM_Button3This Roz Stendahl’s brilliant idea and the image will link you to a page of information and faqs about International Fake Journal Month. There is a Facebook page too so you can share and enjoy the cameraderie.

Also it’s Blogging A-Z month / challenge. A-Zblog challengeSo each day (except Sundays) I’ll try to post with themes from the alphabet.

Since my character for the Fake Journal is Hazel May, a recently widowed, live-in domestic she will combine the alphabetic themes in her journal and I will post her journal as my blog with some small commentary.

Whew! Sounds challenging.

And to top that off, Sketchbook Skool begins the next series “Stretching” so … that will be part of it too.

And lastly I’m facilitating a “wordscapes” circle over the next few weeks.

I’ll be busy and hopefully stretch myself which is just what I need after this winter.

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Photo Credit: Jeff Suchak

Thirsty Thursday …

  Rain1 Today it rains. Il pleut.
Interestingly enough in French Il pleut can also mean “he cries” or is it “he is crying/weeping”? At any rate, I think the French have it right … for the rain often makes people a little rain2misty-eyed.

Strangely enough, not me, not today.

Perhaps it is because I have another poem to share with you. Not mine this time. Mine the other day was a very first draft … and we all know about first drafts, don’t we?

Today’s poem is by Antoinette Voûte Roeder
from her book, Still Breathing

Who isDSCF1227 God Now?

Rain.

The drops, the spaces between,

the times when it does not

rain.

Wind.

       When it blows, storms, rages,

       when it lies down in quiet pools.

Wind.

Body.

When it rises strong and free, entwines with another,DSCF1238

when it loses its luster and begins the  long descent.

Body.

Love.

In all its facets, birthing, growing, yearning,

breaking, losing.

Love.

Who is God now?

Far and near.

Here, not here.

Always, all ways.

God.

Although I no longer have a faith community that I meet with regularly … I find this comforting.

Let me know what feelings this poem evokes in you, if you like. Thanks for visiting.

listening_reflectionAll photos are my own, if you share or use them please link here. Thanks.

Learning…to listen

Reflections_on_MBCTLately, it seems, I am making more time for reflection. Perhaps it is the season; perhaps that I am beginning to find comfort in the artful practice of contemplative photography; perhaps it is just who I am and who I am becoming.
Reflecting requires a high degree of listening. That said, I am beginning to realize how I listen best. I prefer face to face listening … even Skype … rather than the phone. I have always found that the phone was not an optimum method of communication. Texting is really low on my list of communication methods that work for me.
So, I am finding myself leaning into anachronism and outdatedness. Something else to reflect on.

many_ears Do more ears help?
Sure, I want to be current and connect with people of all ages, but not at the expense of authentic communication.
Not long ago, one of my sons explained to me that he felt unheard during a telephone conversation. I empathized. I’ve felt that way a great deal.
In this instance, though, it was the technology that was to blame. I liken it to getting used to our toddlers first communication attempts. Our ears are keenly attuned and we “hear” words where others hear a jumble of phonemes.

Folks who use cell phones frequently are in all likelihood, more attuned to the nuances of what comes through the fibre optics, for filling in the blanks, for filtering out the static. Me? Not so much.

It hurt deeply to hear that a very dear person to me felt unheard. It hurt more when my attempts to explain were pushed aside.

But it helped me to listen to what was under the words, to know that I have listened deeply, uncritically, and with patience and will continue to do so.

We need to listen under the words, sometimes, perhaps often. And when we do that with love and patience, we will hear volumes.

A week studying mindfulness in a great deal of silence taught me much.

Dare I say, it has changed me for ever and always. I am deeply grateful for the privilege. I am best able to listen … in stillness, in silence…red_leaf

We need to hear with our hearts.

And best of all, we need to reflect on what we heard and what we know deeply.

 

It’s raining … raining in my heart

Thanks to Buddy Holly for this…

And Jeff Suchak for this …

New_1_DSCF5787

Well, I’ll just get this over with. Yes, it is raining. It is “Hallowe’en” and the kiddos will be soaked before they get to the sidewalk. So that is just so not what I wanted. But does the weather care? No, it is callously pouring down and we are being threatened with a “rain warning”. I really have no idea what that means because the last time I got caught in a downfall (hmmmm… I think that was about a week ago) my jacket was soaked before I could travel from the door of the Zehrs store to my car. And it is my winter jacket. And even my shirt was wet…well, damp, very damp. And I know at least 4 people will say to me today as I run around on errands, “Well, at least it isn’t snow.” And I will work really, really hard on my compassion skills so as not to slap them. Why do people say these kinds of things? Why does what a stranger’s  struggle to connect  … errr friendly comments affect me in such a nasty way.

Perhaps because I have had between 4 and 5 hours of sleep for days…and yes, I am tired… but more than that I am feeling a little less than skillful at anything today. Disappointing news can do that to us … errr me. I can’t presume to speak for you. But I think that maybe you are affected the same way by disappointing news and/or sleep deprivation.

On the plus side, I did finish my book (wow I see that they made it into a movie … boy am I out of the loop) by 4:45 am this morning and it is due back to the library today. So no fines for me. Is that a skill? Getting books back to the library on time that is. Sometimes it is. I can remember lots of fines before email reminders. So thank you, Owen Sound etc. Public Library. I appreciate the reminders.

Another plus is that I do have a cheque to deposit. This is always a good thing. And hmmmm I do think I have a small cheque due from TOM too. I’ll have to check into that when I go to pick up my parking pass. So wow! I’m almost rolling in money. Coming up for air…now that was hilarious.

Another plus. Today is my last day of having to post giraffe pictures as my profile pic on FB. So Bob McFee you can look forward to November or should I say Movember, turning back the clocks, and Indigo Riff‘s Last Dance. sniff … bittersweet that is.

Then I read about Grad School Barbie … read if you haven’t already. Even if you aren’t an aging grad student, you’ll enjoy the humour. And humour is healing. Some days it’s even more healing than art. Now that’s saying something.

I’ll take my leave now…get my errands done…run to my studio…and laugh at the mess.

“Mama said, ‘there’d be days like this.'” But she also said even more frequently, “This too shall pass.” And after the rain there is much beauty.

New_1_DSCF6683  New_1_DSCF6657Thanks to Jeff Suchak at http://mythiclandscape.com for these lovely images.

Coming home to Self

ImageWhen we travel we make discoveries, we see new and/or different landscapes; inevitably we return home changed. Most of us and most of the time, we just get busy with our original lives, stuck in our comfortable ruts. Most of the time that works out pretty well … but.

This time when I came home, it was to a very different rhythm. Jeff went off to a silent retreat where he will most definitely come home changed.

I discovered a landscape that is breathtakingly beautiful, but not mine, at least not any more. My ancestors may have dug sod and reclaimed a salt marsh, but I can hardly claim any part of their achievements … or their deep and tragic uprooting.

I came home determined to examine what is (or was) in my life that worked … and what didn’t serve any longer.

What I discovered is that some things that served me well, still do. Knitting for example. I have neglected that pasttime for quite some time and while I was away I hungered so much to hold needles and thread through woolen yarn to see something emerge that would be useful — usually lovely to behold as well, but most importantly useful.

So knitting now comes to the forefront. Something must go.

And what could that possibly be?

Well social media springs to mind. One could devote 23 hours a day to FaceBook and surfing the Interwebs. One could. But I found that this was getting in the way of what serves me well.

I spent inordinate amounts of time playing games … that I will never ever ever win. Games that teach me nothing and only frustrate. So that was easy … only it’s not. It’s become a habit.

Habits are emotional entities. They are not just things we do over and over again. Not just actions. They become addictive only because we develop an emotional tie to them.

So. Now I have to understand the emotional tie in and replace one habit with another.

B J Fogg has some helpful hints. He says we have to tie the new activity to something we already do. I think it is helping for me to NOT turn on the computer until AFTER I eat breakfast. The other piece is I knit while the computer is booting up and loading Facebook. Then I review my notifications, check for messages and scroll down to see if anything is really really interesting. I also note who I am receiving notifications from and check off that I don’t want to see notifications from some person or page that I no longer need to know every site they like or share. Then I do something drastic, I shut off Facebook, check my email messages and respond to what is urgent. Then I delete what isn’t. Sometimes I even “unsubscribe”. Gasp!

This is helping … and I’ve only been doing this for three (3) days.

I feel a little more comfortable in my skin with this new routine, but the challenge will come on Saturday. I’ll let you know how it’s going next time.

Fall is in full swing and it seems the perfect time to turn over a new leaf.

I’ll share some other insights into my personal process next Thursday!Image

Photo Credit to Jeff Suchak

Returning…

Coming back from the East Coast a changed person … perhaps coming full circle … I will seek to examine what I discovered about coming home to self … discovering what is truly important and what fills me rather than distracts me. Watch for blog posts Thursdays and perhaps as ideas present persistently.