/* /* Eclectic Contemplative: Lovingkindness towards a crow

Eclectic Contemplative

Driven by a need for a more reflective approach to existence, I am exploring contemplative thought from a variety of traditions, particularly Catholic and Buddhist, in an effort to find a practice that will enable me to access that "inner room" that is at once still and luminous.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Lovingkindness towards a crow

Late yesterday afternoon, I watched from the deck while my dog raced into the yard to chase away a crow. But even as the dog got closer, the bird didn't move, and I watched at first in surprise as the dog pounced on the bird. Then I sprung into action.

It's not like crows are my favorite animals. They are large, loud, predatory, and generally obnoxious. And it's not like the dog doesn't kill things that wander into the yard. He has dispatched his share of possums and gophers and roof rats. But I don't care to watch him tear something helpless limb from limb right before my eyes, or to clean it up afterwards.

By the time I got to the dog and the bird, the bird was splayed out in an awkward pose with his mouth gaping open. I dragged the dog by the collar back into the house, and came down again to check on the bird. He was hopping around in the corner of the fenced yard, apparently looking for a way out. Besides the fact that he looked like a full grown bird but wasn't flying, there didn't seem to be anything wrong with him.

So up I went to Google wildlife rescue options. Instead I found out a lot more about the way baby crows fledge than I knew before. Apparently they leave the nest a week or 10 days before they can actually fly, though they are in fact almost as big as they will get as far as weight, wing size, and leg length. They spend this dangerous transition time on the ground or in low trees or bushes until they learn to fly. Meanwhile the family - Mom and Dad and the siblings born last year and even the year before - guard the fledgling, warning him of danger, trying to drive away predators, and feeding him when necessary. So there was nothing wrong with this bird that time wouldn't cure - if he survived my dog, and the neighbors' dogs, and the various neighborhood cats and wild predators.

When I went out to check on the bird again, he had made it over the fence into some bushy ground vines in my neighbor's yard, a neighbor with no dog. Bravo.

This morning I heard a crow commotion outside and found my dog with his muzzle buried in a tangle of ground vines. Turns out the bird was nestled in there having hopped back over the fence into our yard. Once I got down there, it was clear that the dog was mostly licking the crow, as it is a big bird and hard to get one's teeth around. Again I dragged the dog into the house, and returned to the yard with gloves. I plucked the little guy out of the vines and checked him out. He seemed fine, and they're right, the young ones have blue eyes. I placed him back over the fence into the neighbor's vines.

Throughout the day I checked on him to make sure he hadn't wandered back into our yard. I never did see where his new hiding place was, but it wasn't far from where I left him if the objections of his nearby family were any indication. The closer I got to the spot, the more noise they made. One particular bird would hover overhead while he squawked and I think he was capable of dive-bombing me. But he didn't.

So the dog was confined to the house and front yard for the rest of the day. I took him out to the backyard late in the afternoon on a leash, and sat on a wall while he dug up a gopher run. Where I was sitting I was hidden from the view of the most vigilant crow relative by a large oak tree. But from his perch in a dead tree on the other side of my neighbor's yard, he could still see when I moved, and every time I so much as stood up, he starting that horrid raspy screeching. I did it ten times in a row, and ten times he started up, then stopped when I sat down. It was really quite amusing.

Now as I said, I have no love for crows. My husband and I were so determined not to have a flock of suburban adapters adopt our canyon as their home that we used to take turns firing the BB gun in their direction to scare them off. They got so used to it that eventually all we had to do was grab the gun and they would take off. But we eventually lost interest in the project and it seems a small flock has indeed made a home in our canyon. At one point to help myself adjust to and approach acceptance of their raucous presence, I deliberately tried to find something to like or admire about them. It didn't take long to realize that they were smart; I watched more than one of them take a nut to a high branch overhanging the street and drop it again and again until it broke open. I watched them grooming each other meticulously. They always seemed to travel together, in two's and three's, and frequently six-to-ten's. There is clearly a highly cohesive social structure in the crow world.

So for two days now I've been trying to keep an eye on this crow till it learns to fly. I have a headache from being squawked at every time I walk outside, too. Five or six of those birds get going and it's a "flaysome din" all right. My dog is breathless with impatience to get back to his big backyard and whimpers every time I go out but won't let him come too. My catty-corner neighbor keeps looking out his window in puzzlement as I walk around and scan the area around our common corner. He can't figure out what I'm looking for.

Of course I know that in the grand scheme of things, the life of this crow isn't very significant. But from a Buddhist perspective, it is very significant. In previous incarnations, he has been been my mother or father or child. And even notwithstanding that, in his current incarnation, he is not really a separate being from me. From a mystic or contemplative Christian perspective, he is Christ himself, as is every creature (and the rocks and plants and moon and stars, according to St. Francis). Crows aren't endangered or even negatively impacted by human activity. Quite the contrary. So what this is, I guess, is a small opportunity in a miniscule part of the universe for me to practice lovingkindness by keeping my dog inside the house and keeping the crow out of harm's way, to some extent anyway (if he flops into the catty-corner neighbor's yard with the mini Pinscher and the pit bull, it's all over).

We'll see how it goes!


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