#10 The crow funeral
It was the best funeral I've ever attended,” says Anne Cameron. “I've been to Scottish wakes which weren’t as impressive!”
May 26th, 2014
Spring comes to Tahsis in shades and tones of pink. Amazing in this sea of green, green, green, evergreen rainforest there can be so many pinks. The fawn lilies are the start, followed by bleeding hearts and salmonberry blossoms. Then the exotic non-natives blossom; Japanese flowering plum, Japanese cherry. Their blossoms fall and the sidewalks and roads are layered in a fragile and all-too-temporary pink confetti.
Last week I was lucky enough to be outside when the honkers returned. The sky was full of them! Several Vees combining to make one huge Vee, and all of them talking to each other, the oldest and most experienced at the front, the youngest at the back, learning the migratory route and its secrets. I’m a sucker for wild geese. I stood in the drizzle and looked up, up, at this blanket of powerful wings and, yeah, I got all emotional. They do it to me twice a year.
The following day I saw the first hummingbird. Now I KNOW it isn’t true the hummers hitch rides on the honkers. It’s a great story and many First Nations people believe it the way they believe the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but studies have been done, and it isn’t true. Still, the day after the legions of honkers returned, there were hummers looking for blossoms.
A few days later, the wild canaries stopped by, flashes of gold in the green of the trees and bushes in my side yard. They only stay a day or two, then they’re gone for months. I was told they nest and hatch their young high up in the mountains. Come the fall migration, they’ll be back for a week or so, and then they’re gone. I like to play with the mental image of them lying on a sandy beach some place, warm and welcoming.
But there’s a downside to this glory of birds.
Yesterday, I was out in the front yard, looking at primroses and…everything happened at once… The most incredibly loud POW… I nearly came out of my own skin. I looked up and saw a puff of pallid blue smoke wafting up and a black form falling down to the ground. Four or five other crows, most of them obviously young ones, began to caw, caw, caw, and one of them was, to put none-too-fine-a-point on it, pitching an absolute fit, not cawing but screaming, a sound that cut through me.
I knew before I went inside that the electricity would be off. This is the second time this has happened, at the same place, on the same wires coming to and from the same pole on my corner. So I phoned Hydro. And that, my chum, is a pain in the arse of major proportions.
“There is nothing quite so unrewarding as trying to talk to a recording,” said my mother, Annie. Finally, I managed to get through to a human and I reported what I knew; crow, puff of smoke, location, no electricity. Had to give my name, my address, my phone number, they even wanted my account number.
No more do I hang up and my phone rings. One of the neighbours wanting to know if my hydro had gone dead. Yes, it has. Well, so had hers, and she told me, at some length, just how inconvenient that was. I imagine it was kinda, sorta, inconvenient to the crow, as well.
The last time this happened, I spoke to the workies who eventually came to fix the problem. One of them told me that every now and again a bird puts a foot in the wrong place, a connection is made, current surges, the crow dies and the transformer blows.
Then hydro phoned me, a different person this time, asking all the same questions.
I decided I’d head over to my daughter’s place, she still had hydro and could make coffee. I went for my jacket and the dog leash and … I have never seen anything quite like it before. Crows, crows, crows, more than you’d think possible, sitting on the wires, side by each, sitting on branches, all of them staring at the little dead black bundle on the ground and all of them shrieking. I froze. Stood staring out the window at what was absolutely, undeniably a funeral.
In groups, sometimes five or six, sometimes as many as a dozen, they came from the wires, came from the branches, landed around the dead crow and they mourned. I’m sure some of them were cursing Fate and others were heartbroken and almost hysterical. They tried to lift her up, tried to get her to fly. When they couldn’t, the uproar increased. Crows, crows, crows, having a funeral, wailing and cawing, the banshee herself couldn’t have made more of an uproar.
And then, in one great feathered uplifting, they were gone. Except for what I’m sure were her family members, still sitting in the young alder tree, but silent now except for the occasional very mournful caw.
It was the best funeral I’ve ever attended. I’ve been to Scottish wakes which weren’t as impressive! Yeah, I did, I cried.
I dried my eyes, washed my face, got the jacket and the leash, and we headed over to my daughter’s place for coffee. I stopped to look at the dead crow. Picked her up and she was still very warm, too unnaturally warm. I had the sharp, hard jolt of understanding that she had probably been cooked by that bolt of electricity.
A crow can live thirty years if she doesn’t put her foot in the wrong place and short-circuit the transformer. A life cut short. Wouldn’t you think they could put a cage or something over that lethal connection? If they know…
Her family went completely silent, watching me. I put her back where she had been lying and continued on with the dogs.
I was taught that only humans have an understanding of mortality. I don’t believe that. Not after seeing the funeral yesterday. Crows know. I wonder if they have a concept of afterlife… Do they believe in a nice place where a crow can fly, fly, fly, where there are always good pickin’s on clean beaches, and a black feathered free spirit can land anywhere, put her feet down safely, and send joyous a caw, caw, caw to a sky full of sunshine and family?
When I came back from my daughter’s place, the repair crew had done their jobs. I had electricity. I could work at the computer and listen to music. The bereft family was still perched in the young alder tree, silent now, just sitting and staring at the forlorn little bundle on the ground.
They keep their babies close for up to five years and the older siblings help by “babysitting” the new brood. I am SO crow-crazy. We have one in Tahsis who has learned to croak “hello”. I put out dog kibble for her. One of these days I’m going to write the story of “Corby”, who lived with me for a year and a half. Wonderful friend! Thank you for your response, and good luck crow finding.
Hi Anne. I have seen crows do amazingly “human” things. and when they court, they sound like doves. I had two that used to come back to the same tree every year at my old house.