1. there is a poly family of bluebirds that comes to our bird feeder, two males and two females. we had to take the bird feeder down for a month or so because they rebuilt our deck, but we put it back up last week and the bluebirds have found it again pretty quickly. they might be my favorite birds that visit it. the four of them are always together, and two will take turns standing guard while the other two eat, in different combinations.
2. my other favorite is a red-bellied woodpecker who started coming around last year when he was still a baby/adolescent. his name is ronan (as in lynch because you’ve never seen a bird who looks more like ronan lynch until you’ve seen a baby red-bellied woodpecker) and the way i know it’s the same one is that he will sit on the balcony railing and sing for a good 15 seconds before he hops onto the feeder to eat, like he’s singing for his supper. none of the other woodpeckers do this, just ronan.
3. there is a hawk that lives in the area and will sometimes sit on my balcony railing, and about 20 crows who hang out in the woods behind our apartment, and yesterday the hawk was sitting on a tree branch a few feet away from the balcony, and about five crows who were just…fucking with him. They would land on the branch he was on and jump up and down to make it bounce, they’d sidle up to him and caw in his face like they were specifically mocking him. They weren’t attacking him or swooping at him, just…being dicks. He looked so disgruntled. It was really hilarious.
(For all that you belong here, have the dirt and salt and scent and feathers to prove it, for all that, Elsewhere has a hold of you now. Time to see which hold is stronger.)
You go through security, board the plane. None of the metals pull at your bones. Just to see if you can, you spin fanciful lies about yourself as you make conversation with your seat mate.
(The words want to stick in your throat, but you’re mostly sure that’s from years (and years and years) of choosing your words ever so carefully with strangers, and not for any less …mundane a reason.)
I got tired of the submissions from people who are on good terms with the Crows, and appear to think that this is an easy thing to be. The Crows are just as frightening as the Gentry, in many ways. If you start to think of them as safe, or trivialise their regard by assuming you can buy it with minor things - scraps of food and respectful nods that cost you little to nothing - then you are going to have a very bad time.
Thus, as a public service; a trilogy of anecdotes:
The first thing they tell you about the Crows is this: Some say that if they love you they will lead you home, no matter how far you have wandered. But the crows do not love many.
Once, there was a student who paid faithful tribute to the Court of Crows. She offered food and trinkets at noon each day, and sang to them when the moon was full. She presumed herself safe, that she had bought the shade of their sheltering wings.
Then she watched as her roommate, her dearest friend, was Taken out from under one of the Crows trees. In her furious grief she swore revenge, but with summer break just around the corner, her friends thought she’d get over it. That she’d cool her head.
She came back with a shotgun, and a box full of neatly-stacked shells, and her friends and fellow students paid the price for it. Those were a bad few days. People lost friends.
No-one ever saw her again, or a body. But Jim from down the hall swears up and down the janitor came away with a bucket full of red water.
Do not anger the Crows. Do not presume their favour. It is theirs alone to grant, and they owe you nothing.
Once there was a student who took heed of the stories of the Crows. He left them offerings and read them poems, and this they tolerated, though they never showed him special favour.
He grew resentful of this lack, and stepped up his efforts. He bought them lavish gifts; outcompeting those who left them food or trinkets. He praised them during his breaks, striving to outdo those who simply nodded with respect. Every time they fluttered and shifted on their branches without gracing him with affection, his ugly fury grew.
Iron and salt stop only the Gentry. He found a feather on his pillow one morning, jet black and ragged-edged and stained with blood. Rather than taking this as a warning and a caution, he showed it to all who would look; let words boil out of his mouth that put form to what he felt he deserved. The next night, he dreamed of harsh croaks and cold air, and sharp beaks pecking out his eyes and tongue.
He woke up blind and mute, never to covet them again.
Do not insult the Crows. Do not try to buy their favour. It is not a thing to be sold, and you are entitled to nothing.
Once there was a student who was Taken by the Gentry. He laboured under Their affections until they released him into Elsewhere; uncaring as to his fate. Knowing what would befall him if he lingered, he searched desperately for a route that would lead him home.
A black shape took wing from the trees above him, and thinking himself safe, he sobbed in relief. He had always paid his respects to the Crows, and now he wept with joy and promised them much if they would lead him back to safer lands. More came, and he followed the ever-growing flock deeper and deeper down forest paths.
Eventually, he reached a clearing where the bare earth was dyed crimson. Human bones lay scattered on the ground, pecked clean of flesh. The flock settled all about him, and at last he remembered.
Not for nothing is a group of crows named a murder.
Do not rely on the Crows. Do not ask for their favour. They are neither safe nor tame, and they are bound by nothing.