The Way of the Crow



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his fascination with painting quite by accident during our second winter together. As I recall, one night I was painting a landscape from sketches that I had done earlier that day, when I noted Spirit's intense concentration on my canvas. It seemed as though his keen eye never missed a brush stroke. But, what made me laugh so much was his interest in my painting technique. If I became too rambunctious with the paint brush, all hell would break loose, and he would commence cawing loudly. Often, I would experiment with the paint brush, to discover which approach to painting was most pleasing to him. I found that if I painted in a slow, deliberate manner, he would be most apt to watch me, without cawing loudly or becoming agitated with my style. However, he did not react to colours of paint (for example, bright blues, red, yellows, and greens) in the same fashion as he reacted to brightly coloured clothing. This was probably because the paintings were small and weren't threatening. Also, unlike people, the paintings weren't animated objects, moving about in his environment.

Spirit also enjoyed country music! I wouldn't have realized this fact, except that I enjoy listening to good music while I paint. So, I noticed his interest in both painting and music at approximately the same time. Now, my musical taste varies depending on my mood. Sometimes I will paint to classical music, although there are occasions when I enjoy painting to the latest pop or country tunes. During that second winter together, I spent many late nights at the easel, listening to country songs, and working into the wee hours of the morning.

Spirit developed a great fondness for the hit, Good Old Country Boys, by Randy Travis and George Jones. He was especially pleased when I sang along with the song, which was cause for great enthusiasm on his part. At such times, he would caw loudly and join me in singing the tune. In fact, whenever I wanted Spirit to caw, or make other crow-like sounds, I would sing along with Randy and George! Recognizing this fact, was a stroke of genius on my part, as I used it to elicit a wide range of crow sounds. I think most bird trainers, birders, or bird watchers would have been proud of my accomplishment.

The telephone is another story. Spirit would become very vocal when he realized I was having a conversation on the telephone. If I hadn't known better, I would have thought he was jealous of the phone! I don’t know for certain what the motivation was for his behaviour. Perhaps it was a social jesture on his part – he may have wanted to be part of whatever was happening. Whatever the case, the ruckus was often embarrassing, and it was impossible to hear myself speak. Of course, the situation was less of a problem if there was an understanding person on the other end of the line, or if I was speaking to a friend who had previous exposure to Spirit's ranting behaviour. The embarrassment and humour increased if I was speaking to a stranger who was puzzled by a barrage of crowing songs in the background. The situation was funny, indeed.

To solve the problem, I decided to take phone calls upstairs in the loft of my cabin, thinking the cawing would be less distracting. Well, it was, but not to the extent I had hoped for, due to the fact that my cabin is small, and, believe me, a crow's voice carries quite well inside a small wooden structure! Most worrisome were important business calls like the ones from my publisher. You see, at the time, I was somewhat shy about publicising the fact that I was living with a crow. I especially didn't want Dorothy to know. Dorothy Blythe was the Managing Editor of Nimbus Publishing at the time. She would phone me to discuss a manuscript I was writing on plant medicines. I didn't know how she would react to a crow joining our conversation. Besides, I was shy about explaining my crow to strangers, because I was afraid people wouldn't understand the situation. Today, I would probably approach things differently, and wouldn't be as paranoid over Spirit’s behaviour.

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