Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Conference of Crows


Two crows meet in the paperbark tree outside my tent every morning. In the gloaming - those still, cold moments before the sun rises over the cliffs, when the wind breathes in before she blows - they stop for their daily conference. By dawn they are gone, to deal with matters of the day.


Someone told me that crows once wanted to be our familiars in the way of cats and dogs. The story went that we rejected them for being too clever, for walking on two legs and that, for avian critters, they resembled our own undertakers a bit too much for comfort.

For a while I lived on crow mountain, home of the local crow moiety. It was there that I finally understood and grew to love crows. One crow I know perched on the rainwater tank and chatted to the black cat. She's a bit Siamese and she talks. This crow always answered her and had something further to say and the conversation ambled along. I've always wondered what they talked about.

14 comments:

  1. Old John Thomson used to feed mince to a couple of crows that came to perch on the verandah of the house he built for himself and Mary on Wylie Crescent. He used to talk to them too. They'd do their two-footed hop along the wall and back to give him a chance to place another little morsel for them. He was a Parliamentarian so I guess he muttered his electoral frustrations to them or else told them his litttle secrets, like how Mary was able to keep her stockings up and the reason they slept in the same room but kept single beds.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Is this a personal reminiscence, Ciaran? Or an academic one? Really, I'm interested. It's a lovely anecdote. Crows are good to talk to in the mornings. You just have to get them at the right time (like the rest of us).
    Beautiful. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Its personal Sarah. John and Mary lived above us. John's older brother built the 'White House' you know the one down near Middleton. They were from Kattaning, John's father coming from Melbourne in the arly 1900's, following the goldrush. Mary was from Perth, she was teaching music at Kobeela when they met. After marrying he built at No 58 and they moved to the coast. Mary achieved a high degree of notoriety around Albany. Was great friends, may even have been related to June Hodgeson. She was staunch CWA and there's a bronze bust of her somewhere in town, outside the CWA building maybe on Serpentine Rd.

      We used to go up to that house a lot, especially during the years Harold and Mariel were around. I'd sneak into their bedroom, see her stockings draped singularly from the end of the bed or from a draw pull. They were like maniken legs or weird prosthetic sheaths and I wondered why it was they only went so far and how they could possibly stay up. Mr and Mrs T kept single beds. She was large, voluptuous in her physicality as well as character. Vociferous and energetic. He was a smaller man, barrel chested and he wore one of those thick soldiery moustaches. I never really knew what he did except he was a parliamentarian. In her company he was always quiet, timid even, very hard to get to know.

      Truth is, I don't know if the birds were crows or magpies. The house was on the beach side of Mnt Clarence, amazing evening views over Lake Seppings and the Sound towards Emu Point. First fingers of light stabbing at the bedroom windows come dawn. They probably should have been white cockatoos, but crows will do, Magpies too. Being black and white together maybe maggies are what they really were. I can't remember as truly as I'd like to, except the way they bounced along the wall and the gnarly morsels of streaky mince they'd pick off it..

      Delete
    2. That's a great reminiscence, Ciaran, thanks for that. I believe there is a bust of MT, perhaps it is at the arts centre now. I know she had a bronze commissioned in her name at the arts centre, of a dancer playing the recorder or something like that. This bronze was just outside my studio and I used to go outside and look up her skirt when I needed some light entertainment.
      Love the stockings.

      Delete
    3. Yes, the stockings. And I didn't even get a fetish out of it.. :-)

      Delete
  3. I love crows -- there always seems to be so much going on behind those eyes. Re crow-cat conversation: what a gorgeous image!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello there Ms PoW, how goes it in Peru?

      Delete
  4. I've always liked crows too, but everyone I know with a gun here just wants to shoot them. Having never knowingly had a relative strung up on a gibbet, I personally have nothing against them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that shotgun sentiment was going to be part of my rave, how the crows turned against us when we rebuffed them and that whole toxic relationship that followed. Anyway, we like them, so it is a start.

      Delete
  5. great metaphor Sarah. Another disconcerting relationship in this extraordinary landscape of ours. Crows are those birds which engender a strange kind of confusion. Certainly to this person as a child living on a wheatbelt farm. I used to watch them for hours - wonder why I don't sit and stare anymore? - trying to figure my feelings towards them. The other birds were easy: 28's taught cheek and pluck and stealth to take what we wanted, Black cockatoos taught us to look at the sky and wait for the rain, Pink and Grey gallahs made us tumble with laughter, butcher birds held court as they talked us into wakefulness, magpies sang and sang till the voice wanted to travel out of our chests and into the empty sky..... but Crows. entirely black, silent, watchful, small shiny circles unmovingly trained upon me. They were improbably black, so black that the colour shifted under my gaze like oil in tannin black puddles, their beaks extraordinarily long and sharp so I could feel it piercing through my eye socket into my brain just like I saw them do with the dead lambs. There was trepidation when they were around and yet they never swooped at me or laughed at me or dropped gum nuts on my head. It wasn't until I was in grade seven, alone on the farm working with dad and spending many hours in a paddock alone fearing the sinking of the sun and the dissipation of the visible world with it, that the crow became my calm watchful shadow following me to keep me safe. I imagined the blackness as the crow spreading its wings around my back and tucking its long beak under my chin. Then I learned to love the night, that year the night became a blackness of warmth and shapes and silence and escape.
    Where have I been? missing your blogs....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Jo! How excellent of you to drop in.
      That is a really lovely piece of writing ... jealous x

      Delete
  6. I love crows too. Looked after a blind one once, until we decided it was too cruel for a crow to live without sight, and put it out of its misery.

    ReplyDelete