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

The Great Corvid Council – Excerpt from Corvus Rising

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Imagine perching 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.

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