Crows and Wonders
Updated: Jul 30
Last week, T and I were sitting in a cafe. Places in Prince Albert are only now starting to allow sitting outside, but T and I asked politely, and we have pretty faces. In this cafe, there's a large back garden with trees and a small lake, separated from the street, traffic and thank God, law enforcement.
We drank our coffee and couldn't take our eyes off of one unusual bird who was building his nest. The nest hung from the tree like a punching bag. Its upper part was made of dried leaves; its lower part was fresh and green. That day, the winds were powerful, and the bird seemingly wanted to strengthen it for the winter.
After a long observation, we approached the lake. Another guy was standing there. He seemed to know a lot about those birds as if he was an ornithologist or maybe he simply found them exciting. He explained that it was a Weaver bird. They are very common in Southern Africa, especially in semi-desert areas such as Prince Albert. The males are the ones who build the nest, the guy explained. The males are beautiful, yellow with a black face and red eyes. They have several partners, and they create a succession of nests, usually around 25 each season. They weave their nests mainly from reed or grass and often above water. After the male completes a nest, the female will come later that afternoon and inspect it. If she's disappointed by his construction, she flies away, and the male has to make a new nest; what spirit. If she likes it, she will come in. They'll have a glass of quality wine and live happily ever after. As the Don Juan of birds, he will have to keep visiting his other women in his other residences, and his stack of baby brothers from different mothers.
I thought it was fascinating. Watching the Weaver building the nest is a bit like watching the Dutchman building his house of mud. The difference is that the Weaver only uses a beak. He was also a perfectionist. When the grass didn't fit, he would throw it into the water and would look for a new one. He would go inside for a while, just to make sure the leaves were well connected. Building a house is no joke.
That is not the only fascinating bird I came across while in South Africa. I saw the Cape Sugarbird, Protea and Forest Canaries, the beautiful Black Harrier and Korhaan and many more. I've never been particularly interested in birds, but the whole sing and dance made me think of my wonderous crow, who's probably still alive and kicking; this story happened four years ago.
I returned to my apartment after a weekend with my family. Weekend with the family is always exhausting; mine would also involve an hour of travelling back, usually late.
From my living room, there was a glass sliding door leading to the balcony. As I entered, my eyes caught something black on the upper rail of the door. The first thought that came to my mind, don't ask me why, was of a pile of soot. But no, it was a bird. After a few seconds, I realised it was a crow, sitting folded. It looked dead.
I took a chair and climbed to check. His eyes blinked slowly. I saw he was tired, miserable, hungry and thirsty. I jumped off the chair, filled a small container with water, cut a slice of bread and went back up. I put them out cautiously in front of his beak.
I searched for vets who did home visits and sent a message to one of them. After about an hour, I came back and saw that he hadn't touched the food. I decided he needed some motivation to take off. I knew that a Robert Kiyosaki book or an Eric Thomas tape wouldn't do the trick. Cause it's a bird. He probably wasn't trying at all because he was scared. He was in the house of a human. A beautiful human, but still a human. If I were stuck in the house of a violent gun-loving giant, I'd also freak out. So I took a cloth and quietly approached, trying to pick him up. I wanted to put him on the balcony so that he'd be less afraid and might find the strength to fly. I didn't know what else I could do.
Bless those hands with which I pet my cat, the crow reacted with terror and waved its wings wildly. He rose a little, then dropped and landed behind the couch unsteadily.
I was frightened too. Panic is contagious, and I know better than to mess with crows. I went down to check on him. He was still breathing. I lowered the water and the bread and placed it behind the couch. I then went to see if the vet had called me back. He hadn't. It was Saturday night; some Israelis don't like to work on Saturday night. Especially in the life-saving industry.
I made sure all the windows and the door to the porch were open so that if he miraculously recovered, he could fly out. I locked my curious cat in my room with her box so she'd stop trying to hunt an already dying game, and went to bed.
Now, I know what you think. A crow, in the prime of his life, couldn't make it in a small Israeli apartment, from the window to the couch. This, my friends, is the point where you pack up your little bag of tricks, and you call it a day. Not my wonderous crow.
The next morning, with sleep still in my eyes, I went to look behind the couch. The bread and water were there, right where I left them, but the crow had disappeared.
I found myself mumbling, "God, full of mercy, Who dwelleth above, provide a sure rest on the wings of the crow..."
There were only two options: either he found the strength and flew to freedom, or landed on the tarmac below and died before waving my apartment goodbye. I ran to the balcony, looked down and studied the street. I saw no sign of a crow's body. Maybe I didn't see him, or maybe he managed to get a bit further away before crashing to his death.
Full of questions, I went to the bathroom. After all, I had just woken up. Right before I sat down on the toilet, my eyes detected something strange. Inside the toilet, a black crow lay, not moving.
Again, there were only two options that I could think of: either the cat somehow managed to get out of the room last night, attacked him and tossed him in the toilet, or he was looking for a water source and crawled inside on his own. The first option didn't make sense, because when I woke up, the cat was in my room, and the door was closed. The second option was also unlikely, but there was no other explanation. As I peed in the shower, I tried to recall all the Sherlock Holmes books I'd read. There were many of them, and none included an answer to a mystery of that kind. When I was done peeing and reviewing all of Doyle's mysteries in my head, I went back to the toilet to take a closer look. I was trying to figure out if he was dead or alive.
I was relieved when he moved. I don't know why I was so relieved; I guess last night's hostile acquaintance left a real subconscious impression on me. Then it got interesting, if it wasn't already. His right-wing moved left and right, up and down. His head turned left and right, up and down. The left-wing. The legs. I stood there, leaning over the toilet like a teenage girl who drank too much. I stared in awe at the performance and couldn't take my eyes off him. This wonderous crow, limb by limb, gave himself physiotherapy. After about fifteen minutes of utter fascination, at which the crow moved every muscle of his body back and forth, I realised I was late for work. I left, leaving a window wide-open behind me.
When I returned that afternoon, I immediately went to the bathroom. I wanted to see what happened to the crow. He was no longer there, and there was no trace of him at the house.
Papaya always used to say that my totem animal is no doubt a crow.
Firstly, I had many weird acquaintances with crows over the years. Like that one time a crow flew so close near my ear, I felt a wing against it. Or that time I walked through the park at night, and a murder of crows cawed at me so loud I found myself running. Or the worst one, the crow that raced right at me, cawing, not realising I was behind a window. Secondly, He claimed I have many "crow" characteristics. And finally, because in my fiction, there are frequent crow appearances.
Crows are smart and elegant birds and have so many beautiful traits, so naturally, I accepted the compliment.
This master crow was somehow able to crawl his way into a questionable source of water. He got in there by himself with a broken body, gave himself physiotherapy, recovered and then flew out the window.
I'm full of wonder. There's no school for birds on how to fly or sing, ways of healing oneself in case of emergency, no courses of nest building for beginners... how do they know what they're doing, with their little bird brains?
Moreover, they do the same, generation after generation, and need no instruction. I don't think I'll ever understand.
"Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more."
Edgar Allen Poe