Tag Archives: crows

A Day in a Life: Waiting For Springtime

The jay has waited its turn... Photo by Jan Ketchel
The jay has waited its turn… Photo by Jan Ketchel

I love this time of year, the end of winter, the first signs of spring. The birds are fast returning. We have bluebirds checking out the nesting boxes. The geese have been flying south, their travels etched across the sky in long arching Vs. We’ve noticed that the vultures are back too. Where they go during the coldest months I have no idea, but they are noticeably absent in the dead of winter. The daffodils are poking through the ground. The first chickweed is growing close to the house where we get the most sun. The deer that have overnighted in the woods at the back of the house all winter have moved on. We’ve sighted our neighborhood foxes, ready to start the mating process again. We expect to soon see baby foxes playing about as we do every year. And we’ve smelled skunk, a sure sign of spring!

In the dead of winter I began laying out bread crumbs for the birds, only occasionally. I didn’t want to start a new habit after spending so much time breaking myself of the old habits of a lifetime. I noticed that the crows were always the first to arrive. They’d take what they wanted and then the jays would arrive for second pickings. After that, the brave little juncos came and so on down the line. After about an hour there was generally nothing left.

I started to hear the crows calling at about 6:30 every morning, sometimes earlier. “Where’s our bread, Jan!” they seemed to be saying. “We’re hungry!” And so a little guilt crept in; now I felt I had to feed them. I knew our yard was only one stop on their daily rounds through the neighborhood, but I saw that they liked punctuality and that they actually depended on the meagre crumbs I put out. It was exactly what I was trying to avoid—being predictable. But these sentinels of nature, ever watchful, would not let me be so aimless and irresponsible. And so they call me out each morning, very loudly commanding that I contribute to their welfare, that I meet their demands.

We don’t actually eat much bread, so on days when none is available I scrounge through the fridge and pantry looking for something that might appeal. I refuse to buy commercial birdseed, with its chemicals and corporate intent. I believe in recycling. The other day I put out some sweet potato fries. “Thumbs up!” the birds said. “YUM!” Then I put out some stale tortilla chips. “Thumbs down. YUCK!” they said, and the pile of yellow corn chips lies there still. I’m sure that the Jehovah’s Witness who stopped by the other day and stuck a flyer in the door wondered just what that pile of chips—organic too—was doing there!

My observations of nature during winter lead me to write this blog today. I’ve noticed how beneath the snow there is vibrant life, energy gathering for the moment of emergence. When the time is right, the tulips and daffodils poke through the frozen ground, the wild onions pop up, and the first wild garlic-mustard turns toward the morning light. I was thrilled the other day to see just these signs of life as the snow finally melted in our yard. It got me to thinking about us, how the human condition is much like nature.

We too have something struggling to emerge.... Photo by Jan Ketchel
We too have something struggling to emerge…. Photo by Jan Ketchel

We too have lots of things inside us struggling to emerge, secrets waiting to reveal themselves, beauty waiting to blossom, desires waiting to be lived, repressed memories waiting for the right moment to be known. We too hold back until the time is right. Can I dare to be the person I truly am? Must I wait another season before I finally give myself permission to do this or that? How long can I hold back that which is stirring inside me?

Nature doesn’t think. Nature acts. Nature doesn’t hold back. Nature is in constant flux and change. Nature is constantly transforming even when we think it’s dead, in the dead of winter, frozen and covered in snow. So is our physical body like nature, constantly changing and transforming. Our cells slough off and regrow, our organs totally regenerate every few years, some quicker than that. We aren’t even aware of how like nature our bodies are. Without thought we are like the seasons.

There’s another part of us that lies inside the physical body, our spirit, and even deeper than that lies our soul. Inside this vehicle we call our body these two parts of who we truly are, our ancient reincarnated selves, lie waiting. More deeply hidden from our awareness than even the mysterious workings of our physical bodies, these parts go along with us as we face the world each day and go about our lives. But these are the parts of us that are like the crows calling, asking us to attend to them, urging us to become predictable and reliable sources of nurturance. “Wake up and feed us!” they say. These are the parts that lie below the frozen surface and wait for the warmth of spring. These are the parts that when we are ready will pop up and take us forward on new journeys of transformation and change, in both our inner and our outer world.

In recapitulation, these are the parts that emerge alongside our memories. These are the parts that lead us down the paths of memory and retrieval of self. These are the parts that teach us that we are all the same, that we are all beings of love and compassion. These are the parts that at some point in our spiritual evolution must become the most important aspects of being human. When we are ready we will know them more fully. When we are ready our own springtime will arrive. Until then, I suggest tossing a few morsels of sustenance, a few hellos, a few nods of recognition. “I know you’re there, I’ll be back someday soon.”

It’s okay to wait, but be aware that until the time is right for these parts to emerge and inform us of what we must learn about ourselves, preparations are underway. We may already have received many knocks at the door, asking us to venture deeper into our physical bodies and discover what’s there. We may have already been invited deep inside, gone down to our roots. We may have already gotten to our core issues and our core reasons for living this life we live now. We may have already done a recapitulation or be in the midst of doing it.

The real key to being human is that we are not really like nature at all. We have the ability to think, to reason, and to explore our inner world. We have parts inside us asking us to work with them, to make something happen that will transform us. We have free will, the freedom to learn how to enact our own transformation so we can be different, so we can live our lives in a new unpredictable way, yet fully in alignment with our true spirit and soul nature.

The crows of recapitulation will come calling... Photo by Jan Ketchel
The crows of recapitulation will come calling… Photo by Jan Ketchel

And so, even if it may appear to be quite impossible that we could ever change our circumstances, we really do have the ability to choose how we want to live. We can choose to live as if it were springtime all the time. In fact, I believe this is what our spirit and our soul ask of us, to always be connected to them, to know them in the deepest way.

They ask us to not forget that they are what make us who we are, make us human, for they are the energy behind our human physical body. They ask us to be aware when the snows come, to be ready to thaw the ground and let our flowers blossom in spite of it. They are like the crows calling us to responsible tenure, to attend to these most important aspects of our human condition. It is here, in our spirit and soul selves being allowed to live, that we will truly evolve.

We will know when the time is right to answer the knocks on the door, either in this lifetime or another, but eventually we will all have to answer. We will all have to feed the crows of recapitulation, the spirit connectors that come asking us if we are ready yet.

Today the crows got bread! And my spirit and soul? They got to express themselves in this blog.

From the heart and soul of me, I wish you well,

A Day in a Life: Omens

Nature in full swing?

The other day we watched a swallowtail butterfly alight on our small lilac bush, noting that, in spite of all the bad news lately, nature is back in full swing. But that doesn’t mean we are safe from harm. Life seems to be going on as usual and I’ve noted that people do not really get it that our world has changed since the nuclear disaster in Japan. But this is change that we can’t see, so there is little incentive to believe the truth of it. As a result of that-which-we-can’t-see, poisoned earth and food are not even an issue for most people. Little real change seems to be taking place as to how people eat and view food and this is worrisome.

What are we thinking? Why do we choose not to face the truth of our changed world? How do we protect ourselves from ingesting even more toxins than ever before? Even in local gardening, in growing our own foods, in picking from nature, the truth is that the soil is contaminated now with radiation.

In my opinion, this changed environment requires diligence and questioning on the part of the consumer. It requires that we take the initiative like never before to confront the hypocrisy of the media and the corporations, that we demand full exposure of the truth of reality, in straight spoken terms, so that everybody gets that we are in a crisis here, and, above all, that we push for the closure of nuclear power plants now in operation and stop all plans to open more. There is nothing safe about them.

I don’t think it’s too late for us, or the earth, but a lot of people may have to get sicker before the food and power industries begins to change, based on the consumer making demands based on reality, even the kind you can’t see.

The crows are trying to tell us something. This bird of omen, if you note, as we have, has been flying low lately. What does this mean? The crows are swooping down in front of us as we drive, walk, sit on our deck. They are trying to tell us something— perhaps to be careful, to be watchful. Are they swooping low to remind us of what came raining down upon us from the nuclear explosions in Japan? Are they trying to tell us that our world is changing more rapidly than we think? Are they warning of impending attacks? I don’t mean to alarm, but I really wonder what they are foreshadowing or implying in their erratic behavior? Normally birds of the sky and the tree tops, they are diligent at watching over the world from on high, but now, for some reason, they have left their sentinel posts and are flying at low levels and this is mighty curious.

I don’t take the unseen lightly. I know it is powerful energy, the unseen web of interconnected energy that is both healing and spiritually enlightening, but that is also where negative energy and the potential for destruction reside as well.

Be thoughtful, be careful. Detoxify, heal the self, treat the earth as you would treat your children, your loved ones and she will treat you well in return. Nuclear power, oil drilling, and natural gas fracking are not treating the earth well; they are harming it irreparably and our human population as well, more than we can see.

It is not that which we see that is important now, but that which we can’t see. Keep that in mind as you think about how you really want the world and yourself and your loved ones to look in a few years time.

Take a look at this article from The Center for Public Integrity: A More Likely Nuclear Nightmare that just got posted while I was writing this blog. It’s time to protest the absurdity ever more loudly.

Always hopeful and optimistic, yet alert like the crows,

A Day in a Life: Dancing Crows

Last week Chuck and I had many discussions around the subjects of good and evil, death as an advisor, impermanence, the shadow, accepting that we all have inner demons, negative energy, the capacity to commit murder, and that we must all face these things at some time in our lives or risk having to reincarnate. The subjects kept coming up again and again in various circumstances and encounters. As we sat at the breakfast table early one morning over the weekend a synchronistically powerful event occurred right before our eyes that we just could not escape. It was supremely meaningful, underscoring the very conversation we were having at the time, which centered around the capacity that we have as human beings to hide from our true nature, to want to pretend that we are only good, and how hard it is to confront the truths of our inner darkness. Life would be so much easier if everyone were happy, good, loving, kind and compassionate. I totally agree and could wish for nothing more. But as any Buddhist will tell you, it can take a lifetime of intense inner work to reach even a moment of enlightenment.

The following is a quote from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche, which I am particularly fond of and drawn to almost daily.

“One of the chief reasons we have so much anguish and difficulty facing death is that we ignore the truth of impermanence. We so desperately want everything to continue as it is that we have to believe that things will always stay the same. But this is only make-believe. And as we so often discover, belief has little or nothing to do with reality. This make-believe, with its misinformation, ideas, and assumptions, is the rickety foundation on which we construct our lives. No matter how much the truth keeps interrupting, we prefer to go on trying, with hopeless bravado, to keep up our pretense.” -from page 25.

The author goes on to say the following:

“Reflect on this: The realization of impermanence is paradoxically the only thing we can hold onto, perhaps our only lasting possession. It is like the sky, or the earth. No matter how much everything around us may change or collapse, they endure. Say we go through a shattering emotional crisis . . . our whole life seems to be disintegrating . . . our husband or wife leaves us without warning. The earth is still there; the sky is still there. Of course, even the earth trembles now and again, just to remind us we cannot take anything for granted . . .” -from page 25 and 26.

So, what occurred before our very eyes last weekend that so profoundly affected us, as we sat at the breakfast table and chatted over our omelets and toast?

I was sitting and facing the backyard when I noticed a pair of crows doing a funny dance in the sky. They were twirling, diving and whipping about as if in the throes of a mating dance. This was my first exclamation as I pointed them out to Chuck: “Look at those dancing crows!” But there was something odd about them at the same time; they did not look really happy and I had never seen crows doing such antics. Normally they are very businesslike. They fly with purpose, heading directly to their intended destination with little fanfare or distraction. These crows were acting very strangely indeed.

We both got up from the table to watch more closely when I saw that they were not doing a mating dance to new life at all, but were in fact doing something more like a dance with death, for we saw that a huge hawk was sitting in the tree close to their nest and they were dive-bombing him, trying to scare him off. They were dealing with the true nature of reality: death comes to call; no one can escape it. They could not ignore this truth, but they could put up a valiant fight to save their young. And indeed they did. We watched as the crows repeatedly attacked the hawk, and eventually, scared it off the branch. Their fight continuing in the sky, they dove at it continually, cutting it with their wings, sending it spinning at one point and, eventually, the hawk flew off. I said to Chuck: “He’ll be back. He’s not going to give up. Just wait.”

The hawk came back

Perhaps an hour later I happened to look outside and saw that the hawk was indeed back, his head stuck inside the nest, pecking away. The crows were nowhere in sight, but I could hear their gentle keening coming from a distance, acquiescing to the inevitable. Death had come. They were accepting the impermanence of life, that change had come and they could not do anything to thwart it, their mournful cries marking this truth.

Chuck and I watched the hawk tearing at something under its claw, though even with binoculars it was difficult to see what it was; an egg or a baby crow we could not tell, but the truth was plain to see. Eventually the hawk flew off the branch and, as it did, the crows flew up out of hiding and, with one last cry of pain, attacked it again before it flew off for good. I expected the crows to return to the tree where their nest lay disturbed, but was surprised to see that they did not. “Wow,” I thought, “they really do accept the loss, they aren’t even looking back, just moving on.”

I don’t know what transpired after that, if they did in fact go back to see if anything had survived, but I think they already knew that nothing remained, that the hawk was just doing what he should do, what they in turn do to smaller birds; that it was just nature. But the sky was still there, as Sogyal Rinpoche writes, and they took off into it. The earth was still there too.

What is our life but a dance with death?

“What is our life but this dance of transient forms? Isn’t everything always changing: the leaves on the trees in the park, the light in your room as you read this, the seasons, the weather, the time of day, the people passing you in the street? And what about us? Doesn’t everything we have done in the past seem like a dream now?… We are impermanent, the influences are impermanent, and there is nothing solid or lasting anywhere that we can point to.” –The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying pages 26 and 27.

The only thing we can really count on is now, this moment, this breath we take, this truth that at this moment in our life we are alive. And then the next moment is upon us, even as we let the last one go. Each moment is as impermanent as the last.

Personally, I am awestruck by such acts of nature. They are always thrilling moments. I feel lucky to live where I do, that I can have such moments of brilliance in my life, that I am offered such grittiness to reflect on. I cannot say that I would be able to fly off as easily as those crows did, though eventually I get there. I know myself well enough now; that after many years of inner work I am fully capable of walking on into life without regret or sorrow. I know how to face new life, letting go of the past, though I have learned to appreciate that death, in its many forms, always accompanies me.

I don’t mean to be morbid, especially with so many experiences of life abounding now, each new spring day bringing nesting birds, emerging plants and flowers, the earth reawakening. But I cannot help but point out the truth that we are all impermanent, that we must all one day dance with death. We already do it all the time, in so many small ways.

We must learn to face our own deaths each day, preparing for it in our thoughts and actions, learning from the crows how to let go. We must also learn from the hawk that we too are capable of taking what we need to live; we too kill to survive. We must keep learning from the people in our lives how to face the transient nature of life, learning from them what the most important questions to keep asking are. We must all face the truths of our make-believe worlds and face the grittiest of the truths of reality. I am thankful for everyone who is a part of my life, even if only peripherally, for showing me that everything is meaningful and how important it is to keep working on the personal inner process.

As the seers of ancient Mexico are so fond of saying: I am a being who is going to die. The hawk and the dancing crows teach us this. Chuck and I learned this again last weekend as we watched this lesson play out in the sky. But, in the meantime, we intend to fully live, for we have so much to still learn.

Living fully, sending you all love and good wishes,

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