Crows.

Taylor: When the crows went dancing

When the west wind blows across the lake, it has to rise when it hits the cliffs along the eastern shore.

The other day, I watched a cabal of crows dancing in that upwards rush of air.

Traditionally, a collection of crows is called a “murder.” I don’t like that term. I suspect it was coined by someone who disliked crows and shot them whenever he could.

“Cabal,” to my mind, better fits crows’ mischievous nature. It’s also alliterative.

This particular cabal put on quite a performance.

A couple of them simply raced back and forth, just below the top of the cliffs, riding the air the way a surfer would ride a monster wave.

The rest – up to a dozen; they’re hard to count in constant motion – swooped and swirled just above the cliff edge. Right over my head. So close I could have hit them with a stick. Fortunately, I didn’t have one. So I just watched.

They flipped over and flew on their backs.

They played chicken (figuratively speaking). Two crows rushed at each other, only to swerve at the last possible instant.

They hovered on the wind, just staying still. Exactly (as Douglas Adam wrote in his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) the way a brick doesn’t. Or the way Gerard Manley Hopkins’ falcon rode “the rolling level underneath him steady air” in The Windhover.

They did a falling leaf routine, flopping forwards and backwards. I had never seen crows fly backwards before, but they did it.

They soared up, and let themselves crash, falling like a bundle of lifeless feathers as if someone really had shot them. Then they spread their wings and soared again.

I found myself envying their mastery of the invisible element they lived in.

Can they, perhaps, see wind currents in a way that we humans cannot?

Long ago, I dreamed of taking flying lessons. Of becoming an amateur pilot. Of seeing the world from a new perspective.

I never did it. For all the usual reasons – money, career, mortgages, children…But even if I had learned to fly, I would never have risked the crows’ stunts. To let my wings flap loose? To let go of the controls? To tumble, loose, broken…?

I don’t have the courage to crash with my feet on the ground, let alone high in the air. I’m too afraid of getting hurt.

I wondered what they were doing.

It seemed more than just spontaneous. To have that many crows, all cavorting at once suggests an intentional gathering.

Was it a mating game?

Were they enacting some kind of a religious ritual? Crows are certainly intelligent enough to develop some common concepts of the meaning of life.

And then, abruptly, they were gone.

I didn’t see any of them shake hands with a waiting crow at the edge of the cliff as they left, so it can’t have been a worship service.

Perhaps they were just having fun. Taking a break from the thankless routines of building nests, finding food, feeding gaping mouths.

Sudden thought: Could they have done their dance for me? To tell me not to take life so seriously? To let go, to laugh wildly, to do silly things?

Would crows ever do that?

Jim Taylor lives in Lake Country.

rewrite@shaw.ca

Just Posted

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

North Westside residents can dispose of their unwanted bulky items between June 30 and July 14, 2021. (File photo)
North Westside residents can soon get rid of unwanted bulky items

Large household items can be disposed of at North Westside Transfer Station June 30 to July 14

Starting in 2022, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is extending dog control to the entire Electoral Area D area. (Stock photo)
Dog control bylaw passes in Shuswap area despite ‘threatening’ emails

CSRD board extending full dog control to Electoral Area D; director calls for respectful discussion

The new Civic Memorial Park will incorporate pieces of the 80-year-old arena it replaces. (Artists rendering)
Pieces of Civic Arena reclaimed for new Vernon park

City centre space to incorporate wood from the historic arena

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Most Read