Birdland

Have you ever been divebombed by crows?  If so, did you think:

  • Wait a minute.  I like birds.  What do crows have against me?
  • Should I board up the house to protect against a larger attack, ala Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds?
  • Are they looking for food or protecting a nest?
  • If it is true that crows remember faces, do I need to start wearing a disguise?
  • Is this part of a planetary plot?  First COVID, now CORVIDS?

The first time this happened – a few weeks ago – I was planting sunflowers in my garden.  I felt a tap against my low back.  At first, I thought:  “Strange.  A silent neighbor with aggressive touch?  A stranger on our block wanting attention?” 

Then I heard a whoosh and witnessed the black wings fly above and away.  

The second time I was divebombed, I was pruning.  The King Crow flapped away to the top of our Doug Fir.  I shook my fist.  “Hey…you are not the boss of me!” I shouted at him.

I am not the only one in our household who has been divebombed.  I cautioned my husband to at least wear a bike helmet while mowing the lawn.   He has been strafed by a Corvid four or five times in the last week.

We’ve laughed over these incidents.  How cool – what are the crows trying to tell us?

But I do not feel as comfortable while gardening. 

To quell my angst, my husband shared an article by Lyanda Haupt, author of Crow Planet.  Her blog piece in The Tangled Nest says that crows will divebomb in spring and that the behavior is linked to protecting their nestlings. 

Small fry birds with sweet little nests can hide in shadowy corners, and more easily escape human detection. 

Not so with the crows.  Being loud and bulky, they are at a disadvantage as nesters.  We humans are on their radar.

Haupt is not a crow apologist, but asks us to consider matters from the complicated standpoint of an urban nesting crow parent.  It’s spring.  Give them a break. 

She reminds us that once the fledgling is grown, the divebombing will stop.  Soon the crows will turn their gaze towards the raptors – eagles, hawks, owls – to protect their kin.

Nature sure is wild.  Would that some human families take such good care of their young.

So there you have it.  No longer will I curse the crow.  But I might just shop for a CORVID mask to disguise myself and keep a bicycle helmet handy.

What Is The Sound Of One Hand Clapping?

Is the above sculpture a Zen koan? 

I encountered this piece of public art near Puget Sound in West Seattle on a hot summer day in 2020.  The koan “What Is The Sound of One Hand Clapping?” rose in my thoughts. 

Koans are meant to bewilder, to provoke what Zen Buddhists call the “great doubt.” 

Could things be any more bewildering than the Summer of 2020?  A time capsule of our uncertain times:

  • We have a global pandemic
  • The tragedy of George Floyd’s death and its global repercussions
  • Protests and riots across the country
  • Fires raging across the West Coast

What do the above events have in common with Zen koans?  From what I have read, koans are meant to free one from the constraints of rational thought, by offering something different from formal logic. 

Formal logic?  How to explain anything? I thought the day I encountered the sculpture. 

And then I looked beyond it, to Puget Sound.  I was surprised and cheered by the sight of a few bold souls who braved the chilly salt water inlet with its sharp rocks and sea lions. 

Perhaps the sound of one hand clapping is the point beyond which speech exhausts itself.  The point where we know when the world is too much with us and we try something new.

I vowed that I, too, would plunge into the chilly water.  I returned the next day in my swimsuit and watershoes.

Be the water, I gasped.  It was exhilarating!

Stay tuned for the Summer of 2021 — I hope to be taking more dips in Puget Sound.

And may the planet be at peace!