Sunday, November 20, 2011
Corvidae is a cosmopolitan family of oscine passerine birds that contains the crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays, magpies, treepies, choughs and nutcrackers - Wikipedia
I never thought of jays and crows as similar, but now that I see the scientific nomenclature laid out, I can understand how they're cousins.
I always liked jays because they were vivid and aggressive, but crows were darkly crafty and tainted by myth. They were just bone pickers who would eat your grandmother's corpse if they could.
Augury has intrigued me ever since I saw its definition, telling the future by the flight of birds. I wasn't surprised that birds and fortune were interconnected, because I'm a longtime friend and student of birds, they delighted my mother and so they delighted me, I've kept them and watched them and tried to tell the future by their flights, like a random iching coin toss.
I don't know how all this bird stuff relates to this story, this story about the death of a close friend, a tragic death, what I call a murder.
Not long ago I relied on the sounds of corvid birds to guide me to the body of my friend. I knew the body was in the nearby woods, but it could be hidden, so as I began searching, I listened for the caw of the crow, the shriek of the magpie, because I KNEW if the body was nearby, they'd somehow smell the blood or feel the presence of death.
Crows have a reputation, and ravens, of being part of the dark side. Their cleverness is reminiscent of cagey gnomes and cunning warlocks. And they love to eat freshly dead, or even putrid rotting meat of animals, dead for days and weeks. Blackbirds have a reputation of knowing the ways of the nether world, and we all know it. They camp near death's door, and relish it, before themselves crossing over to the other side, and somehow back.
When I heard the commotion of cawing birds, I hastened my step to get there,hoping to prevent them from defiling my friend's body any further--because I knew she was dead. The chill of death permeated every moment of the day, today was even the anniversary of thousands who died in New York on September 11th, 2001, the exact tenth anniversary, early in the morning, a day I already didn't want to deal with, needless fixation on the tragedy of death, tearing of sackcloth and wailing in front of impassive stone walls.
As I rushed down the trail in the woods, following the cawing sounds, I saw exactly what I didn't want to see, had never seen, and knew I would see. The cold-blooded eyes of a coyote, right in front of me, usually so hidden and far from the gaze of their enemy, the human male. He stood, then trotted off up the mountain trail, and I watch to see if he would lead me to the body.
This is where the crows were, and some magpies, and they were angry with the coyote. For whatever reason, they were herding it up th dry mountain trail, away from the bottom of the little valley.
I further hastened my step from whence the coyote came, a brushy hillside leading to the bottom of a ravine. When I first caught the glimpse of the white fur I knew so well, my mind rested. I knew deep down that Phoebe, my beloved little dog and constant companion, was dead.
I didn't want to wonder what had happened. I would have always hoped some thief had taken her, instead of death itself. I picked up her broken little body, took off my shirt, wrapped her up, carried her to her grave.