Tag Archives: corvids

Corvus Rising

Adobe Photoshop PDFCorvus Rising is a fantasy tale told in part from the point of view of crows, about an extraordinary yet nearly extinct group of humans who speak their language. Together, humans, crows, ravens, and a multitude of other birds, unite and take a stand against the destruction of an enchanted island.

The story opens as Jade Matthews, a gifted painter with a vivid imagination, awakens from a nightmare in which a band of crows has broken into her bedroom through a large window. She fears that the crows are looking for her most treasured possession: a strange medallion given to her by the mother she never knew. The medallion seems ancient, carved from stone or a very hard wood, depicting a human hand and a bird wing clasped in friendship.

Jade’s husband Russ is a biology professor at the local university, as is the Jesuit priest and noted ornithologist, Alfredo Manzi. The priest serendipitously discovers the enchanted Wilder Island, home to an unusual population of blue-eyed crows and ravens. He meets Charlie, patriarch of the great Hozey clan–one of the many old families of crows on the island, known to the crows as Cadeña-l’jadia–land of misty marshes and green forests.

Charlie informs Manzi that he is not a freak, that there are others like him, others who speak Patua’–the language of the crows. Charlie tells Manzi about his old friend Charlotte, trapped in an insane asylum for years because she cannot speak human languages, though she is fluent in Patua’.

But there is more to the island than blue-eyed crows. Manzi discovers a rustic chapel built by the man for whom the island was named; an old hermit, coincidentally a Jesuit brother of the 1800’s named Maxmillian Wilder. The chapel completely charms Manzi, built from living trees and vines, with a roof that resembles an upside-down bird’s nest. He finds the old hermit’s bones in the chapel, and a strange medallion carved from a very hard wood or stone, with the image of an intertwined wing and a human hand.

Coincidentally, with Manzi’s discovery of Wilder Island, his superior, the Father Provincial of the North American Society of Jesus in Washington DC, learns that the Order owns the tiny uninhabited Wilder Island, located in the middle of one of America’s biggest rivers. And that a wealthy developer in the city on either side of the river would like to purchase it for development.

With the Father Superior’s blessing, Manzi makes the island his home, just in time to stave off the advances of the developer who plans to build a gambling resort. Turned down by the Jesuits to purchase the property, he turns to a condemnation lawsuit under US eminent domain laws, recently expanded to allow for public use to include commercial development.

The threat to the island is dire. With the financial backing of the Father Superior, a tree-hugging attorney named Kate designs a land trust-the Friends of Wilder Island, to defend it and deflect the developer’s condemnation suit. Manzi invites his colleague Russ Matthews and his artist wife Jade, and his helper Sam Howard to join the land trust and name it Friends of Wilder Island.

Although he risks exposing his strange ability to speak with crows to other humans–a secret he has kept hidden his entire life- the Friends of Wilder Island Land Trust puts Manzi right in front of the entire population of the city, as he tries to unite them against the destruction of a unique wilderness.

While the humans argue over the merits of wilderness preservation and economic development, Charlie the blue-eyed crow and the Great Corvid Council take matters into their own wings. Fanning out in all directions, the crows and ravens gather a multitude of birds of all feathers to take a stand and defend Cadeña-l’jadia, ancestral homeland to the great Hozey clan, and the beloved Bruthamax, the old Jesuit hermit who came to the island centuries ago.

So… what’s a Corvus?

Say what?
Say what?

Short answer: crows and ravens are members of the genus Corvus.
Long answer: <click here…>

Oh, by the way…

Corvus Rising is available as a paperback, and at the Amazon Kindle Store. <right here>

Don’t have a Kindle? Click <here> for free app for your computer, iPad, tablet, smartphone…

Angry Crows…

Respecting the Earth and All Its Inhabitants (Book Excerpt)

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Excerpt from Corvus Rising, by author, geologist, and artist, Mary Simmons.

Written from the perspective of a group of intelligent crows and ravens, the Corvids, Corvus Rising sheds light on the environmental destruction taking place in our world in the name of progress, economic development, jobs and greed.

Simmons wants readers to realize the importance of preserving and respecting nature and the environment.  “Corvus Rising presents the issues humorously with a suggestion that just maybe one day animals will get fed up enough to fight back.” —Editor Post, Living Green Magazine

Alfredo picked up his mic, leaving his partially eaten lunch on the table. “Why do we need wilderness at all?” he said to the crowd. “I would like to answer that with a quote from Edward Abbey, noted author and outspoken defender of wilderness.”

He pulled a small notebook out of his shirt pocket and read: “‘The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the Earth, the Earth which bore us and sustains us, the only paradise we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need, if only we had the eyes to see.’”

A few people clapped. Alfredo smiled as he closed the notebook and put it back in his pocket.

“Too bad most of us will never see it!” a man in the back shouted.

“Somewhere along the way,” Alfredo said, ignoring the heckler, “we gave ourselves dominion over the Earth, which has all but severed our connection to the web of life. We built great cities, where we concentrated power and wealth, while we impoverished our spirits and our wild lands…”

CorvusRisingCover2The crowd had grown. A few crows collected in the trees surrounding the bandstand, staring down at Alfredo. Or was it his lunch?

“Cities weigh heavily on the hearts of men and women,” he continued, “and we must be able to escape them, even if it is just in our imaginations. In wilderness, we find ourselves. As we cherish one of our last wild places, let us become aware of our connection to it and impose surrender upon ourselves.”

“Surrender?” the man at the back of the crowd shouted. “Never!”

”Yes,” Alfredo said, “Surrender. The old hermit, Brother Wilder, surrendered to the wilderness we are now trying to preserve. He chose this wild island as a refuge from the world of cities and men, and spent his life in solitary contemplation of the glory of creation.”

“Who has time for that?” the man in the back shouted.

“Some of us have to actually work for a living!” someone yelled.

Anger surged in Alfredo’s chest. “While most people do not desire such lengthy solitude, it is through these pristine and unaltered wild lands that our spirits connect us to the Earth. As we gaze upon our island from across the river, its wilderness lives within us all; let us not now throw it away for a few pieces of silver.”

The crowd cheered and many clapped. A small crow dropped from the sky onto the table, and beaked a noodle from Alfredo’s plate.

Alfredo turned off his mic and said, “Well, hello little fella!”

“Don’t you know me, Jayzu?” the crow said, looking up.

“Of course I know you!” Alfredo said in a very low voice. “Grawky, JoEd!” He smiled and put out his hand. JoEd brushed it with his wingtip.

“Grawky, Jayzu!”

Nine more crows dropped down to the table, all talking at once.

 

Mary Simmons is a geologist by education and an artist by avocation. Simmons holds a Masters in Science in geology, worked for the US Geological Survey, and has published several scientific papers. Based on her background and expertise in geology, Simmons has a deep interest in the preservation of wilderness and creatures in the face of human development of land. As for her creative side, Simmons enjoys writing, making pottery and jewelry, and painting. Simmons uses clay and ground up rocks from the local landscape to make potters clay and glazes. She currently resides on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. For more information on her book, Corvus Rising, please visit http://www.authormarycsimmons.com/

Source: http://livinggreenmag.com/2013/04/29/mother-nature/respecting-the-earth-and-all-its-inhabitants-book-excerpt/#U3MiyIMB9CPflWBQ.99

Let Them Eat Corn

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The following tale is the fourth in the series of tongue-in-beak stories I made up concerning the ancient relationship our species has had with the corvids-a group of birds whose most familiar members are crows, ravens and magpies. Though I have been accused of anthropomorphizing these birds, I beg to differ. Perhaps they corvo-morphized us.

 

Let Them Eat Corn

As the populations of all three species grew, Raven, Crow and Human strode hand-in-wing into the future. While Humans grew smarter and smarter, Crow and Raven grew wiser and wiser. By and by, humans began to take on an air of superiority over the other animals and looked down upon Crow and Raven because the birds have tiny brains and lacked opposing thumbs.

“We are best,” they boasted. “We are smart too, smarter even than Raven. Look at all the stuff we can make. Whatever the gods did not give us, we can invent. We can out-fly, out-run, out-swim, out-dig, out-build and out-tool-make all the animals on Earth.”

“But look at the mess you’ve made!” Raven scoffed. “Much of the livable places on Earth have been despoiled by your inventions, to say nothing of your greed. You lay waste to everything you touch.”

Humans wasted a great deal, it was true, but there was no real complaint from Crow or Raven. And, there was another plague on, so carrion was everywhere. Life was good.

“I believe we have erred, Cousin.” Raven said after a gluttonous meal at the landfill on the outskirts of a great human settlement..

“How so, Cousin?” Crow opened an eye.

“Haven’t you noticed our human brethren are getting just a bit too big for their britches?” Raven said. “They’re all attitude these days. This tool—making thing you taught them—that was a big mistake. Remember I warned you: ‘No good deed goes unpunished’? But no, you had to be the do-gooder. First you taught them how to make fire.”

Raven had never told Crow that he was the one who brought fire to the humans. Best let bygones be bygones, Raven thought. And why spoil his perfect non-interfering image?

“Then you taught them to cook, and then to make leather,”he railed at Crow. “And then clothing. You taught them how to till the soil and plant seeds, and how to irrigate. You taught them where to find clay, and how to make pottery. You taught them to read and write, and then, then you moved on to architecture. You taught them how to build stable structures that withstand wind and earthquakes and keep raindrops from falling on their heads. And finally,” Raven stopped to inhale. “As I live and breathe I hope this is your final teaching moment: you taught them how to smelt ore. Give it a rest, OK? Give them a rest.”

“Well, excuse me, Cousin!” Crow was offended at the tone in Raven’s voice. “I was just trying to help. Remember how skinny and cold they were in the old days? I just couldn’t stand their misery. I had to do something.”

“Next time try minding your own business.” Raven said.

He and Crow had revisited this argument a million times. Raven thought Crow spent too much time dabbling in human affairs. “It’ll end up kicking you in the butt. And mine.” Raven predicted darkly. “Leave them be, I beg you.”

Crow found Raven’s complete lack of compassion hard to take. “I don’t know how you sleep at night, Cousin, after eating at their table the way we do and then bad-mouthing them as soon as your stomach is full. You refuse to lend a wing to help them when you so easily could. That’s what’s going to come around and kick you in the butt. Taking more than you give back.”

“Bad-mouthing?” Raven said with a great deal of irritation in his voice. “You want to hear bad-mouthing? Try listening to what these ‘poor skinny humans’ are saying.” Raven mocked.

“Here’s a good one for you: ‘Crow is the harbinger of death. Where Crow goes, Death follows. Beware of Crow.’ And they have begun to fear and hate you, and by extension me because they still can’t tell us apart. After thousands and thousands of years, they can’t tell you from me. The dopes.”

 

After a few minutes of silence, Raven said in a low voice that rose with each word: “You want to know what just slays me? We corvids supposedly bring death, yet do we we kill? Maybe an egg now and then, and we could argue for millennia about whether that is really killing…but otherwise—Nope. Not us. We are not killers. Humans, now that’s a whole other story. Humans kill. Just for the heck of it.” They kill us, they kill each other—they freaking kill everything!”

Raven towered over his cousin, glaring angrily. “Yet, you continue to mollycoddle them.”

“Well, disease kills too.” Crow said, still trying to be fair to the turncoat humans. “Look at what West Nile does to us. And humans, they get more diseases than we do. Their plagues, you know, those killed millions. Wiped whole villages off the map. Not once. Not twice, because here we go on plague number three. And that was just the bubonic.”

“Oh yeah!” Raven said sarcastically. “Let’s talk about the Black Plague!” His irritation erupted into outright anger as he spoke. “They cluelessly spread a disease across Europe, letting it wipe out a sizable chunk of their population, and who do they blame? Not the stupid little flea that started all this. Not the cats who the humans foolishly killed, who otherwise would’ve eaten the rats that carried the fleas that bit the humans and made them sick. Oh, no! They never blame themselves for being relentlessly myopic and stupid. But they heap all their guilt and blame on us. Us!“

Raven stomped up and down the branch as he ranted, shaking it so hard, Crow tightened his grip, lest he fall off.

“They act like we killed all those millions,” Raven seethed. “There’s a difference between killing and eating dead things, you know!”

“For truth,” Crow agreed, nodding. He hated when Raven went off like this. But he had learned over the years that sometimes it’s best to shut the beak up.

“‘Harbingers of death’,” Raven mocked. “You like that name, Cousin? After all you’ve done for them? I’ve told you over and over and over again. No good deed goes unpunished, Cousin. One day you will mark my words.”

Crow was depressed. He’d taught humans everything they knew. They were naked,and hungry. Shivering. Without the sense to come in out of the rain.  And now, they are fat. They walk the streets of glittering cities dressed in the finest fashions and they live in fabulous palaces.

“Well, I’ll show them!” Raven raged. “No more human flesh shall cross my beak. Until they start showing a little respect.”

 

For a while, Raven and Crow stopped eating the piles of dead humans resulting from their plagues and wars and the continuous epidemics caused by terrible plumbing. The one thing Crow knew absolutely nothing about.

During the boycott, Crow and Raven took to the cornfields, which provided them with a few of the necessary nutrients.

“It just doesn’t satisfy like meat.” Raven said, turning his beak in disgust. He didn’t care for corn as much as Crow did and he longed for the eight essential amino acids found in meat protein. Nonetheless, he refused to eat human flesh, at least where they could see him.

As it happened, Raven and Crow came upon a human in the cornfield. “Shhh!” Raven hissed, and stuck a wing out. “Wait. Watch.” After many minutes the human had not moved, so Crow and Raven moved closer, walking on the ground through the cornstalks toward the immobile human.

Raven flew up suddenly, right in front of the human’s face. It didn’t even flinch.

“Well, then,” Raven said. “It doesn’t seem to be alive.”

“But is it dead?” Crow asked as Raven leaped to the shoulder of the human. “Can we eat it?”

“That depends,” Raven said as he hopped over the straw hat to the other shoulder, “on your definition of dead, Cousin.”

Crow tilted his head to one side. “I don’t think it’s real human, though it’s wearing human clothing—it’s stuffed with straw.”

“It’s definitely not human, Raven said. “But it is a reasonable facsimile.”

“But what is a fake human doing in a cornfield?” Crow asked.

“Who knows?” Raven said, as he pecked at an ear of corn. “I stopped trying to figure these creatures out about a millennia ago. And you know, I sleep better for it.” He looked at Crow pointedly, a kernel of corn stuck to his beak.

Crow kept up the scrutiny of the fake human. “Wait!” he said, leaping up to stand on the hat. He peered downward over the brim of it’s hat.

“I know what this is!” he cried out, looking down at his cousin. “It’s art! It’s a sculptural piece.”

“In the middle of a cornfield?” Raven asked. “That is odd, don’t you think?”

“Tremendously,” Crow said. “But, on the other wing, it also could be quote unquote an installation. Meaning the cornfield is part of the Great Artpiece. You know, the Great Universal Narrative. Not that I get the association between the stuffed fake human and the cornfield, though.” He shrugged. “But modern art is sometimes like that.”

Crow and Raven polished off a few more ears of corn and took to the skies. While their stomachs hungered for flesh, Raven and Crow refused meat. At least that was the ideal; in practice, well, sometimes the instinct to survive is quite irresistable. Neither Crow nor Raven ever had their priorities so screwed up that eating ever took second place to politics.

“Looky there!” Crow said, his voice rising to the high-pitched squeal that meant only one thing: meat on the ground.

The two swooped down and perched on a rotting corpse of an animal that might’ve been a truffle-hunter once. Today it was food.

“The Food Chain is Always Right,” Raven said and buried his head in the dead flesh.

Crow nodded at the ancient corvid proverb and beaked himself another chunk.

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First Crow, First Raven, First Human…the Way it Might’ve Been

2ravensI’m a big fan of crows. Ravens too. I’m not alone. Googling ‘crow’ gets 113,000,000 hits; ‘raven’ gets 116,000,000. By comparison, ‘eagle’ gets 382,000,000; ‘sparrow’ 52,900,000.

Crows poll somewhere between eagles and sparrows, though not all 113 million hits are from crow lovers—some people like to brag about killing them. But that’s another story for another time. Nonetheless, crows and their raven cousins have accompanied human civilization since we showed up. And they were here first.

They’ve been here ten times longer than we have. Compare the oldest corvid fossil at 20-25 million years to the mere 200,000 years ago that the first Homo sapiens appeared.

snake-constellation-hydra-night-skyCrow and Raven have been with us since our beginnings and made a large impression on our earliest ancestors–for the stories they inspired, as well as a place in the stars. One of the oldest named constellations, Corvus (the Crow or Raven) refers to an old story, already ancient in the time of Aesop:


Corvus, the Constellation

Crow was Apollo’s sacred bird who he sent to fetch him some water from a nearby spring. Crow flew off with the god’s ceremonial crater in his claws. But instead of filling the crater with water, Crow perched in a tree and waited for the figs to ripen. After gorging himself on figs, he  remembered his task, but rather then returning with water, he brought Apollo a water snake and a story about how the serpent had kept him from filling the cup with water.

Enraged, Apollo threw Crow off Mt Olympus and into the heavens. He set the water snake (Hydra) to guard the cup (Crater) of water from Crow (Corvus), doomed to be thirsty forever in plain view of the Crater full of water.

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Water, a snake, a cup, and ripe figs. Somehow I think the anger of the god at the disobedient crow was the very least thing this myth is about. The real meaning of the story, the one that earned it a place in the stars, has been lost.

Many of the old stories are like this one—full of symbols that no longer carry the meaning they once did. It’s high time, I thought, to re-tell the old tales, about First Crow, First Raven, and First Human. Though obscure, what is clear is that we’ve come hand-in-wing down through the ages, together. Not always in friendship, but constant companions, nevertheless

Who Are These Birds?

Accompanying the plethora of old legends, recent research into the intelligence and behavior of crows and ravens reveals an intelligent sentient, species. Interested parties might enjoy this excellent book on the subject: Gifts of the Crow, by John Marzluff and Tony Angell.

Crow and raven brains are wired like ours. They assess. They dream, they plan, they make tools. They observe us as curiously and perhaps as critically and judgmentally as we observe them. We no longer revere them as gods, we might well remember that at no time in the history of the Earth have they ever thought so of us.

Ecofantasy Tales

In that light, I imagined myself to be a crow, observing the human species. From the very beginning when the poor hairless creatures shivered in the darkness … until Crow (or was it Raven?) taught them to make fire. Ever since, with Crow’s oversight and over Raven’s protestations, human civilization lurched haplessly along.

I wrote a series of stories about the interactions of our three species. Down through the ages, imagining the way it might’ve been.

Lascaux-BrokenFirst Crow, First Raven, First Human, the stories…

First Campfire   The sound of the humans teeth chattering on the ground below irritated Raven, and he couldn’t sleep…

Tan Me Hide and Teach Me to Sew  …well before the first human took a bite of the first apple from the Tree of Knowledge

The Still  Driven to drink from the Garden of Eden….


Let Them Eat Corn
…..humans grew smarter and smarter, while Crow and Raven grew wiser and wiser…

Excerpt from Corvus Rising: The Great Corvid Council

angels-among-us-gothic-and-crows-art-photography

Imagine we perch in the trees above a group of crows and ravens engaged in a heated discussion. ‘It’s the Great Corvid Council!” I might say to you. “Look!” you might say, “there’s a human, too!”

A Patua’, in fact—a human who speaks the language of the crows. Known to the corvids as Jayzu, he’s a Jesuit priest named Alfredo Manzi, and he is meeting the Council for the first time.

There are sanctuaries, and then there are Sanctuaries

Alfredo stepped out from behind the trees and walked into the very surprised group of corvids. “I am honored to be among you,” he said quietly to the hushed councilors.

Many of them nodded to one another, mumbling their approval. A few waved a wing at him, and others called out their greetings and comments. “Yo! Jayzu!” “That’s a Patua’?” “He looks just like a regular human!”

Hookbeak, the Aviar of the Council spoke, “And we are honored you came to us, Jayzu. Greetings!”

Alfredo held his hands out as a few of the councilors stepped forward to greet him.

“We were gladdened by the news of a Patua’ on Cadeña-l’jadia,” a raven said cordially. “I am Longshanks. Welcome.” He brushed his wing across Alfredo’s hand.

“Is it true, Jayzu,” a crow spoke out above the muttering, “you are building a birdsanctuary on Cadeña-l’jadia?”

“Not yet,” Alfredo replied, “but someday I—”

“Sanctuary? What kind of sanctuary?” one of the ravens interrupted in mild alarm. He wandered through the councilors on the grass as he spoke. “There are sanctuaries and then there are Sanctuaries, so we wonder exactly what you intend to do in this sanctuary. Some oddball sanctification ritual perhaps? Will you require feathers? Entrails?”

“No,” Alfredo said, “I—”

“Sanctuary?” a few of the councilors said as they looked at one another in apparent confusion.

“What’s a sanctuary?” asked a crow.

“It just means—” Alfredo started to say.

“Sanctuary—the word comes from the root, to sanctify,” another crow replied sanctimoniously. “To mortify and cleanse the flesh.”

Alfredo felt exasperated with some of the councilors, but there was little he could do other than wait politely and grab what chance he could to speak. He glanced at Hookbeak, standing silently next to him on the grass. Will he not intervene and let me talk?

“Ah,” the raven who had asked the original question said. “It is a bathing place then. In this case, for birds. That does not sound so bad.”

“Unless the cleansing of the flesh is done with blood, Restarea,” a raven said. Hoots of denial circulated through the Council. “It has happened,” he continued. “Human use of animals as sacrificial offerings for ritual ceremonies to appease their gods is well known.”

“Will this Patua’, this Jayzu, be experimenting on birds in his sanctuary?” another raven asked. “Perhaps feather plucking for his rituals? Dissection?”

There will be no sacri—” Alfredo said and glanced at Hookbeak standing silently next to him on the grass. Will he not intervene and let me talk?

“A sanctuary is a refuge, Walldrug,” Starfire said, impatiently waving a wing. “Safe haven. Rest stop. Now please, let us remember that Jayzu is Patua’. I daresay he reveres the corvid as much as Bruthamax did.”

“Charlie of the great Hozey Clan,” a crow said, “well, his wife told my wife that he told her that Jayzu knew nothing of Bruthamax.”

Gasps of incredulous dismay pulsed through the councilors, and they looked at one another and Alfredo in disbelief. “Never heard of Bruthamax? How can that be?” someone hissed. “He knows not his own kin!” whispered another. “How can we trust him?”

Bedlam broke out as factions lined up against other factions. “Interventionist!” one side cried out, while the other shouted “Isolationist!”

“Are you all daft?” Starfire shouted, striding to the middle of the two groups. “Or just deaf? Did you not all just find it remarkable that there was a Patua’ among us? Remember thinking the Patua’ had completely vanished? Shocking as it is, Bruthamax is not known among humans outside of the city surrounding us.”

The councilors quieted down as Starfire spoke. By the time he finished, dignity had been restored. A few seconds of silence reigned, and Alfredo seized the moment.

“That is true.” He paused, momentarily shocked that no one interrupted. “Human knowledge of the Patua’ is significantly less than yours. I am Patua’ yet knew not there were others of my kind.”

Thirteen pairs of eyes, some black, some blue, stared back in silence. “I did not know of Bruthamax until I came to Cadeña-l’jadia,” Alfredo continued, grateful for the opportunity to continue speaking. “Since then, I have learned much, thanks to the corvids for keeping his stories and sharing them with me. I am proud to be counted among Bruthamax’s kin.”

Most of the councilors softened and some even had a few sympathetic words of comfort: “Any kin of Bruthamax is a friend of ours!” “Long live the Patua’!” “Long live Jayzu!”

An explosive sound nearby scattered the councilors, and someone shouted, “Meeting adjourned!”

Alfredo was suddenly alone with Hookbeak and Starfire in the small clearing. He waited for a few minutes for the Aviar to speak, but the old raven kept silent and still as stone, listening. Not a creature stirred. Even the insects had been silenced.

“Thank the Great Orb for that explosion,” Starfire said at last. “Nothing scatters the corvids like the sound of gunfire. Otherwise we would be beaking this to death till sunset.”

“I thought it was just a car backfire,” Alfredo said.

“It was,” Hookbeak said. “But no matter, we accomplished what we wanted today.”

“We did?” Alfredo said.

“Yes,” the Aviar replied and leaped into the sky.

“Indeed, Jayzu,” Starfire said. “Thank you.” He flapped his wings and took off after Hookbeak.

“For what?” Alfredo called out after the ravens as they flew away. “What did we accomplish?”

But the ravens were gone and he was alone, but for several black feathers that lay on the grass, twitching in the breeze.

∞∞∞

Insofar as corvids are very much like us, I imagine their Council might resemble our Congress—a group of bickering factions that peck irrelevant minutiae to death without accomplishing much. Perhaps I corvopomorphise

Perhaps not, given the history of our relationship with these birds…in any case, Corvus Rising is a fantasy….an Ecofantasy of mine that we could all be Patua’…

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 About Corvus Rising, and where to get it

….click here.CorvusRisingCover2

Haunted from the Inside

QueenNightAn excerpt from Corvus Rising

Jade’s face broke into a smile. “It’s Queen of the Night, Willow B!” she cried. She set the painting on the arms of the chair above the cat and stood back, savoring the memory of painting it in those early days of her romance with Russ. “I fell in love with him under this flower. God, who wouldn’t have? A gorgeous flower that blooms but once, at night, under a full moon in the desert …”

Pale and luminous, the white flower took the entire canvas. Spear-shaped petals of opalescent white enclosed dozens of delicate, pale yellow stamens swayed that undulated around the solitary pistil. Layer upon layer of sinuous shapes of translucent hues awakened memories of love lost and found.

“I love this painting,” she murmured.

A sudden clap of thunder ended her reverie and she frowned out the window. “Where did that come from?” she said. In reply, big fat raindrops pelted the window and streaked down the slippery glass. Lightning flashed as she reached for another painting.

Frowning at her own handwriting, “12:01” scrawled across the paper wrapper, she tore it open and propped the painting across the arms of Willow B’s chair.

Black birds clung to the brittle branches of bare winter trees against a cold, gray sky. A distant clock tower haunted the scene, its hands frozen at 12:01. “Remember that clock, Mr. B?” Jade said to the cat sleeping on the cushion underneath the painting. “It haunted me for weeks. Always stuck on the same time. One minute after twelve. Pretty well says it all.”

Time runs through your life like water to the sea.

The memory of her apartment when she was in college enveloped her, with the clock centered in the window where she couldn’t miss its reproachful face. Day after day, it had rebuked her, “You’re late! You’re late!” mocking her every moment. She had tried closing the blinds to shut it out, but it haunted her dreams every night, taunting her with the eternally missed deadline. Always running, forever late, never arriving.

Night after the night, the same dream had played over and over again: millions of clocks in many colors, all showing the same time—12:01. The clocks started out randomly and then each slowed or quickened their minute hands until they all ticked and tocked in unison. Tick, the clocks scolded her. Tock, they upbraided her. But the time never changed. 12:01. She buried her head in pillows, but the relentless tick-tock only grew louder.

“You did hear it, didn’t you?” Jade whispered. “It drove me insane, the tick-tock-tick-tock.” Willow B turned an ear sideways. “Remember how I opened the blinds, and the ticking and tocking stopped? And when I closed them, it began again?” She glanced nervously at the window as the tempo and rhythm of the rain changed. Tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock…

“Damn you!” she had screamed as the clock smirked coldly at her across the treetops, its face split in two by the hands stuck at 12:01.

She dragged her easel across the room and positioned it in front of the window. She attached a canvas to it, just large enough to block out that hateful face. “Ha!” she had said and stuck her tongue out at the clock she could no longer see.

But the white canvass tortured her with its blankness and commanded her to pick up a brush. She painted feverishly all day and all night. Exhausted, she flung herself on the couch and slept. When she awoke, the sun had gone down, and she flicked on a light. Winged shadows swirled around the room until one by one, they dove into the painting in front of the window, flying around the clock tower until at last they found places to roost in the gray branches of the winter trees. The clock condemned her with lidless eyes, its hands pointing to her doom. 12:01.

Thunder rumbled across the sky and the rain picked up its tempo as it beat upon the window. She dropped to the floor on her knees and stroked Willow B, asleep in the armchair. “That clock started it all. Like a big eye that never blinked and never stopped staring at me.” She felt a distant purr deep within his sleeping bulk. “I’m sorry I neglected you.”

In a frenzy, she had painted every waking moment and dreamed about painting when she slept. The imaginary boundary frayed between physical reality and the realm from which her paintings sprang. The completed canvasses morphed to life around her, and painted images became companions and critics that paced the room with her, argued with her, cried with her, laughed at her, comforted her.

The entire population of her psyche clamored for immediate voice and she gave in to the irresistible siren song. For days she had done nothing but paint, stopping only to stuff her mouth with crackers and wash them down with honeyed tea. When she slept, the beings that populated her paintings lived again in her dreams. There was no escaping them. Waking or sleeping, the voices owned her life.

 “And then I crashed,” Jade murmured. Willow B woke up and yawned. She scratched him under his chin. “You were there, Willow B. You saw it all. I lost track of everything—when to eat, when to sleep, when to go to class, my friends, time. I was alone in another world until the real one finally banged its way in.”

God, it was loud.

When they found her in her apartment, she was thin, malnourished and speaking to no one but Willow B and the voices in her paintings. Her foster mother, Chloe, took her home and nursed her back to health. “It’s as important to eat as it is to paint,” Chloe had said as she poked another spoonful of food into Jade’s mouth.

She wanted to paint sometimes but couldn’t bring herself to actually pick up a brush. Fear stopped her; painting had opened the door to a terrifying descent. Just after Thanksgiving had passed that year, she took a brush in her hand and stared at a blank canvas. Nothing. Deader than a doornail, that place inside her that once demanded her to paint. Half dismayed, half relieved, she worried. What if it never comes back … what if it does?

She shook the memory out of her head. “But it did come back, didn’t it, Willow B?”  She stood up and stuffed 12:01 into its quilted pocket.

The late afternoon sun broke through the clouds and illuminated the cat, sleeping in the chair.

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First Crow, First Raven, First Human: Tan Me Hide and Teach Me to Sew

The following tale is the second in the series of tongue-in-beak stories I made up concerning the ancient relationship our species has had with the corvids-a group of birds whose most familiar members are crows, ravens and magpies. Though I have been accused of anthropomorphizing these birds, I beg to differ. Perhaps they corvo-morphized us.

df6c072e1fe5a5ce7fc590df721af24cFirst Crow and First Raven had gained a vast storehouse of learned experience in the eons they flew the skies of Earth, well before the first human took a bite of the first apple from the Tree of Knowledge. In the beginning, Raven especially got a big kick out of tricking these silly gullible creatures. They believed anything he said.
“Look! Over yonder, on the horizon! It is the Great Spirit!” Raven would call out and point with one wing. When the humans looked away, Raven swooped down upon them and stole their food. Time after time.

Crow and Raven grew quite fat; they lacked nothing due in large part not to Raven’s trickery, but also because humans were so astonishing wasteful.

“They wouldn’t have to work so hard at hunting and gathering if they didn’t waste so much food.” Crow beaked an eyeball from the severed head of a Big Hairy Beast and swallowed it in one gulp. “They leave so much on the ground for us, which I for one am dreadfully grateful, but if they were more efficient, their food would go further, and they would not have to struggle so to get more.”

“Don’t let them hear you say that!” Raven said, shushing Crow with his wings. He never could leave well enough alone, could not resist wanting to be helpful to these pitiful creatures.

“You see Cousin, in a perfect world, the amount of time we Corvid should spend obtaining food needs to be inversely proportional to the time humans do. That is my famous Inverse Proportionality Rule governing work. Remember? Let’s say they work twice as hard as they have to, which translates into us doing half the work we have. Eh, Cousin?”
Crow’s beady black eyes glazed over, and Raven knew his cousin was only barely listening. But he also needed to remind Crow that his interference in human affairs nearly always backfired. “In other words, dear Cousin,” he said, shaking Crow out of his daydreams of rescue and assistance, “the more they hunt and gather, the less we have to. If they start slacking off, we’ll have to find our own food. No, Cousin. Their wastefulness is our largesse. Think about it. And shut up, please. For the good of us all.”
Crow had always tried to be helpful to the foolish humans. For instance, after they’d hunted and killed the Big Hairy Beast, he had suggested they skin it.
“Why?” the Chieftain asked. “The skin is no good to eat. Too much fur. It is tough and hard to swallow. Even the dogs won’t eat it.”
“No, Crow said, shaking his head. “You must skin the Beast before you cook him so that you can use his fur to keep yourselves warm.”
The humans stared at Crow, slack-jawed. They hadn’t thought of that; the fire in the spit always burned most of the hair off. They ate the meat, and threw the burnt hide back into the fire.
Crow taught the humans how to carefully slice through the hide up the Big Hairy Beast’s big belly and down the underside of its limbs. The humans learned how to scrape the inside of the hide with a rock, and Crow showed them where to find the trees whose bark could boiled down to produce the preservative that would keep the hide from rotting or falling apart.
“You want the biggest pieces of hide you can get,” he told them. “Stitching a lot of small pieces together would be very labor-intensive.

“Stitching?” the Chieftain asked, scratching his aching head. “What is stitching?”
“You make needles from his bones, and laces from strips of his hide,” Crow instructed the humans exhaustively and in a day or so, they had managed to not only make a few bone needles, but to thread them as well with long thin strips of Big Hairy Beast hide.
“Now,” Crow said, nodding as the humans finished poking a line of holes through the edges of the hide, “you can attach pieces of hide together, just make sure the holes line up.” He picked up a threaded needle in his beak and jammed the pointy end into the holes through the two layers of hide. The humans broke into a surprised outcry when they saw him reach underneath the hide and pull the needle through. After poking the needle in one side and out the other a few more times, Crow stood back and said, “And that, my friends, is stitching.”
The humans were sore amazed, but were also clever and deft with their hands, and they stitched together every piece of hide they could find. Soon the whole tribe had fur cloaks, and Crow was very happy to see them all warm and toasty. To show their gratitude to Crow for bringing the gift of sewing, the humans gave him the head of the very same Big Hairy Beast whose hide they all wore.
Crow lugged the head back to the tree in short flights punctuated with a drop to the ground to rest a few moments; the meat was heavy and made it hard to fly very far. He dropped the hunk at the bottom of the tree Raven, who didn’t care as much for the company of humans as did his Cousin.
“Cousin,”Raven said after they’d feasted on Beast head, “I have to thank you for the tanning lessons you gave them.”
“Why, thank you! It is good to see the poor things fending off the cold,” Crow said, ever hopeful that compassion had awakened in his cousin’s heart.
“Yes, well that too, I reckon,” Raven replied as he picked small bits of flesh from his feathers. “But the stench of burning Big Hairy Beast hair made me gag.”
And so the great partnership of humans and Corvus continued. As the years went by, Crow and Raven taught the naked and ignorant humans everything they needed to know to survive on Earth.

Excerpt from Corvus Rising

 
fc5a3f4dd4439aa19a0f15b353773ddeCharlie the Blue-eyed Crow Speaks

 

“Charlotte disappeared one day when she was seventeen. I hadn’t seen her in a few months. Rika and I had our first clutch that year, and I was in Keeper training, and just couldn’t get away. But the magpies all said that men in white coats drove up in a big van and took her away.

She was crying, they said, when the white coats put her in a tiny shirt with really long sleeves that they wound all around her.

She kept screaming. All the way down the road, they could hear her screaming. The white coats took her to insane asylum. That’s what the magpies told me.

I winged it over to Rosencranz, but couldn’t get in, of course; what hospital would let a crow in, even during visiting hours? So I visited every windowsill, looking for her. I peeked and sometimes downright stared into every window, more than once. For two years, I came and pecked on her window nearly every day.”

One day there she was! Just on the other side of the glass, sitting in a wheelchair with her hands folded neatly in her lap. But she didn’t see me. I pecked on the window, but she didn’t hear me. I called out her name. ‘Charlotte! Yo! Charlotte! It’s me! Charlie!’ But she didn’t look up. She just stared at her lap, and I wondered if she had gone deaf.

I kept yelling and dancing and pecking, anything to get her attention. She didn’t hear me, didn’t see me. I didn’t give up, though. Day after day, I showed up on the windowsill at the same time, trying to get her attention. But day after day, she didn’t look up. Until she did! She finally noticed me through the glass! I nearly fell off the windowsill.

‘Charlie!’ she said, with the big smile I remembered from long ago.

Of course I couldn’t hear her; the window was closed. Then she ran across the room and pasted both hands on the glass, as if to embrace me. I flapped my wings and cried out, ‘Charlotte! Charlotte!’ Great Orb, that was a wonderful day! Then a white coat came up to Charlotte and took her hands off the window, giving each one a little slap and then escorted her back to her wheelchair.

‘Charlotte!’ I yelled as he wheeled her out of the room. I pecked on the glass. I shouted as loud as I could. Another white coat came to the window, opened it, and yelled ‘Darn crows!’ as she tried to smack me with a towel. She missed.

‘Darn humans!’ I yelled back at her.

I waited at the window, but Charlotte didn’t come back that day. Or the next. I hung around, waiting and hoping for some sign of her. Days went by. I visited all the other windowsills again and again. Just as I was about to give up, there she was! I pecked at the glass, and when she looked up, I flapped my wings at her. But she didn’t get up, didn’t smile at me or say my name.

I thought maybe she hadn’t really seen me. But when no one was looking, she smiled at me. She wouldn’t come to the window, though. Probably she was afraid they would slap her hands again. She never took her eyes off me until someone came and took her out of the room.
That was eight years ago. I see her often, but through a closed window. I can’t talk to her or hear her voice. But at least I can see her.”

Charlie ended his story; crow and human sat without speaking for several minutes. The pulsating song of crickets emanated from hidden places in the grass. Several loons wandered along the bank below, pecking for tidbits between the rocks and grass. A few gulls orbited a fishing vessel on the river….

The sky had turned the color of late afternoon. “It is time I headed home to Rika and my kreegans, Jayzu,” Charlie said. “Before it gets too dark to fly.”

Charlie left Alfredo and flew out over the river. The sun hovered above the western horizon, sending shimmering hues of yellow and orange across the river…

Alfredo drew his mouth into a tight line as he watched Charlie take off and make a wide circle over the river. Twenty-five years in an insane asylum! Why was Charlotte forsaken in such a place while I am allowed to live in this paradise? Why was I rewarded, and she was punished for being Patua’?

~~~

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What’s a Corvus?

PeekingCrow

The short answer: crows and ravens are members of the genus Corvus.

Bird people refer to them as corvids, because they belong to the family Corvidae, as do magpies, jays, rooks, nutcrackers, jackdaws and a few others.

Of the corvids, only crows and ravens roost under the genus Corvus. Many species of crows and ravens fly the blue skies of Earth, but in the U.S., it’s all about the American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) and the Common Ravens (Corvus corax).

Raven or Crow?

Though they look a lot alike, crows and ravens are not of the same species, therefore they don’t mate.

Generally ravens are bigger than crows, but unless they’re hanging out together, which they do sometimes, it’s hard to tell them apart by size. Their beaks and tails are distinctive. Raven beaks are thicker and curvier than crow beaks, and their tails are wedge-shaped, as opposed to a more ‘blunt cut’ of the crow tail.

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Corvid Speech

Raven speech sounds different than crow speech. I prefer ‘speech’ to ‘calls’, because I believe they are conversing, though we don’t hear most of what they’re saying. So does Michael Westerfield, by the way, noted corvid researcher and author of Language of Crows.

Raven speech sounds more like a croaking trill. (http://www.shades-of-night.com/aviary/sounds/raven1.wav)

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AmericanCrowCrow speech to us sounds like a series of ‘caw’ sounds. (http://www.shades-of-night.com/aviary/sounds/crow2.wav)
AmericanCrow
(Corvus brachyrhynchos)

We Go Way Back…

Corvus is one of the oldest constellations in human history and resides within a group of constellations, the Crater, Hydra, and Sextans. In the Greek myth, Apollo flung the disobedient Corvus into the night sky in a fit of rage, where the thirsty Corvus gazed forever at the Crater–a two-handled cup full of water, guarded by the water snake Hydra. (Sextans is not part of this myth). (http://ow.ly/mBwtb)

urania32Corvus

The elements of the story have become obscure, but the age of the story–Aesop told it–illustrates the antiquity of the Human/Corvus relationship. Revered and reviled by gods and mortals, we are not the boss of them.

Ecofantasy?

What’s that?

It’s a state of mind…a vision of an alternative future, where all of Earth’s inhabitants have the right to be alive, each to its own individual perception of the world, and each with a unique voice that sings its own song of creation. All the animals, plants, rocks, air, and water–everyone.

Edward_Hicks_-_Peaceable_KingdomWhere the Wild Law rules…

“…wild law is a law made by people to regulate human behaviour that privileges maintaining the integrity and functioning of the whole Earth community in the long-term, over the interests of any species (including humans) at a particular time.”
—Cormac Cullinan, author, Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice

Even Rivers have the “…right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles.” (http://therightsofnature.org/ecuador-rights/)

Even unto personhood—
In 2012, New Zealand gave the Whanganui River ‘personhood rights’ (http://www.treehugger.com/environmental-policy/river-new-zealand-granted-legal-rights-person.html)

Ecofantasy

The idea of rights of nature is still an ecological fantasy in the overall human consciousness. I offer my vision of a not-too distant Earth, a planet, alive with organisms, including the entities of rock, air, water that we deem ‘non-living’ but are alive in ways we cannot fathom.

Toward this vision, I wrote my first novel, Corvus Rising, an ecofantasy of crows, humans, sentience, and the idea that we have the ability to communicate verbally across species boundaries.

 

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