The Way of the Crow



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Living With A Crow

It was a wonderful privilege to share five years of my life with a crow, particularly one with the character of Spirit. It was especially interesting during the winter season which, on the south shore of Nova Scotia, normally arrives by late November or during the dark days of December. Looking back, I think I can safely say that I had some of my most intimate moments with Spirit, during those long winter days and nights, when we shared the confines of my cabin. This is easy to appreciate, considering the size of my cabin which is certainly small by most standards. In fact, the ground floor is almost exactly fourteen by fourteen feet, with a porch measuring eight by ten feet, and a loft roughly fourteen by sixteen.

The place is very basic, even rustic, and without many of the refinements of modern living. At that time I used it as a studio space for painting, and as storage space for my possessions. It was a personal retreat space, where I went to meditate, contemplate, sleep, and host the occasional visitor. And, yes, it was a very cosy place in winter, with wood heat on cold winter spells.

As mentioned earlier, during our first winter together, Spirit lived in a cardboard box which I had furnished with a small bowl for water, a deep layer of straw, old spruce sticks, pine cones, and a variety of grasses carefully collected in the days of late autumn. The sides of his box were approximately a foot deep while, in the front of the box, I cut a window space through which he could poke his head whenever he was curious, or wished to examine my cabin in detail.

I quickly learned that a crow can deposit a whole mess of "poop" in a few short weeks! This being the case, I had to change his straw and grass roughly every three weeks to ensure the environment remained healthy. But the problem I most anticipated failed to materialize at all - you see, I expected Spirit to routinely jump from his box and fly about the room in a wild, unpredictable fashion. He was certainly capable of such a display; but, to my surprise, he preferred the comfort of his straw home, spending his energy contentedly pecking at the walls of cardboard. As a matter of fact, on many occasions, I was awakened from my sleep in the wee hours of the morning by bursts of tapping against cardboard. It became a very familiar and even comforting sound, and was Spirit's reaction to movements I made during sleep (I suppose my snoring as well), and his way of telling me things were okay downstairs.

I discovered that crows have a very strong neck. Even as a young bird, Spirit was able to peck quite forcefully. This strength, coupled with much dedication and practice, enabled him to do wonderful things with his box. He peppered it with holes! By the time early spring arrived, the box was a mess. It looked as if it had been hit by a shotgun blast at close range! The holes were various sizes, many of which he could use as windows to poke his head through and look around. He had little use for the window I made in the box a few months earlier.

During the latter stages of this first winter, Spirit began to hide things, which is a favourite pastime of crows. I noticed the strips of cardboard which he diligently pecked from the sides of his box tended to disappear on a daily basis. Upon closer investigation, I discovered he was stuffing them under the straw and thick grass near the sides of the box. That seemed to be his favourite area for hiding things, as he would regularly conceal food in those places as well. The food wasn't always permanantly stashed away -- often, he would collect it later.

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