• Bill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 2/26/21 - Corvidae Corvus in My Hood


“The crow does not hide its prey, but calls for others to share it;

so wealth will be with those of a like disposition.” – Thiruvalluvar


One of the gifts of recovery for me is becoming a bird watcher. Things that fly have always fascinated me from an early age. In recovery, bird watching evolved into a self-care process and my favored hobby. I have even had the opportunity to take some ornithology classes. Humility in the bird nerd world is going to a place like Hawk Mountain in the fall and watch world class birders use their encyclopedic knowledge to identify everything heard or seen moving around them.


I am not one of those people with obsessive life lists, although I do keep track. I don’t drive 300 miles to see a southern purple throated screecher rumored to be at a specific pond. Mostly it is a form of meditation and appreciation for the world around me. In addiction, decades ago towards the end I mostly looked at the ground for lost money or other people’s drugs, there was nothing in the sky of interest for me. Recovery has provided me the opposite, and the sky reminds me of the amazing river of life passing around us and things I miss when I am not an active observer of the world.

A theme of the COVID Pandemic year is that my world shrunk. In reflection, I found myself paying attention to things on a much smaller scale, probably because I had no alternative. Last Spring, I watched our postage sized yard come to life in ways I never quite observed in prior years. The summer opened things up again, and I trapsed around in nature with my binoculars and camera. It helped me stay in a relatively good place.


When Fall set into Winter, things got smaller again. One of the developments in my neighborhood was an inordinate number of crows who wintered over with us. They were a huge part of my winter self-care, again probably as a result of not having a lot of self-care stimuli. On zoom calls, I caught glimpses of them passing my window or perched in trees over our street or in our back yard. I would stop and watch their rowing flight as they moved from tree to tree or fly over our home. Through these glimpses, I was able to get out of my own head (a danger place at times) for a millisecond.


American Crows (Corvidae Corvus Brachyrhynchos) are amazing beings. They have astonishingly long term memory and complex communications abilities. As this Live Science Article notes, crows are extremely intelligent. They have exceptional problem-solving skills. They actually remember individual people. When a crow encounters a mean human, it will teach other crows how to identify the human and let their community know they are not a good person. So, odd as it may sound, night or in the early morning hours when letting our dogs out, I greet them and thank them for overwintering in our neighborhood. I think some of them may know me, but unsure of what they make of this strange biped creature..


In recent weeks, one of the local members of our Corvus community perches on the top of a tree and nearly every morning makes what is called subsong. It is a mixture of hoarse or grating coos, caws, rattles, and clicks. He can go on for several minutes. Ravens are even better at it, and on a few occasions, I have had what seem long conversations with their cousins, the ravens. While I know people are freaked out by crows and ravens, not in our house, for Julie, they are a favored painting subject matter like this plague raven she made last year at this time.


In many cultures, these birds are messengers and symbolize transformation and change. They are known through human history to be watchful creatures. We are certainly in a time of great transformation and change, so maybe they are some form or a sign beyond my ability to discern. Change can be scary, but one of the recovery lessons for me, time in and time out is that change can lead to growth, new insights, and new opportunities if I remain open. It seems fitting that these wonderful birds have decided to overwinter with us in this strange time.


I am grateful for the ability that recovery has provided me to look up at the sky and see the spectacular world of nature unfold around us all. I am grateful for our Corvus friends and the sense of connection to nature that they have provided me this cold and snowy winter. They remind me of the coming Spring and change in the air, even though the future is not clear, I welcome it. Our neighborhood Corvus friends remind me of things bigger than myself, and I am grateful.


What are you grateful for today?

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