Crows and other good medicine: A vertigo recovery project

When the crows caw more than ordinary, I have come to expect rain. I like the rain. And I like crows. The Native American practice of animal “medicine” embraces the idea that when a non-human animal passes our path, whether in waking life or in a dream, the animal’s message to us has power, including healing power, by bringing aspects of ourselves to consciousness.

I.  Getting to Know Crow

The stocky blue-black birds who forage in the courtyards where I live and who perch in the trees outside my windows are fascinating wild things with big personalities. I watch them, listen for them, talk to them, and they watch me right back. They respond to my soft-spoken greetings and caw, coo, croak, rattle, and scream their stories to me. When I see them high on their birch tree perch and hear them call, I do not know what all of the various sounds signify, but when I put food out for them on my deck railing, they stand and give a cheer.

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Feeding Crow on railing

 

Teleworking at home for more than three months (and counting) during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have developed a relationship with at least three crows whom I feed at fairly regular intervals throughout the day. Although I cannot tell female crows from males, I am learning to tell the three crows apart who frequently visit me. They might be a family. Then again, they might be daughter, mother, and crone. I do not know, but their feathery antics and throaty, hoarse, wild calls engross and amuse me.

Rain or shine, wind or calm, I gaze out my dining room window or the sliding glass door to the deck and look for Crow. Holding on a perch, her feet locked around a branch, she is often at rest. With her head tilted back, her eyes closed, her shoulders slumped, and her beak open, her body appears one with the branch as it sways in the breeze. Her peace increases my peace.

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Crow resting high in birch tree

 

At other times, she is on lookout duty while other crows forage for food. Awake and alert, she holds her head high, her eyes open and scanning the environment. Shoulders square and stately, beak closed or open, feathers fluffed and groomed, she is in command of her body and keenly aware of her environment. Her alertness makes me more alert.

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Crow on lookout in birch tree

 

During wind and rainstorms, I spy Crow safely huddled in the denser vegetation of the dogwood tree or the rhododendron shrub, where she can shut out the sky, stay dry, and wait out the worst of the storm in warmth and stability. During the harshest storms, I neither see nor hear any sign of her; I imagine she finds refuge in the pine trees of our community woods. Her security increases my security.

Crows, like all birds, are well adapted to survive even intense weather. In advance of a storm this fall and winter, when foraging might be inhibited by weather, I will be sure to put out more nutrient-rich food to aid the crows. Her survival enhances my survival.

 

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Crow in rain shower

 

Each week brings a new observation or awareness about crows—their complexity of language, behavior, intelligence, and abilities. Like their namesakes the Crow Girls (two tomboys who live in a huge old elm tree in Charles de Lint’s Newford urban fantasies), crows are brilliant creatures. Wild, but communal; serious, yet playful; wise, yet daring; emotional, but with a strong core—they make me believe in the magic of strange things around every corner.

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Crow Girls stories

 

II.  Gifts from Crow

Speaking of strange things, on Tuesday evening, June 16, something unusual happened. I found a pellet of hard seeds on my deck railing, in the same spot where I regularly place food for Crow. I was in my sixth day of dealing with severe vertigo and beginning to recover. Since early Thursday morning, June 11, when vertigo hit me, I had not been able to feed Crow. I could not be up and walk about. The following Tuesday evening I stepped outside onto my deck for the first time since getting sick.

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Deck

 

Opening the sliding glass and screen doors and gingerly stepping through, I noticed a clump of something on the railing. It looked like a ripening blackberry—a round, plump mass the color of dull red to dark purple to blue-black. Inspecting it more closely, I could tell it was a lump of seeds and stuff that had been regurgitated. I took a photo of it.

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Crow pellet on railing

 

Birds cannot digest some things they eat, like hard seeds, bones, hair, gravel, and some meats. Because it would be dangerous if this matter stayed in their stomachs, birds have a natural solution to this problem. The indigestible stuff clumps together in their stomach, and the bird regurgitates the lump. The lump can break apart quickly, usually upon impact, but sometimes it includes so much hair and meat from small animals the bird has eaten that the lump is a more compact pellet, similar to the one I found on my railing.

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Crow pellet on railing

 

Astonished, I picked up the pellet and examined it closely. I had no idea how long it had been there. Not as compact as it appeared, however, it broke in two between my fingers. After one piece fell apart in the palm of my hand, I could see it was composed of hard seeds, bone fragments, gravel, and earthwormy matter that had held the pellet together.

Was this pellet another gift from Crow perhaps?

Three weeks ago I received my first gift from Crow. On that day, my dog Dixie stood at the sliding glass door with excitement, coaxing me to go out onto the deck. That was a new behavior. Wondering what had gripped her attention, I looked out and saw that a black feather had fallen (or been dropped) onto the deck floor. I wondered then if it might be a gift from Crow and, given Dixie’s excitement, figured perhaps she had seen Crow deliver it.

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Crow feather and Dixie

 

So, I wondered if this pellet on the railing was also a gift from Crow. Curious, I scanned the courtyard and called out my thanks to the crows perched high in the birch trees. Then, one by one, three crows flew from the birch trees and glided down onto the branches of the dogwood tree adjacent to my deck. I half-expected to hear a trio of urgent pleading squawks, sounds that come not from crows’ throats but directly from their hungry stomachs. Instead, the three crows cooed to me softly and sweetly, almost like a song. I replied with a soft, “Hello, Crow.”

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Crow on dogwood tree branch

 

In the same purposeful and orderly fashion with which they had flown from the birch trees to the dogwood tree, each crow gracefully leapt from the dogwood tree, flapped her wings, and landed on my deck railing. Perched equidistant from each other, with one crow at each end and the third crow in the center of the railing, they shook themselves, crouched, and stared at me, cocking their heads from side to side.

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Crow landing on railing

 

Standing just a few feet away from them, I said I was glad to see them and apologized for having been unable to feed them. The crows continued to stare at me in what looked like serious contemplation.

Whispering that I would be back with some food, I backed away slowly, turned around, and returned to the kitchen to prepare a snack for the crows, hoping they would be patient because of the extra time it would take me. Moving slowly and mindfully, taking deep breaths to help maintain my balance, I prepared larger treats than usual as an offering of apology and reassurance that I am still here and I still care.

All three crows were still on the railing when I walked back out, and they stayed as I placed the food, the crow in the center standing two feet from my hand. There was no clamoring or competing for the food I put out for them. There was no greedy grabbing and gobbling. In fact, they appeared uninterested in the soft-seed, peanut-butter balls I offered. We all stood still, staring at each other, the crows turning their heads this way and that.

Taking a deep breath of fresh air, I suddenly felt emotional. The moment caught me by surprise. I felt a lump in my throat and tears filled my eyes. As I cried, the tightness went away. The crows stayed. Whatever their perception of the moment was, I was touched by their presence. I also thought of the good people who have been helping me and checking in on me.

Then one by one, the three crows made croaking sounds, took the soft-seed, peanut-butter balls in their beaks, looked at me, and turned away. With their tail feathers facing me, they spread their wings, launched themselves off the railing, and flew down to the ground. There, with the warmth and support of the earth, they ate.

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Crow eating on rock

 

It was an extraordinary experience.

III.  Mythology and Biology of Crow

I wonder:  Do the crows know I have been sick? Do they know I have needed feeding from other humans in the neighborhood? Have they been watching through the windows and listening? Was the regurgitated pellet a knowing and purposeful gift? Was it a gift of kindness for me, their ailing human familiar? Or was it a form of coercion to get me to put food out again? Why did Crow regurgitate the pellet on my deck railing, in the very spot where I put out food for them?

My connection to Crow goes back to childhood. Even though my initial viewing of Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds (1963) made me shiver with fright, it also instilled in me a healthy respect for crows. I recall reading a book when I was 10 or 11 years old that included several straightforward questions about nature, each question beginning with the word Why. One of the questions was, “Why are crows black?” I remember the answer, “No one really knows why.” I have been reading stories about crows ever since.

The American Crow is common here in the Portland metropolitan region and across western Oregon. A member of the Corvid family of birds, Crow is related to Raven, Western Scrub-Jay, Stellar’s Jay, and Magpie. This family consists primarily of large perching birds with long, strong bills and forward-pointing bristles at the base of their bills. Regardless of why or how, crows are black from their bills to their legs.

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The American Crow

 

The mythology of Crow is a mixed bag, depending on the culture. Some parts of the world view the bird as an omen of bad tidings and death, and others view the bird as a message from the divine and a symbol of transformation.

In Native American lore, crows are viewed as cleansers of both land and mind, with intelligence their main feature. Crows are not seen as omens of death. Quite the contrary, seeing a crow is considered good luck by many tribes. In times of need, Native Americans consult Crow for a word of wisdom.

As my Oglala Lakota Sioux Indian friends taught me, the meaning of the message one receives from Crow will not come quickly. It will require an in-depth look around and deep personal reflection to decipher the meaning of the message—or, in the manner of Crow, a twisting of one’s head this way and that and a poking around in the nest.

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Crow messenger

 

Crow of the Pacific Northwest is said to be a trickster like Coyote of the Western Plains. They are both full of surprises, so if you go poking around private quarters, you never know what you might find.

In reading about crows, I thought of the Crow Native American Indian tribe and wondered about their relationship with crows. The Crow people were originally called the Apsáalooke in their own Siouan language, which means “children of the large-beaked bird” or “bird people.” Then when the white settlers misinterpreted the name as “people of the crow,” they eventually became known as the Crow tribe.

The online sources I have read say that the exact identity of this large-beaked bird is lost in time gone by. Some Apsáalooke believe that this bird was the mythical Thunderbird, a supernatural being of power and strength. Some historians have suggested that stories of Thunderbird—told for generations—were based on discoveries of pterosaur fossils by Native Americans.

The Crow people do not identify with Crow bird except that they, like Crow, are a tribe rich in heritage, tradition, language, ceremony, land, and the power of transformation to maintain their survival. The Crow people’s deeper animal connection is to Horse, a vital part of their culture. The Crow are outstanding riders and horsemen and horsewomen. “The Crow believe that people, horses, and dogs are the only creatures that possess the necessary ‘energy’ to have souls” (Tim McCleary, teacher of Native American Studies at Little Big Horn College on the Crow Reservation).

To honor the Apsáalooke Crow people and their connection to Horse, I drew a horse, based on a horse named Kicks the Dirt, whom I rode two years ago.

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Kicks the Dirt
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Riding Kicks the Dirt, 2018

 

The Irish believe Crow carries secrets between the feathers of her wings as she flies between the land of the living and the dead. Crow collects stories and passes them on from generation to generation.

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Crow wings and feathers

 

In Irish mythology, Crow is a manifestation of the Morrighan, the warrior goddess, who stands for individuality, prophetic knowledge, and disregard for what others think. She is sovereign. When one sees a group of three crows approaching, it is a sign that Morrighan is watching. The crows are bringing courage and encouragement to help one of Morrighan’s subjects through strife or transformation.

I think of the three crows who landed on the railing the first day that I was able to walk out onto the deck and resume feeding them. Queen Morrighan was watching.

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Crow keeping watch

 

Because Crow eats carrion (the decaying flesh of dead animals), some parts of the world still see the bird as a dark omen, associated with death and decay, foreshadowing sadness and grief. To me, however, Crow feeding on the dead is simply biology and the cycle of life.

I view Crow as an earthly and intuitive bird, spending more of her time on the ground and in the trees than in the air. Her insight is usually accurate. Crow watches and listens, collecting stories, delivering messages, speaking in a powerful voice, feeding and protecting her family, and living her life as best she can.

She holds onto her perch with strength and grace, and when ready, she bravely launches herself off to search for food, to give aid to her flock, to ward off a threat, to investigate a death, to explore her world, to tell a story, to find a mate, or to grieve a loss. She returns to her perch to rest. It is much more difficult for Crow to let go than to hold on.

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Crow lets go

 

Crow, like Coyote, has been much maligned and massively misjudged. When we consider facts over folklore, superstition, fear, stereotype, and prejudice, we have to see that their unfavorable reputations are hardly fair. Crow is considered one of the world’s most intelligent creatures, right up there with Dolphin and Ape. Scientists throughout the world have proven the Crow’s incredibly complex cognitive abilities. At the end of this post are links to resources I have read about crow mythology and biology.

IV.  Close Encounters with Crow

Since I started putting food out for the birds, Crow and I have learned a lot about each other. Crow knows where I live, knows what I look like, knows my voice, knows my face, and recognizes me from a distance when I am out of the house taking a walk.

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Crow perched on birch tree

 

Most mornings between 11 a.m. and noon, Crow sits in one of the birch trees, surveys the courtyard, grooms herself, and then caw-caws or rattles. That is my cue to put food out on the deck. Within seconds, Crow swoops down onto the railing, makes a croaking sound, and takes the food into her beak. Some days now, I will look at the clock shortly after 11 a.m. and find Crow already standing on the deck railing, waiting quietly and patiently, trusting that I will feed her. She will let me know when patience wears thin.

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Crow swooping down to railing

 

Dixie has tuned into the presence of Crow. She often lies in a sunny spot by the sliding glass door and watches for Crow, her ears perking up when she hears a calling. She never barks or growls but, instead, remains quietly alert and curious around Crow—the way she is with Coyote, Deer, Rabbit, and all wild creatures. It is the domesticated creature she wants to protect me from and raises her hackles around.

Crow is part of a songbird family of birds. Although not known for singing, Crow has called sweetly to me while perched on the deck railing. This has happened after feeding time. Crow takes the food I put out on the railing and flies off to eat it, feed it to her family, or store it in the nest. Shortly after, she returns to my courtyard with a loud caw-caw and lands on the railing. When I come to the sliding glass door, she gives a croak and then makes soft sounds—more like singing than cooing.

Based on what I have read, Crow has been known to mimic both other bird sounds and human voices. Perhaps Crow is trying to mimic my greetings and entertain me.

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Crow waiting to be fed

 

Crow frequently calls to Dixie and me on our walks in the neighborhood. Nearing home, toward the end of a walk, we will hear Crow caw-caw overhead. Suddenly she will swoop down beside us, playfully hop around, and then take off and lead us home. Flying from one treetop or rooftop or streetlight to another ahead of us, she will occasionally look back to make sure we are following—like playing a game of “follow the leader.”

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Crow on streetlight

 

At other times, Crow will greet us upon our return from a longer walk, as if to say she has been waiting for us and is hungry. Sometimes, though, Crow will circle overhead, screaming at me and scolding me because it is past feeding time.

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Crow on streetlight

 

Still other times, Crow will give a soft call or coo and then swoop down suddenly, glide close by my shoulder, and land on the nearest structure—just being social. More than a few times, this behavior has startled my neighbors with whom I am talking when she appears. Crow is a social and playful animal.

Crow is also an affectionate animal. The other morning, June 22, as I was sitting in an Adirondack chair on the deck and writing, I saw two crows land on one of the birch branches. Perched side by side, one smaller than the other, they were probably mates.

The smaller crow scooted up next to the larger crow, touching wing to wing, feather to feather. She turned to her mate and nestled her head into his neck. As her mate turned his head toward her, she looked up, and they touched beak to beak, affectionately giving each other a couple pecks. Looking into each other’s eyes, they gently lowered their heads and touched forehead to forehead. The smaller crow scooted back to her original spot on their perch and began to groom herself, poking her beak under her wings and working it into her feathers. Her mate slumped his shoulders, tilted his head back, and rested. It was one of the most tender exchanges I have ever witnessed between non-human animals.

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Crow mates and Moon one evening

 

Crow is also a communal animal. Last Thursday evening, June 18, when Dixie and I were taking a walk, we happened upon a dead crow in the middle of the road. It looked like the crow had been hit by a car and very recently. I felt sad. Looking up, I saw several crows perched in the treetops on both sides of the street. An alarming sound of more crows calling grew ever closer and louder. It was a sound of distress, a sound of heartbroken cries. Dixie and I both let out a whimper.

Suddenly, a dozen or more crows, crying in distress, flew overhead and landed in the trees lining the street. What an amazing sight and what a heartbreaking sound. Thinking it would be safer and more respectful to put some distance between us and the crows, I stepped off the sidewalk and led Dixie onto the grassy area adjacent to the community recreation center where we live.

As more crows arrived on the scene, I was concerned they would think we were in too close proximity to one of their own. Not wanting the crows to associate Dixie and me with danger and threat, I turned and walked us through the parking lot to the adjacent street, about 200 feet away as the crow flies.

From a distance, I watched a small group of crows (maybe six or eight) glide down from the trees onto the pavement. They walked all around the dead crow, a few of them walking right up to the body while the others kept walking around it. From my vantage point, I could not tell what they were doing at the body. Then all at once, the small group flew off and another small group of crows flew down from the trees. They, too, walked around and investigated the body.

With Dixie contentedly curled up in the grass, I watched the crows. One small group after another flew down from the trees to the pavement, walked around the dead crow, then flew off. Eventually, all of the crows flew off.

I gave Dixie a little tug, and we started for home. When we came to the intersection adjacent to where the dead crow lay, I looked up and saw a solitary crow perched at the top of a huge pine tree. After a few seconds, I spoke aloud, “I’m sorry for your loss, Crow.” Then Dixie and I continued on home.

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Solitary crow perched on top of pine tree
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Solitary crow in pine tree adjacent to dead crow in road

 

I have seen a solitary crow perched at the very top of the pine tree every evening now for a week, like a sky pilot.

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Solitary Crow keeping watch

 

Earlier that evening, shortly after we happened upon the dead crow in the road, Dixie and I were joined by a neighbor out walking her dog. She, too, had heard the cacophony and witnessed the gathering of crows. She said she wanted to move the dead crow to the side of the street so that other cars would not run over it.

I advised her not only to leave the body where it lay, but also to walk away from the scene with Dixie and me. As we all walked through the parking lot together, I told her a true story I had read in the comments section of the Corvid Research blog (corvidresearch.blog). It was of a person out running in Northern California one morning, when they happened upon a dead crow in the road. I shortened and paraphrased the story below.

a solo campaign of retribution

An individual goes out running one summer morning and comes across a dead crow lying on its back in the road. Thinking other animals and organisms could feed off the carcass if it were out of the road, they pick up the dead crow by one leg and toss it into the tall roadside grass. Big mistake! The bird was a fledgling, and its mother is watching from a nearby tree. She launches herself from the tree and assaults the individual, dive-bombing them as they stand at the side of the road. They start to run. In distress, the mother crow calls for support. The crow troops arrive. The mother crow and her troops chase the individual as they run away, screaming at them all the while. The next day, when the runner goes out for another run and gets to that same spot, the mother crow and her troops assault them again. The crows trail after the runner, scolding them as they keep running. This continues for several weeks. Although the support troops dwindle, the mother crow keeps up her assault until the summer ends. But that is not the end of the story. The next summer, the mother crow assaults the runner again in the same location. This “solo campaign of retribution” goes on for four years.

 

Nothing in the story indicates that the mother crow had seen how her fledgling was killed. Perhaps when she saw the runner pick up the fledgling and toss it, she deduced that the runner was the killer or a new threat. Not only did she tell all of the other crows that they were a predator, but she and her troops worked hard for four years to chase the perceived threat out of their home territory. I have read that crows hold a grudge. Based on what the mother crow may have perceived, I understand her holding a grudge.

The act of several crows surrounding a deceased crow is sometimes referred to as “a crow funeral.” Scientists have offered several explanations for the behavior. Perhaps the crows are mourning. Perhaps they are paying homage. Perhaps they are learning who has died and if a mate is available. Perhaps they are investigating the scene to determine what happened and why. Perhaps they are interested in knowing how they might avoid the same fate.

The most favored explanation by scientists who study crows is that by sticking close to a crow that was killed, other crows may improve their chances of learning about predators they need to avoid. Flocking into a large, noisy group protects them from the threat if it is still around. To me, this sounds like a Crow Neighborhood Watch program.

V.  Actuality or Illusion

When I got sick with vertigo and could not take care of myself for several days, my routines stopped. I believe the crows noticed. Perhaps they also noticed the increased activity at my building. Perhaps the crows were aware of the good humans coming and going from my home, bringing me food and liquids, caring for Dixie, taking her for walks, getting my mail, and picking up and dropping off prescriptions for me. All in this scary time of COVID-19. Or perhaps the idea that the crows were so aware is an illusion.

I am grateful for creative technology and resourceful, dedicated medical professionals. Having virtual medical appointments with doctors and nurses, while I stayed safe at home, allowed them to diagnose my condition, reassure me, prescribe medications, give me some clear steps to take, and provide checkups. I am grateful for kind, caring, and generous friends, neighbors, family, and co-workers who helped me—in all the different ways they helped. And I am grateful for crows who forgave me my absence. None of that is an illusion.

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Feeding Crow
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The final nibble

 

Perhaps during this worrisome time, my crow familiars have also felt uncertain and vulnerable. Perhaps they, too, like to know what is happening and what is coming. Perhaps they, too, like routine and predictability. Perhaps they, too, like to think, plan, and consider their options. Perhaps they, too, have been on edge. Perhaps they, too, like to know the what and why about something. And perhaps they, too, were glad to see me feeling better.

On the other hand, perhaps my human interpretation of Crow’s pellet on the railing is all an illusion. What is certain, though, is that wild creatures—and domesticated ones—are something amazing. Capable of much more than they are generally given credit for, they instill in me a sense of wonder.

Take my dog Dixie, for example. She has been staying here at home with me throughout this ordeal. She is good company, a comfort, and a protector. During the worst of the vertigo symptoms, she seemed to check my temperature and other vital signs every day, looking me in the eyes, sniffing my nose and breath and ears, licking my forehead, and curling up close to me. She knew. With a look of worry and concern on her face, she tuned into my experience, condition, and emotions every hour.

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Dixie has my back

 

Just when I started to feel better, she tuned into that shift immediately also. The day I was able to walk from one end of my home to the other, she seemed to celebrate the milestone in my recovery by racing through the house with excitement and joy, grabbing and bringing to me every toy to toss and tug and squeak and play with. Showering me with kisses, playbowing to me, and wagging her tail exuberantly, she clearly knew something had changed in me for the better. Then, exhausted, she curled up and drifted off into a deep sleep, with more peace and ease than she had known for days.

My neighbors, when they observed I was feeling better, prepared a tray of food and treats in a lovely, colorful, creative presentation and offered it to me as though it were a birthday cake. Then they insisted on changing and washing my bed sheets for me. When I was able to manage the stairs safely and take my first walk outside, I was protected by circles—women gathering around me and crows circling overhead. Circles of kindness and thoughtfulness. Community.

Perhaps just like Dixie and all of the people caring for me and checking in on me, the crows, too, wanted to do something to help me, something to demonstrate their concern and caring, something to celebrate my progress, or something to encourage me to pick up my routines. Actuality or illusion—I do not know—but I accepted all of these gifts with gratitude.

I also learned an important lesson the hard way:  I cannot be or do everything all at once in these challenging and changing times that affect every aspect of life. In a spiritual and mental state of imbalance and disharmony, I needed to take time to slow down, pause, and reflect. But I didn’t. I felt I couldn’t. Then I was tricked into it with a case of sudden, severe vertigo. I had no choice but to leave the stressors be and to rest in a kind of void with no sense of time. When life seems out of harmony and out of balance, it is important to pause, rest, reflect, and rest some more. That is good Crow medicine.

VI.  Honoring the Non-Human Animals

With Crow and me, perhaps she and I gift each other in the manner of one friend remembering a debt to another friend. Perhaps we gift each other just for the fun of it, or out of love, caring, and compassion. However purposeful or intentional, the gifting most certainly goes both ways and results in deeper understanding and connection. I am grateful for the connection. It is real. Crow owes me nothing in exchange for the food I offer. Furthermore, I do not want to tame her, train her, or make her my pet.

Crow end
Crow

 

As much as I have personified animals in this writing, I try not to think of these quirky crows, cunning coyotes, big-hearted horses, and delightful dogs as behaving like us humans. In theory, I object to notions of human intelligence being applied to non-human animals.

First, the tests of human intelligence are plagued by bias and arrogance. Second, why should any notion of human intelligence be applied to non-human animals? Third, we know that animals are shaped for certain kinds of cognitive abilities by biology, evolution, and human interference (like in the breeding of dogs and the destruction of wildlife habitat). And finally, more research is needed into non-human animal behavior to understand who they really are as themselves, not in relation to us humans.

I have to admit, though, that part of my fascination with crows is not just their complexity, numerous crow calls, and quirkiness, but also how much they help me understand myself. Five months after my mother died, I wrote a piece titled “Someplace To Fly.”  A piece that began as a song and shapeshifted into a poem, it is a conversation between me and Crow. It helped me with my grief.

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Crow perched on birch tree

 

Part of my fascination with coyotes is not just their unpredictability, ingenuity, and adaptability, but also how much they remind me of my beloved friend Miya. After she graduated from college and had done brave, important work for her Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe, a tribal elder said she had earned a new Indian name:  Miyaca Manikici Wakiya (mee-YAH-chah MAH-nee-kee-CHEE wah-KEE-yah). The translation is “Prairie Wolf Walks With Thunder.” She would be called Miyaca, meaning “prairie wolf, coyote.” Perhaps someday I will write that story as she told it to me more than 30 years ago.

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Coyote on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, February 2019
Coyote salmon river
Coyote on Salmon River Trail, Mt. Hood National Forest, February 2020

 

Part of my fascination with horses is not just their power, grace, and beauty, but also how compassionate and intuitive they are. Their authenticity every moment intensifies their powerful emotional impact, reminding me how I want to bring myself to the world. That is something to pay attention to. Riding a horse is the closest experience to flying that I have ever known and a powerful feeling of freedom. I wrote a piece titled “Sidewalkers” about my love of horses and horseback riding.

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Riding Kicks the Dirt, 2018

 

Part of my fascination with dogs is not just how skilled they are at exploring and learning their environment, but also how adept they are at reading human social cues and tugging on my human heart strings. Dixie is one of several dogs I have been fortunate to know and love—Dixie and Pasu being the most special and dear to me. You can learn more about them in my blog category A Good Dog.

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Dixie Hiker, Salmon River Trail
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Pasu Hiker, Observation Peak Trail

 

Dear Crow, Coyote, Horse, and Dixie Dog, oh how I want to know what is going on in your brilliant minds! I see you. I hear you. I honor you. I am grateful for your good medicine. Continue to stand up, speak your truth, give a caw-caw or a howl or a yip and a bark or a neigh, and protect your freedom to be all who you really and naturally are. Because of your good health, your joy, and your freedom, my own are increased.

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Crow and Moon, on the last night of my writing this piece

 

Composed on June 18–27, 2020—during the second week of my ongoing recovery from severe vertigo, which began on June 11. When I started to feel better, I resumed feeding the crows who perch in the trees outside my windows. Writing this piece was good medicine. I still feel off balance, but I am a Libra and a Libra is forever seeking balance. I’m making progress.

All photographs were taken by me. Crow photos were taken in Spring 2020.

References
Animal medicine
Apsáalooke Crow people
Bird pellets
Corvid research
Crow and storms
Crow funerals
Crow Girls
Crow in Irish mythology
Crow medicine card
Crow mythology
Crow symbolism
Medicine in the Native American way of thinking