Saturday, October 08, 2016

A conspiracy of ravens

Some mornings the crows outside the window make such a racket that they seem to be having a great fight, but it's not just mindless cawing you hear. It seems layered, a back and forth so involved that when it ends, it seems only logical if you have been listening carefully. 

What can it be, that they fight over? Today again I saw them rise in a rush from some unknown spot, swooping up into the sky in a kind of choreographed swathe of black. How poetic for such a common bird! The older I get the more fascinated I am by them. I have seen them picking through the trash at the neighboring schoolyard with great finesse, discarding items until they got the very ones they wanted. J has long been an observer: his favorite story being the one where a crow, having obtained a dry cracker, patiently moistened it with great care (on both sides) before swallowing it.

With such intelligence, no wonder then that their cousins the ravens and rooks have long been associated with magic. The big ones we saw on our recent road trip high up in the mountains, seemed to belong not there but to some ancient tor or crag, whipped by the rain of centuries, watching all.

And here in the city they must have been present those few hundred years ago when this was a mere village. Did Los Angeles narrowly escape being named Los Cuervos? If only the birds could talk to us in our language. 

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