Lake Monona in Madison, WI. Sat around nuzzling itself for over 30 minutes
Had the crow experience of a lifetime this morning. Will try to recount it in the fullest detail possible.
Last night I didn’t sleep well. For a week or two I’ve been without much coffee but during the day yesterday had a few cups – normally these many cells process that caffeine quickly but it seems likely that was why I tossed and turned. At 4:41 a.m. I gingerly crawled out of bed to meditate – felt pretty distracted, with lots of intrusive thoughts – and then at 5:00 kept hearing crows. Sounding close but not necessarily outside of the house – at least 2 or 3 of them.
After a while they broke my attempt at a meditative trance and I had to go see them. Grabbed my bag of snacks (corn) and went out onto Selby. Thought I was hearing them a block west and ventured out – expecting to see them in the tall roost-spot past Pierce on the north side of the street. No luck. Turned left down Pierce and quickly realized there were about 3 or 4 crows a block in past Augustine’s. Walked up the street- their cacophony was remarkable and chattery almost to the point of annoyance. The thick, lush green trees – and dark-ish sky, perhaps on a 2.9/10 brightness setting – made it hard to see the little avian monkeys. Their caws were in bursts of three or four and extremely consistent. As I approached I made a few ‘kawwwhhh, kawwhhh’ noises and shook my keys. Then I walked directly beneath the trees, over a manhole cover next to a basketball hoop (east side of the street). I grabbed handfuls of corn and poured them onto the manhole cover. They clicked and clacked and rained their clattery sound onto the ground and to my surprise the crows were rather responsive. It seemed clear as I did this handful after handful – at least 5 or 6 of them – that the birds were watching, and one rearranged itself (seemingly to get a better view).
I continued to alert them with noise and the 4-or-so crows quickly became 10. The most I could count (as they were moving) was 10, but I believe a few were in my periphery. Continued south to the middle-end of the block and laid down a few noticeable ‘lines’ of corn – perhaps 12-18 inches long, 3 or 4 inches thick, and just about 1 layer of corn tall or heightwise. Yellow enough to be bright and visible but not voluminous enough to deplete my entire supply. I laid out one or two of these on the ground and another on a blue recycling can – the crows were extremely loud at this point, and many more were flying in (primarily from the west end of Pierce, above the trees).
Wow – it was exciting. Always I am hoping that they are comfortable or at least unalarmed by my presence, which is to some obvious extent intrusive and loud, and if they are not unalarmed or comfortable my second hope is that they will comfortably leave. Or fly away. What sucks is the possibility that crows needing rest, or really just trying to roost in one spot, or that are otherwise unwilling to take off and fly away from me, are irritated by my presence. So this morning as they screamed and gathered I kept wondering if I was bothering them – scaring them – enraging them – etc. But as they were summoning one another (within a matter of 5 minutes there were 2 dozen large birds) and screaming together over my head, which has certainly never happened in the absence of food before, I must think there was some positive reward response associated with their screams. (Later tomorrow I’ll get back over there to see if they snacked on any of it – do crows even eat corn? Don’t ask me!)
Waving my keys on my carabiner (this is a sort of Pavlovian stimulus that I introduce when I feed the crows anywhere) I walked south into the intersection of Pierce and Hague. Wave wave wave keys, drop drop drop some food, caw caw caw, sing sing sing. A common and monotonous attempt at engagement – and, for my neighbors, probably a sickening morning regularity. There were so many crows (or corvids? Ravens? Hm.) above me that I didn’t know what to do or think. Just black mass after black mass, dipping and swooping like planes, but never getting close or suggesting outward aggression. Unless I am completely ignorant to their own aggressive strategies. Together they could have shredded my scalp (or worse) and instead they simply screamed like an avian chorus and made me super duper happy. I kept laying out seeds and lovingly cooing “hello, babies!!!”
Walked back northward after a while. Those few moments with a zillion birds around me felt like a zillion years. Really admired the big fat one that was atop the roof on the NE intersection of Pierce & Hague. It was short, squat, and had the same inward neck-thrust (head upwards, body fat) as a few ravens on youtube – at least, that was what my memory suggested. For some reason this one bird (on a roof instead of trees or in the air) caught my attention as I was walking through the crowstorm back towards Selby. I walked past Selby and onto Dayton a bit, seeing yet another fatty (maybe the same one from the roof) doing the inward-neck-thrust-guttural-call from atop a tree. NE end of Dayton & Pierce. Hm.
Went home. Scattered corn around the house as I arrived – also put a few round masses of the yellow stuff onto the roof. Then crawled back into bed with a cute girl as the crows kept hollering outside.
“haha Ian I love being in public with you it’s so funny and weird”
“what’s THAT supposed to mean”
“the way you just yell up at crows and talk to them”
“i talk AT them I do not talk TO them”
“i’m serious. i talk AT them. i can’t talk to animals”
“uh huh. i’m suspicious”
An exciting morning.
Got up for my usual headache-coffee-nomoreheadache-sit in chair-birdwatch-meditate session this morning. My usual perch (the purple chair in the living room) had been twisted in the opposite direction when company came over yesterday, so I turned it around to face the window. Sat. Headache buzzing, coffee steaming (in the “Our Hearts are Very Old Friends” mug, extra sugar, a little milk. No meat for the crows today, even though I’d like to have some, so instead I was just watching them fly about. Pretty loud this morning too.
Suddenly, across the street- a little brown pup. Puppy? Dog? I was unsure. It was lingering on the sidewalk, conspicuously alone – I looked up & down the street while leaning forward in the purple chair. Didn’t see anything. The little thing crossed the street towards my house, now CLEARLY alone, with no collar to speak of. I immediately hopped up out of my chair, leaving the coffee & my keys in the living room, & went down the stairs. Got to the porch & saw the little critter out on the sidewalk in front of my house.
It looked at me – cautiously and intently, while backing away towards Fry street.
It took off. Walking neatly & adorably along the sidewalk – too civil (and too small) to be any type of wild creature. Nope. Definitely domesticated, definitely helpless, definitely hungry and thirsty, and I’m definitely not its poppa. Therefore no surprise that it bolted. The other morning (a few miles away on Jefferson) I saw a poster for a missing dog – even made an effort to memorize the number. On that day I remember walking away & being concerned that I couldn’t remember the number. Not because I was expecting to find a missing dog (I don’t even have a cell phone to call anyone should I run into a missing dog), but because numbers are really fun, & to be forgetful of them is really annoying to me. So as I saw this dog in front of my house, backing away, I remembered the poster – bright yellow, located on Jefferson ave – it had 2 numbers listed. What were they? 651-???-6041? Even though I couldn’t remember them I could remember 2 other details from the poster: that the dog might have its leash or harness on it (purple in color) and that the dog would run away if approached. With the available information, and the small possibility that this was indeed the dog, the best I could do was to not approach it. At least not too clearly/aggressively/etc. After this first moment of observation and cogitation had passed the dog took off from the house pretty quick & I just walked down to the end of the stoop. Watched it run up the street towards Fry, turning left into the lawn of that apartment building on the corner. At that moment it paused to glance back at me – I was still looking at it -& it left. A crow flew overhead as I walked eastward up the street, & as I tried to call out to the dog the crow landed over my head. Even though the dog situation was sorta stressful the crow certainly made me smile. In fact the entire encounter was smile-worthy. For all the intentional and planned and calculated effort I’ve put in buying meat for the crows, & all the exacting regularity with which I’ve fed them, it is of course while I’m out chasing a lost creature that a crow actually comes up to greet me. It sat overhead in the tree & adjusted itself once, so that its head was facing me. I continued calling for the dog up the street, but it was further up Fry. So up Fry I went. Turned right onto Dayton and, upon getting a few houses up the street someone yelled at me from out a window. They were trying to guide me towards the dog – & then the voice asked, “Is that Ian?”
A former classmate from a few philosophy classes was the onlooker! We chatted a bit thru the window about the pup – they had spotted it the night before over on Selby – but the lil’ fella had disappeared somewhere on Dayton and I decided to walk home. Walked home. Decided to go back out. Went back out.
Found the guy back on Dayton & Fry after poking around for a while. Brought him back up to classmate’s house & left him there. I’ll add a little more about the guy & his movements, etc – but I have 6 minutes until I need to leave for work. And to think- as soon as I sat down with my coffee in the living room I had already assumed it would be a boring morning. Guess not!
I dreamt of crows.
One in particular. In the dream I was feeding them from my roof-spot. In the dream there was some type of passage/blockage that had to be cleared, not unlike a windowsill, in order for me to feed them. So I was opening that and leaving food & also leaving coins. The coins were nickels, I think…Im aware that shiny objects are intriguing to corvids so I mustve incorporated that into the dream. There was one crow lingering just before I woke up – it was looking at me from up close as I cooed “hello bb! Hello bb! Hello bb!” The dream-crow looked @ me & left moments later.
I woke up. 6:22 am. Opened windowsill, to toss out some seed – at that very moment a big fat one was just landing on the roof next to me to investigate. A BIG one. The seed scattered on the roof as it relocated across the street, black wings beating like wind-whipped drums….rippling…crow relocated across street. Watched me. Continued to pour seed out. I closed the window & the crow left a few moments later.
So you should view this fleeting world: a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, a flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream. Went to get some strawberries from the freezer. A hint of snowfall – like a thin film of sleet, opaque yet perceptible (at least against the background of the street)…though after just moments of writing here it has shifted…a bit thicker. Again I look up & it has certainly begun to snow in late April. Wow. So gorgeous – hope the crow I scared off gets some roof-seed before it’s hidden.
Re: the little birds that come for the small seed: I googled birds of the midwest. Lincoln’s sparrow? Maybe. The picture of it on this front results page gives
crow again. Long eye contact. It slowly approached – getting a few good looks at me. I think each time that the eye contact will send them flying away instantly, but not so. Eye contact continues for a few moments as their black muscled missile bodies ziggle zaggle tic and tac towards the window. 10:45am is when it came. Back to Google. So maybe it’s a Lincoln’s sparrow.
Cold again. Cars pass outside kicking up rain-sounds, each tire spewing and screaming that wet white noise. It really is like a shriek…or some type of awful bodily process. Slept 11 hours. Haven’t done THAT in a while. 4 or 5 hours is the norm. Made eggs, set eggs down, grabbed a pound of ground beef (left it out yesterday to thaw) and threw it outside for the crows. Was initially unsure that any would be out and about. Earlier before I was totally awake my mind jumped to the beef – the question arose as to whether I should refreeze the beef or put it outside. In my sleepy state I figured that crows & ravens stay home on such grey days. But it seemed worth a shot. Sure enough – before I could even finish slicing the package open I heard one outside. & threw meat out & it yelled. Threw the rest of the meat out & it yelled again. Came downstairs, sat in chair. Decided I should pull the curtain to make myself less visible. A few moments later I realized I needed this pen & had to reach around the curtain to grab it off the windowsill. Just then – 2 large crows, or maybe ravens, headed south directly over the west end of the Selby house. They were flying quickly, as if having been in flight for some time already, leaving me unsure if they had been immediately on or near the house. So for the time being I;ll wait. Have about an hour before I should go to class which is enough time.
10:12 am @ home – wasn’t feeling acting class today. The corvids are gathering. All of the meat is still there which is a surprise. But it might not be for long. Another across the street – southeast, flying eastward over (but close to) the roof of the buildings. Each car is another shriek, a sort of steel pulmonary expulsion.
Birds aside, it is strikingly green. Grey/white sky yields to the immense and bright pine, verde, grassy, weedy, ivy, flowery, lively, springish, GREEEEN. What are other words for green? Only a few days ago the trees were seemingly barren, suggesting just a bit of buddery at their fingertips. But those distal bits of leaf of leaflet (whatever theyre called) after some time have erupted. In less than a week the trees have grown hairy with neon glo-stick lemon lime fringes. It’s as if that bit of spectrum between green & yellow were scribbled onto twigs. Moments ago as I was seeking another ‘green’ word a massive green garbage truck drove by. Its exterior (the upper half) was also an immensely bright shade of green, though obviously much more discernible and uniform in its coloration. Some bit of the truck was bright orange & that admittedly was offputting. Mostly it was a funny coincidence to see the greenness rolling by – i guess some of those wild wheeled wagons are worth the wily while.
Smaller birds on the roof now – it’s time to figure out exactly what they are. Finches? Sparrows? As two of the littler ones flit onward pas the window & THUD across the street. The shades are thin, sheer white whisps, & thru their ripples a man in a driveway. Also in driveway a truck, red rained on truck, red rained on truck with a bike on the back. Guy lowers back half of truck…unloads bike. My hand cant keep up – I look now and he is nowhere in sight. Neither is bike. Red rained on truck still is and the back of the thing is still down. These mini-moments have grown more compelling in the last year. Truthfully I feel sad or at least a bit silly for having never made an effort to meet any of my neighbors. This regular habit of street- and bird-watching has allowed some small view into the consistencies of their lives. The lady across the street who walks her dog in the morning – almost always walking east and then returning from that direction or perhaps from around the block (westward).
The red rained on truck guy just got back. Engine on. As it lurches out from its receptor site I see in my mind’s eye a vesicle, or vacuole, whose cargo has been successfully delivered to the new home for it, which is here, in this part of the cell. I see the purpose (at least the momentary purpose) of that truck & its driver, which is to deliver the red rained on bicycle, not unlike a vesicle or vacuole would deliver some protein or water or hormone or molecule, and I then see some protein or water or hormone or molecule being delivered, and then the purposeful repackaging of the vesicle or vacuole must take place, because its cargo has been successfully delivered to its new home, so the tail lights are going on and Im seeing this empty vesicle or vacuole take on a new momentary purpose, which is to be returned to the cell for other use. In the span of a few moments these images fly firmly and rapidly through my visual field, which is not to say I literally see them before me, but rather within me an imagination of them briefly occludes my ocular/mechanical sight. The image of a massive cell or organism has been powerful for some time now, and in the likeness between the truck and the little pictures in my neuroscience textbooks (which vaguely show zillions of little vesicles or vacuoles delivering their cargo, which is some protein or water or hormone or molecule, before being purposefully repackaged [once empty] such that it can take on a new momentary purpose, which is to return to the cell for other use). These types of analogies (if analogy is the right word) are occurring in my mind constantly. At the sensory level they can be distracting or begin to invade my–
Crow on the roof. A big baby. Well, it’s huge.
It made me swell, chest still thumping. It landed on the west end of the roof, walked over, grabbed a big bit of meat. Held it in beak.
First woke around 11:27am to what sounded like corvids. A LOT of corvids. My rotating fan was quite loud & my mind quickly reconnected the alleged crow cacophony with its original input signal-the sound of the fan. I lay facedown still half asleep, & was sad to only have imagined it. The thought of so many crows (the sound, rather) is what had jolted me out of sleep and out of bed, & I tried to forcibly allow myself to calm those adrenals atop my kidneys & return to unconsciousness. But then I was certain I was hearing them, & my heart exploded with urgency, & my skin prickled with excitement. I flew rapidly towards the foot of my bed to turn off the fan. And with the loudest and most opaque of signals now silent, rather than battering my eardrums with white noise, I could hear a quiet & clear symphony – at LEAST ten crows, yelling at each other.
Having turned off the fan I could, in my sleepy & unclothed state, leap towards the window and peek outside without immediate concern of my phalanges being visible from the street. My attic window renders my lower bits nonviewable from the street, so in the interest of time I sent my hand on a life-or-death race to the venetian blinds of the west window. Aggressively sticking my hand between a pair of them, & opening a crevice to look outside, I didnt see much – but at that INSTANT the loud conversation just outside escalated to a collection of rhythmic screams. Their voices sometimes lined up in their pitter-pattering, forming the same illusory depth as the perceived connections in a large applause. Within half a second I could see through my hasty window-crack & saw they were not on the roof. The screaming of the birds startled me the half-second prior & I thus had no issue rapidly drawing the blinds in an attempt to get a glimpse of the source of my autonomic excitement.
And wow, did I see quite the something. Across the street no less than 12 or 15 crows (tried to count amidst my erotic panic) were desperately and forcefully exiting the tree, almost as if I had thrown a stone right towards them. They were banking up & around as to fly south away from the area, & I knew immediately at this moment – not 6 seconds after being asleep & horizontal – that I had scared them off. That seems to happen often. The elation and sorrow both were embodied. At no time recently, or ever, had such a clear response to my bird-feeding been sitting there. Apparent. Those birds are beautiful. But as far as me, I am a bit off-putting to them & I feel quite bad for rendering their moment an interrupted one. Next time, for their benefit (but also for the benefit of my behavioral/interspecies voyeurism) I will remember my mini-mantra:
FLIGHT > SIGHT
In essence this is a reminder that the real intent is to feed & sustain them; to contribute to their unhunger, to make this bit of life’s locality more sustaining and relaxing for them. To see or pester or talk to them is in itself (for the time being) outwardly aggressive & only serves my own enjoyment of the associated autonomic response. Yes, those corvids do stir me quite deeply, and I must remember that to stir them back is likely not at all enjoyable for them. As such they rapidly flew south towards Hague or perhaps Laurel. I lowered the blinds and blushed.
Today’s weather/appearance feels like a gift. Big, wide blue sky…A tiny breeze that feels much more spring than summer, but the direct sunlight casts away obligations to sleeves. Although I do have sleeves with me – haven’t gotten sunscreen yet so I keep the jean jacket with me to save my skin. My face/ears/etc are still unprotected from the cooking but hey, I’m on the shady side of the porch for now. Cars going by every few moments are quite unsettling and unwelcome. The sound and smell of them is worse to the senses but their inherent priority status is pain to the soul. After all – cars seem to decide how places are designed. Cars run the roads at all hours, embody human self centeredness, and
shut up, Ian
Moving on. The grid of the street irritates me today. Birds chirping – a few across the street. A single chirp perhaps 2 times per 1-2 seconds. A bit hard to hear on each chirp, like a chime or a chord (which I myself cannot piece apart with my own ear, though many humans can). A bit moist – the sound, I mean. At this moment a few young girls pass by the house –
“How do you say orange, anyway? Do you say OHrange or AHrange?”
I wonder if their ‘ew’ and subsequent linguistic assessment was because of the discarded orange peel over by the street. Now a few birds back here by the porch.
A crow yelling. Reps of at least 6-7. I notice that same pairing of 2 staccato calls, preceded by one call, like this: