The Way of the Crow



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For the remainder of the winter, Spirit lived a calm, peaceful life. In the spring, I placed him outside, in his large living area as I had done for the last four years. He died in the latter part of the summer of 1994, during our fifth year together.

Exactly how he died remains a mystery. I believe he was attacked by an animal such as a weasel. The hole in the chicken wire of his living space was small, large enough for a weasel, or some other small animal. All I found of Spirit were some feathers and his beak. I was devastated. I couldn't understand way he had to experience such a violent death. His life had already involved so much pain, it seemed unfair that his death should be violent, too. He had brought to my life much learning, sharing, laughter, and love. I found myself searching for the best way to cope with his death. 


"Where there was so much laughter,
now there are so many tears."

Those words echoed over and over in my mind as I walked the old dirt mining road towards Caribou Lake. Some time had passed since Spirit’s death. There was a chill in the air that fall evening, and as I walked, the light from the sun reflected a soft glow from my red and black checked wool jacket.

In my left hand, I carried a black hard cover diary of written reflections about the five years Spirit and I had shared together. As I reached a point on the road I stopped to listen to the sound of poplar leaves all about me. I opened my diary and read, "Notes on a Crow Named Spirit". I looked about me, and heard the faint call of a crow somewhere over the landscape. I tucked the diary in my knapsack and continued on my way.

A cool breeze floated over Caribou lake. I noted the impressions of deer tracks in the soft mud. My eyes savoured every feature of this place. There was a special beauty that evening, in the way the water and autumn leaves harmonized in colour and form. It was a good place to visit if you wished solitude, for whatever reason.

I went there to confront the many memories of Spirit which were so vivid in my mind, and to express my deep gratitude for having known him. I also went there to reflect on my inadequacies, to reflect on whether I could have done more for Spirit. Perhaps I could have taken him flying more often, or I could have spent more time with him. As I stood on the shoreline, I felt acutely the difficulty of balancing general daily activities with the responsibility and need to share quality time with friends, human or otherwise. 

I watched the sun pass behind a gnarled and weather beaten pine, leaving its vestiges of light to dance over the waters of Caribou Lake. Soon, dusk pressed heavily upon me, and daylight gave way to twilight, creating a magical mood, so characteristic of this place. I removed the diary from my knapsack again, slowly flipping its pages, and remembering the many experiences which seemed to have happened just yesterday. A floodgate opened, and I glimpsed years of memories in a few moments. I felt a heavy sadness, accentuated by the somberness of the landscape.

Suddenly, I exploded, screaming angry words at the animal that had destroyed Spirit’s life! My words seemed to reverberate further and further, as if carrying my wrath away. In my mind's eye, I saw Spirit, I heard his greeting call, I felt the softness of his head in the palm of my hand, and followed his flight to the soft pine needles on the forest floor. It all came in a rush, then I was left with the stillness of dusk. I sat, finally relaxed. From this stillness came a deep peace, and an understanding filled my heart, washing over the anger I felt moments ago. I was humbled, emptied. In an instant this deep, peaceful stillness vanished, leaving only the darkness over Caribou lake.

My experience at Caribou Lake was like a cleansing, a purging of much anger and sadness. It made a difference in my life. I was better able to accept Spirit's death, to feel that his life was truly for a purpose, and that we both played our parts well. We helped each other, in small ways, on the evolutionary path. 

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