Tag Archives: crows

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…

The Ants Go Marching…and marching…and marching

…until death do they part.

Ants-300x240Us and Them

Ever since I wrote Corvus Rising, I’ve considered in great depth and detail how the other living beings on Earth are more like us than not. We humans are fond of viewing our species at the top of the evolutionary ladder that we invented to explain the differences in anatomy and intelligence between Us and Them.

Our species is evidently highly favored: the very Deity we invented created Us to have dominion over Them.

More and more, however, it is apparent that our world view of creation is all wrong.

In the case of the corvidae (crows, ravens, magpies, jays…) we now know that their brains are very nearly the same size as ours (proportional to their bodies) and that they are not only intelligent, but sentient as well. (The Gifts of the Crow, Mazluff, 2012)

And then there’s that little pufferfish, whose connection to the Universe I share. Blows me away. We are all hooked into the same life-giving forces, by whatever deity you or I wish to call it. I like to call it Art.

Them Ants…

Ants are pretty cool; among my favorite books as a child was The City Under the Back Steps—a marvelous story of a couple of kids who magically get shrunk down to ant size.

Ant_Receives_Honeydew_from_AphidThe children are shown all around the colony by the ants, and were instructed (as I was) in many of the ways of all ants. For instance: the ants kept herds of aphids and milked them for the sugars the little buggers sucked out of the rosebush. They really do that.  (Read more about how ants milk aphids here…)

Natural science from a fictional children’s book: a marvelous way to learn.

I am a fan of ants, more or less. As long as they don’t invade my house or sting me.

I watched nervously one summer as a gigantic ant colony constructed a subterranean civilization around the size of Denver (relatively speaking, of course) in my backyard.

Ant-Farm
Click image for more info about ants & ant colonies

The problem with the humongous ant colony in my back yard: their sheer numbers so close to where I live.  They kept opening up exits and entrances all over the place, including right next to the porch and back steps. Made me nervous.

These are the kind of ants with the big jaws on their heads connected a sack of poison on the other end that is at least a third the size of their whole bodies.

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Black Garden Ant.

Ant bites are bad news. Painful bad news. Every time one injects me with its personal stash of formic acid, it’s worse than the time before. So I am looking a little askance at the city under my back steps. I don’t want them there, but there they are.

And I am outnumbered. Pathetically outnumbered.

My father used to pour gasoline down ant holes and light it. Horrifying. So are pesticides. I do believe the ants have a right to be alive and pursue their ant-like goals. Just not so close to my soft, living flesh.

I didn’t want to kill them. I just wanted them to move. I flooded them out with the garden hose, a slow trickle of water that filled up the vast network of caverns and passageways. Jillions of ants floated up and out; most found things to cling to and rode the current to edge of dry land where they disemarked.

As soon as I turned off the water, the ants went to work re-building what I had ruined. The next day, I filled the ant hole up again, and ants bubbled up again. When the flood stopped, the ants started building again. I marveled that none of them went belly up on the sidelines, waving their six little legs in the air, otherwise whining and bellyaching about unfair the universe is, or how hard their lives are.

We do that. The animals don’t. They get over it and get on with living.sad-bug-with-napsack-smaller

Why can’t we?

The end of the ant story: I kept watering the ant hole and they kept rebuilding. I admired the hell of them. No complaining, no retaliation. Just one foot in front of the other five, and with a pebble in each jaw, they rebuilt.

And I kept destroying. We went on like this for days, me alternately admiring them and destroying them; the ants just kept rebuilding.

Persistence is Everything

They finally moved. They got sick of it, evidently, of spending all their time rebuilding their colony after the continued disaster I brought them. So they moved, lock stock and nursery to the alley behind the house.

Beyond the reach of my hose…

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Banksy

 

 

 

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

Custom Book Covers

Words of Art

The art on the cover attracts me to a book in the first place. In the absence of eye candy, I am drawn to catchy titles—kind of like at the horse races. I cruise the racing form for the cool names like Mickey Blue Eyes, or Quicksilver. Queen of Swords. Names that inspire me to squander a few bucks on a completely random outcome. But I hardly ever go to the races….a whole other story.

I am also drawn to wine and beer by the art—color and imagery—on the label. A practice that is no doubt every bit as effective as how I choose the horse most likely to win the race. The image is a powerful tool….being worth 10,000 words, they say.new

803707_553f_625x1000Color is worth at least that many words, as it conveys volumes of information and activates emotional responses to the environment. Lots of animals see only the colors of their food in the landscape, but we humans see myriad colors—perhaps because we are omnivores and therefore our food can be of any color.

And, the color of the horse would probably figure into my calculus of who might win the race, if I got to see it first.

I’m into words too—as is evident by this webpage and a published book. I love Art also. Capital A, my whole life, just about (thanks Ma!).

I love it all, do it all. Painting. Pottery. Jewelry. Textiles. Book covers. They’re canvasses, you know. What a perfect place to be…making words of art, and pictures of words.

Indie authors, Indie Covers

The first of my cover designs was for my own book, Corvus Rising — a book about a mysterious island of talking crows who enlist the help of a few humans to save the island from a developer’s bulldozers. It’s a fairly low-tech cover as they go these days, meaning minimal computer graphics. I had a specific vision of the cover that I splashed out into the world, using mostly traditional methods to create imagery in my head: water color, pen and ink drawings.

Since then, I’ve been in the business of making covers for other authors. Following is a list of them. Click on covers and bolded text for more information.

 

As I Recollect… a memoir by huck Gaylord

I laughed out loud many times as i formatted this book. Author huck Gaylord recounts his life as a horse-logger, Viet Nam war vet, and the decades-long love affair with his wife, Mary.  Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1542914205

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Facing Up—a Patient’s Guide to Healing the Face, by Lois Hawk Todd

facingup

With truth, humor and compassion, Lois Hawk Todd chronicles the highs and lows of two catastrophic injuries to her face. She tells the story of her arduous journey of healing through multiple surgeries—with some wise words for all of us who walk this Earth, with or without such injury.
The bravest woman I know…

Find Lois’s book here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LX28O0C/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

 

The Devastation of Bartholomew Ka, by Sunshine Knight

knight_cover_6-12-16

Book 1 of the story of an unfulfilled ghost haunting an old house…

Cover design and creation by up and coming graphic artist, Chris Allen—I only helped a bit with the formatting…

Find Sunshine’s book here:

https://www.amazon.com/Devastation-Bartholomew-Ka-Book-ebook/dp/B01HAPV6QO

 

Bound for the Western Sea—the Canine Account of the Lewis & Clark Expedition

Adobe Photoshop PDF

A well-researched story about the Corps of Discovery led by the famed Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark in the search for the Northwest Passage.
And Meriwether’s loyal, intelligent and sage  Newfoundland hound, Seaman.

Find Laura Lee’s book here:

https://www.amazon.com/Bound-Western-Sea-Account-Expedition/dp/0997349107/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1483640239&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=bound+for+the+western+sea

 

U Got To Have You Some Fun, by Andrew Harkless

UGottaHaveUSomeFun_PODThis book tells a story about an ordinary man on a cruise, and how the people he met changed his life.

I used a very large amount of imagery in the form of photographs from the author, the editor, and the internet. We were able to find a number of sites where images are really free, giving the author a completely custom cover for a very affordable price.

The people on the ramp are all characters from the book, and the guy with his back to us—that’s none other than Andy Harkless, who sent us this fabulous portrait of his backside. I had to Photoshop him a bit, making him look more like the kind of guy who runs a desk, rather than, how shall we say, a more active man.

Thank heavens for computer graphics and the internet!

They came from everywhere, the passengers of this cruise. These are the random folks in life, the ones you never choose to spend a lot of time with, but who make a lasting impact on your life. Do go on a cruise, or a backpacking trip or a raft trip down the Grand Canyon. You’ll see what we mean.

I say ‘we’ because a custom cover like this one is a group effort that involves the author, the cover designer, and the editor/publisher. Together, we worked to get this book published.

UGotTo_Paperback-Cover-2.12.15And then ‘we’ redesigned U Gotta, as I came to affectionately call this book. The author had always cherished the idea of a painting of a cruise ship…and we delivered.
Find Andrews’s book here:

https://www.amazon.com/Got-Have-Some-Fun-ebook/dp/B00O4EJ1M6

 

L’Orange Fire, by Michael McLarnon

L'OrangeFireCoverFinal_688A psychological/mystery thriller of a time in the near future, when the city of Los Angeles and Orange County have merged.

The author provided a high quality photograph of an original abstract painting by Gilbert Plante, of Quebec City, Canada. The rich reds and yellows gives a sense of intense flames superimposed over an image of downtown Los Angeles.

Find Michael’s book here:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NADW6OC/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

 

An Abduction Revelation, by Thomas L. Hay

Cover6.8_C-Kid1

A story of the Comeback Kid and his trips through time on a flying saucer, where he witnessed the construction of such notable wonders of the human hand and brain: Stonehenge, the monumental statues of Easter Island , the Sphinx, the Great Pyramids of Egypt…

All the elements of a space odyssey.

Find Thomas’s book here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B009OMF7FS/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

 

 



Secret Testimony, by Barbara Ann Payne

SecretTestimony_POD_Cover.1

An autobiographical story of childhood abuse, suffering, redemption and hope, author Barbara Ann Payne made this book cover as personal as her story. She provided us the photo of herself, and selected the other images for the cover.

Find Barbara’s book here:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HUX9704/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1


 

Corvus Rising, by Mary C Simmons

CorvusPOD_BookCover

The background is one of my watercolor paintings, and depicts an island under a sunset sky. A flock of crows in open and ink flies above the island, while Charlie the blue-eyed crow (an altered photograph) looks on, perched on a branch of a ghostly tree.

A multi-media event made digital, thanks to Photoshop.

Find my book here:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HDQKRUM/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

 

The Judas Crow, by Mary C Simmons

JudasCrowCover2

My eShorty (Kindle) about an injured crow who cannot escape his fate: to lure other crows to their deaths. The cover comprises several altered photos and original ink art drawings of crow silhouettes.

Find it here:
https://www.amazon.com/Judas-Crow-Story-Epic-Betrayal-ebook/dp/B00IELTQ0C

 

 


 

I would love to create a fabulous, affordable Custom Book Cover for you!

Contact me for information and pricing:

TheBookMidwife@gmail.com

The Law is an Ass

abf0c16e325cd1f022ac3a46879258f4A look into some of the many faces of ‘the’ Law…

Man’s Law

That’s the kind of law which governs the Affordable Care Act, paying taxes, stopping at red lights, having to wait until you’re 21 to drink alcohol, as well as all the penalties accrued and assessed for violations.  Man’s Law  also includes a majority of  ‘God’s Laws’—those governing ethical behavior, e.g. the No Kill Law, the No Stealing Law—those things we all just sort of don’t do, as a rule, but just in case we forget, Moses brought the stone table down from the mountain and made it official.

Man’s Law, at least in the US, excludes any and all rules pertaining to False Gods, Swearing, Keeping Holy the Sabbath, and Honoring Your Parents. Oh, and Coveting—we do all get to covet with complete impunity.

Man’s Law governs and includes all judicial decisions. The way that Man’s Law is an Ass can be understood best in terms of a few recent US Supreme Court decisions, e.g.  Kelo v City of New London, 2005, which expanded ‘public good’ to include ‘tax revenue and jobs created by condemning and razing an old lady’s house and building a shopping center.’ Seriously. The government can condemn your property and sell it to a developer.

Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commisson, 2010. Corporations were given personhood, and therefore the government is prohibited from restricting a corporation’s contribution to political candidates, parties, PACs. Representative government becomes government not of, by, or for the people, but for those with the most bucks. The Monarchy of Money. So much for democracy

Then there’s the Hobby Lobby decision. That’s the one where a company, and presumably a private individual as well, can use a deeply held belief in God’s Law to decide which one of Man’s Laws they don’t have to comply with.

I actually like that one—I can opt out of lots of things on those grounds. Taxes—ain’t gonna pay for war no more.

But, seriously, it’s a whole boxful of Pandoras (a famous saying by former NM Governor Bruce King) that we as a country of 300 million probably don’t really want to let out.

Render unto Caesar?

…that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s—so says a gospel of Matthew.

smoking+uncle_sam_taxes

And there you have it. Man’s Law is Caesar’s Law—Caesar of course being ‘the government.’ Therefore, the “Render unto Caesar’ rule must extend  to keeping its laws. Except when it’s a privately-held corporation with deeply held religious beliefs, and then God’s Law supercedes. Good thing we don’t think God wants us to stone women of other faiths to death, or fly airplanes into tall buildings.

What if obedience to Man’s Law (or God’s Law) causes or allows suffering of others to continue? Should one steal food to feed one’s hungry children or let them starve? Is this God’s will? Should hungry people get away with stealing food?

Deities can be spectacularly subtle

In my ecofantasy novel, Corvus Rising, the Jesuit priest, Alfredo Manzi, struggles with whether to obey Man’s Law and be considered righteous and without blame, or to commit a criminal act that will alleviate the suffering of another. He prays to God, asking for guidance. Does God want us to break laws? Alfredo wonders, but receives no answer.

 

CorvusRisingCover2“Deities can be spectacularly subtle,” Charlie the blue-eyed crow tells the priest. “That’s been the corvid observation of human gods in general over the years.”
“As well as spectacularly unhelpful,” Alfredo said as he drew the outline of the grounds of Rosencranz in the sand. “Sometimes God wants us to find our own way, I guess.”
“Well, it might help if you ask a yes or no question,” Charlie said. “Then the deity could catch a bush on fire, which would be a yes answer I would think. However, silence could also be construed as consent, albeit far less dramatic.”                      
-excerpt from Corvus Rising

 

In other words, sometimes we’re pretty much on our own.

 

horns-of-a-dilemma

 

 

 

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.

Hand

 

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…

In wilderness, we find ourselves…

An excerpt from Corvus RisingCorvusRisingCover2

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…”

The 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.

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Category: Featured Articles, Mother Nature

Excerpt from Corvus Rising: The Great Corvid Council

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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

The Judas Crow

The newspaper article below inspired my new short story, The Judas Crow. It’s a rather ghastly account of humans using an animal for sport killing of its own kind.

JudasCrow_copyI imagined what might be like to be inside the mind of the Judas Crow—having no idea about Judas or Jesus or betrayal on a scale it seems only our species is capable.

In The Judas Crow, a ‘small human’—do crows recognize our small ones as our children? do they recognize gender?—nurses an injured crow back to health, brings him food and water, and encourages him to fly again.

The Judas Crow spends many days in a cage, longing for the freedom of the skies and to be re-united with what is left of his family. He wills his broken wing to fly again, never imagining for a moment the act of betrayal he is being tricked and enticed into.

The scoundrel!

Judas was Not a Crow

What exactly would the title “Judas Crow” mean to the crow? Guilt at delivering one’s own kin to their deaths? —a human invention that ought to apply to crows as well as to humans?

It wasn’t easy, this mind-meld with a species not my own. But we know from scientific research that crows perceive, feel, form bonds with one another, and grieve at the death of a loved one, so we have at least this kinship with them.

I wonder what do we look like to them? Do they think we are intelligent? Or sentient? Care about our fellow humans? Do they see the carnage we humans enact upon other humans and yet do not eat them? Moments after death, all animals are meat. Are they astonished at this waste?—what other reason would one kill another animal, if not for its meat?

Who is the scoundrel here? The Judas Crow, or the humans who created him?

It’s in the eye of the beholder, I reckon. But perhaps we should take another lesson from the animal world.  You kill to eat, to go on living.

Not just for the hell of it.

JudasCrowCover2