Tag Archives: crows

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.

CorvusRisingCover2

Corvus Rising is now available at the Amazon Kindle Store…click here…

eBOOK GIVEAWAY!!!

-for a limited time (thru February 9), download a FREE Kindle version. Click <here>

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

Advertisements

Crows—Inspiring Painters for 15,000 years

I love crows. They inspired me to write a fictional book about them. In doing so, I learned that they are smarter than our species gives them credit for. A lot smarter. They plan dream, love, raise new generations. And they notice us.

But they don’t make art. We do. And we make a lot of it about them.

Though some fear and loathe crows, many of us honor and revere them as intelligent, sentient, creatures; to some of us crows are a source of inspiration. Stroll through my Gallery of Crow Art in its many forms, from famous as well as unknown artists, poets, and writers, living and dead.

Paleolithic Cave Art

Lascaux-Broken
Paleolithic Cave Painting—Lascaux, France
Unknown Artists ~15, 300 B.C.E.

My interpretation of this cave painting: a crow on a perch overlooks a fatal encounter between a human and a big beast. Gored by a spear from this upstart Tool-maker, the beast prepares to impale the naked, hairless human on his horns, while his guts pour out onto the Earth. The crow is waiting for dinner. If it’s not about the Food Chain, it’s just not that important.

Or is it? Many believe the Lascaux cave paintings are star maps of Gemini, Orion, Taurus and Sirius.

lascaux_stars
http://www.timothystephany.com/stone.html

Wheatfield with Crows, Vincent van Gogh, July 1890

800px-A_Vincent_Van_GoghArt historians believe Wheatfield with Crows-painted just weeks before his death-was van Gogh’s last work.

 “Crows interest themselves in everything, and observe everything. The ancients, who lived far more completely than ourselves in and with nature, found it no small profit to follow, in a hundred obscure things where human experience as yet affords no light, the directions of so prudent and sage a bird.”—Jules Michelet, a favorite author of Van Gogh

Woman with Crow, Pablo Picasso, 1904

33

Picasso painted Woman with Crow during his Blue Period, at about the same time he moved to Paris. The portrait features Marguerite Luc, whom he knew as Margot kissing and caressing a crow. Margot was the step-daughter of a cafe Picasso frequented.

Georgia O’Keeffe, painted crows too. More than once. She painted Canyon with Crows during the time she lived in Texas and depicts Palo Duro Canyon, whose Permian-aged iron-rich ‘red beds’ became the focal point of the painting. Just before your eyes jump to the crows flying in freedom above the red rocks.

georgia-o-keefee-paintings-canyon-with-crows-1917
Canyon with Crows, Georgia O’Keeffe, 1917

After O’Keeffe returned to New York, she painted Lake George with Crows.

karlins3-25-1
Lake George with Crows, Georgia O’Keeffe, 1921

 

Oil paint, real feather. Wish it were mine.

IMG_0042
Crow Painting (Is it Mine?), Jacqueline McIntyre, 2010

The crow is in the painting, the feather is on our side of the canvas. That’s how my imagination works too. Crows step back and forth between it and the world of physical reality. I find their feathers everywhere…
Another unabashed crow-lover:

Crow2
Two Crows, Kristin Fouquet, 2010

Kristin Fouquet’s photograph, Two Crows, graces the cover of Full of Crow – “an independent online literary magazine that publishes poetry, fiction, flash, reviews, interviews, articles, art, photography, and more…”

I could go on. And on and on and on….about the ways and means that crows have inspired our species.  But do go ahead and continue looking…Google ‘crow art’ – 62,400,000 hits.

Landscape Paint and the Chemistry Blues

419px-Johannes_Vermeer_(1632-1675)_-_The_Girl_With_The_Pearl_Earring_(1665)Alchemy reigned at the time Johannes Vermeer painted Girl with a Pearl Earring in 1665. Back in that day, before the Periodic Table of the Elementswhich didn’t show up in until 1869—painters made their own paints from the powders of ground minerals by mixing them with linseed oil.

lapis-lazuli-rough
Lapis lazuli

The pigment in the blue scarf around the head of the Girl with a Pearl Earring, for instance, was made from lapis lazuli, a beautiful but rather expensive mineral to be grinding to a powder.  Unfortunately, linseed oil made the fabulous blue color of this beautiful mineral a bit cloudy.

Linseed oil did that to most of the mineral powders, but there was no way around that in 1665. The mineral powders would be chalky-looking and would not flow onto the canvas smoothly without being mixed with linseed oil.

Better Living Through Chemistry

The Periodic Table going public in 1869 moved the job of creating paint from artists to the laboratory chemist. These days, few artists mix their own paints, or even know what’s in them. I’m a big fan of chemistry, for without it, there is nothing. No rocks, no clay, no paint. And I wonder how they make vivid yellow as well as intense red paint from the same thing. Not a mineral, but an element from the Periodic Table: Cadmium.

Modern painters can thank French artist, Yves Klein and a few French chemists, who created a rich luscious blue paint that retained the brilliant blue hue by suspension of the dry pigment in a synthetic resin, avoiding the murkiness of linseed oil.

They called it International Klein Blue. Yves Klein used IKB, as this patented pigment is known, to paint Blue Monochrome, part of a series of one-color paintings he had been creating for several years.

BlueMonochrome
Blue Monochrome, Yves Klein, 1961

IKB represented something profound to Klein: le Vide-the Void. Not a vacuum or terrifying darkness, but a void that invokes positive sensations of openness and liberty, a feeling of profound fulfillment beyond the everyday material world. Standing before Klein’s huge canvases of solid blue, many report being enveloped by serene, trance-like feelings.

That’s how the Southwestern desert landscape makes me feel.

the-surreal-rock-formations-were-created-over-thousands-of-years-as-water-and-wind-eroded-the-navajo-sandstone

The iron-stained colors of my native land inspired me to make paint from it, in the old way—grinding the minerals to a powder and mixing them with linseed oil. Perhaps because these paints are made from desert clays (see my previous blog Desert Paintings), linseed oil did not make them murky.

35321_1346473504741_6813196_n
Crows Across the Sky, Mary C. Simmons, 2010

 

Corvus Rising is back out there….and so am I!

2014 is almost here. What a relief.  The year ended in darkness, as it always does, thanks to the Winter Solstice. A delicious forgetfulness almost ensued with the orgy of cookies and chocolate brought to me by Christmas. I am grateful now for this boundary between new and old; I can imagine leaping over it and leaving behind all that does not belong in my present or future.

I cancelled my publishing contract for my first novel, Corvus Rising, which meant creating all new print files and an opportunity to fix a few remaining glichés. I’ve also added a map and a glossary of a few terms from the Patua’ (pronounced: pah-TWA)—the ‘language of the crows’—and a new cover.

I launched the new Kindle edition on December 17, (find it here at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HDQKRUM) and am working on the Print On Demand version, to go live within the next few weeks.

CorvusRisingCover2Click here or on ebook cover for synopsis

I left a few things behind in 2013—a home and a marriage. I’m on my own again. I love this new place, this landscape both within and without. Now that the Winter Solstice is many days passed, I feel a sense of hope return.

I embrace the new life ahead of me, the new beautiful landscape at the foot of the Rockies, new friends, new art. Oh—and for those eagerly awaiting and/or nagging me for Book 2, which I have tentatively named Patua’ Underground —it’s on the way! I’ll post updates, details and excerpts as it unfolds.

I’m putting it all out there. Again.

Happy 2014.

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.

First Crow and First Raven Bring Fire to Humans

The following tale is the first 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.

At the Very Dawn of Human History…

df6c072e1fe5a5ce7fc590df721af24cFirst Raven and First Crow had flown the skies of Earth for eons before First Human showed up. They didn’t know where these odd beings came from, and they didn’t care. The fact was, there they were. Skinny and hairless, no claws, pathetic flat little teeth, they were utterly defenseless. They could neither fly nor swim nor run fast. Raven and Crow wondered how they came to be so ill-equipped to survive in the world.

The cousins perched in a tree overlooking a band of humans huddled together below them. “They’re sitting ducks down there,” Raven said, his breath frosty in the frigid dawn light. “They’ve got exactly zero advantages, and no defenses. And they don’t know squat.” He pulled a tick from under a wingpit, spat it out.

“They’re pretty good with their hands,” Crow mused, “though they have not yet learned to adapt to this cold world. I do not know what it is they pack inside those huge heads,  but it sure ain’t brains. We should lend a wing. You know, help them out a bit.”

Raven looked at his cousin and shook his head. ”Are you insane?” He stood up on his branch and unfurled his great wings. “Remember the old corvid proverb: No good deed goes unpunished. You mark my words, Cousin. The best policy is non-interference.”

“I am not interfering,” Crow said defensively, rising up to remain eye-to-eye with his cousin. “I am helping. And so should you, Cousin. How can you sit up here in your warm downy feathers, your stomach fattened by daily gluttony, due in large part to the abundantly wasteful habits of yonder humans. Yet still you look with such a cold eye upon those poor hairless fools shivering in the dark?”

Raven looked down upon the poor hairless fools and wondered why in the Great Orb it was his problem. “I’m sure they were put here naked for a purpose,” he said, yawning.  “They got big brains in those skulls–don’t you remember the one who fell of the cliff? Schmucked ‘em all over the rocks. What a feast it was! Remember?”

Both birds paused for a moment. Recalling, salivating…

“There’s absolutely no reason why they can’t figure out how to stay warm,” Raven said, blithely. “Who taught us? No one! We learned. We had to make our own mistakes, and we’re better for it.”

But Crow was overcome with pity. “How would you like to be out in this wind in your bare skin?” He felt sad for the humans. They were cold and hungry.

In the morning, Crow left his roost and dropped to the ground and told the humans, “You must learn to make fire to keep yourselves warm.”

The Chieftain looked at Crow blankly, his teeth chattering in his nakedness. “M-m-make f-f-fire?”

Crow spent many days teaching the humans how to make fire, but it was all magic to them, and they had great difficulty acquiring the skill. ”It was like the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing,” he reported to Raven on the dismal lack of progress. “Like their own two hands didn’t belong on the same body, and they argued with each other all the time.”

“You’re wasting your time, Cousin,” Raven said with a yawn. “Let them shiver. Necessity is the mother of invention, you know.” He hunkered down in his warm feathers and shut his eyes.

The sound of the humans teeth chattering on the ground below irritated him however, and he couldn’t sleep. “I really don’t see what the big deal is,” he said, opening one eye. “It’s a simple exothermic oxygen-consuming process brought on by the excessive heat generated from the friction of rubbing two sticks together. Intuitively obvious to the most casual observer. I grow weary of their dim wits.”

“But it’s so unfair!” Crow wailed as he paced back and forth on the branch. “We didn’t have to find our own feathers, did we? No, we came with them. But these humans have neither feather nor fur. They’re cold. Who can think critically when they’re cold?”

Thunder rumbled across the valley, and the shivering humans buried their heads in fear under their arms. The wind picked up, and a few pellets of cold rain hit Raven on the head. The sound of wailing below grew louder.

“That tears it!” Raven said angrily.
Without further word or warning, he unfolded his great wings, leapt into the air and flew off into the darkening sky.

Alarmed at Raven’s sudden departure, for the storm promised to be a very wild one, Crow called out: “Cousin, no, don’t go!”

But Raven heard him not, and he flew right into the thunderstorm. Powerful winds and sheets of rain battered him, yet he was steadfast in his purpose. Staying low near the ground, Raven dodged lightning bolts until one struck the tree right in front of him, sending fiery projectiles in all directions.

He caught a flaming branch in his beak and bore it out of the storm, back toward the freezing humans. As Raven approached, the skinny hairless things were trying with all they had to get a fire lit, struggling to remember what Crow had taught them. Arguing heatedly with one another, they had no patience with their own ineptitude.

“No, Dufus,” one human said, irritably. “You rub have to rub two sticks togeher, otherwise the fire won’t work.”

“Fine, Dumass, you do it, then.” Dufus said. He threw the fire stick down and walked off in a rage.

At that moment Raven swooped in, a ball of fire in the downpour. His black feathers glistened as a lightning bolt shot across the sky.

The humans cowered and pled for mercy, thinking they would be punished for being stupid, for failing to learn their lessons, for failing to make fire. But Raven said nothing. He dropped the burning branch right into the fire pit.

“Don’t let it go out, you Fools!” Raven called out as he flew away.

When Raven got back to the tree, Crow was overjoyed to see him. “I thought you were goners, Cousin. Whatever made you go out at that moment? That was a nasty storm.”

“Just taking care of a little business,” Raven said and shut his eyes.

The next day Crow flew to the human encampment where they had a roaring fire and were roasting many fish on sticks. Some were dancing around the fire, others were eating.

“How marvelous this fire!” Crow cried as he skidded to a landing right next to the Chieftain. “I’ve got to hand it to you, Chief, I never thought you’d get it, how to build a fire. And now this! I am astonished!”

The Chieftain looked puzzled. Humans hardly ever could tell ravens from crows, and so he had no idea that it had not been Crow, but his cousin Raven that had brought fire to them. The rain abated and the entire tribe had stayed up all night, keeping the fire lit. They stoked it with anything they could get their hands on.

Someone threw a dead fish onto the fire and the odor of its roasting flesh created a thunderous roar among the stomachs of the tribe . They fished the flesh out of the fire and devoured it.

“Look what we discovered, Crow!” the Chieftain exclaimed. “If you put fish into the fire, it comes out great! Try it!”

Crow beaked a few chunks, and agreed. “Marvelous! May I never eat it raw again!”

“Likewise,” the Chieftain said, as bits of pink salmon flesh fell from his mouth.

“We thank you for the gift of fire, Crow, Bearer of the Flame,” the Chieftain said as he pulled a whole salmon from the fire. He handed the meat to Crow and called out to his tribe. “Hear ye Crow, Hear ye Human! Hereafter, Crow, you shall be our friends, gods though you may be. In our camps, wherever we gather, Crow is always welcome.
“In token of our gratitude for bringing us fire, you will forever feast at our table, for all the days of your natural life, and your children’s and their children’s, until such time as children stop being born. Crow and Human will share friendship.”

“And feast,” Crow murmured.

“And feast,” The Chieftain added. “May we never have less! Let neither our friendship nor our feasting cease!”

Crow flew back to the tree and dropped the remains of the blackened fish the humans had bestowed upon him at Raven’s feet. A few chunks had fallen to the ground, or into his beak, on the way back. Still, there was plenty left for his cousin.

“See here, Raven,” Crow bragged, “you laughed every morning when I went off to teach the humans how to make fire. You said they’d never get it. Well, you were wrong, Cousin. They finally learned. For my excellent teaching, they promise me a chunk of meat, cooked to perfection, every day for the rest of my days, and my children’s days, and their children’s days, on into infinity! I will share it with you, Cousin, even though you laughed.”

Raven chuckled. “How precious you are, my dear Cousin. I am happy to know the humans finally learned something. It’s a small victory, though. Chances are we’ll be dragging them kicking and screaming into the Old Stone Age before too long. I reckon you’ll have to beat them over the head with a simple stone tool before they could figure out how to make one.”

“But they sure are grateful!” Crow said as he snagged a chunk of meat.

“For now,” Raven said.

The two cousins gorged themselves on the leftovers from the human table again later that day, and every day after that, for all the days that Crow and Raven lived on Earth. Their children and grandchildren gorged all the days of their lives. And their Great-grandchildren…..

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’?

~~~

CorvusRisingCover2

Read synopsis here….

Corvus Rising is now available at the Amazon Kindle Store…click here…

eBOOK GIVEAWAY!!!

-for a limited time (thru February 9), download a FREE Kindle version. Click <here>

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

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.

crow-ravenfile

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)

32470_580_360

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.

Magpies?

heckle%20and%20jeckle

“He won’t want to run into Charlie either,” Floyd said.

“Absolutely not!” Willy agreed.
“No–sirreebob,” Floyd shook his head emphatically.
“No way, Jose!” Willy said.
“Under no circumstances!”
“He’d be real sorry.”
“Might as well just throw himself off a cliff!”
“Sooner he should cover himself with honey and sit naked on an ant hill!”
“Better he should shoot himself at sunrise every day for a week!”
“Or boil himself in oil!”
The two crows looked back at Minnie. “Nope, that’d be something he wouldn’t want to do. Run into Charlie!”

–Excerpt from Corvus Rising

Floyd and Willy were born in the projection booth of the drive-in theater and spent their formative weeks watching movies. Armed with a dramatic flair and a taste for worldy cuisine, the brothers take off for the highly urbanized neighborhoods surrounding Downtown and the University.

But it was Heckle and Jeckle, beloved cartoons of my childhood, who inspired my characters, Floyd and Willy. Even my brother thought so.

Floyd and Willy are their own crows, however. Taking after no one but themselves, their adventures comprise visiting trash cans behind the exotic and mundane restaurants near the university campus, and watching game shows and movies from the windowsills of student apartments. That, and spying for Charlie, the blue-eyed patriarch of a great (as in famous and huge) crow family.

532210_10150982033100073_1075011309_n
American Crow

Still, it is only right that I give credit where credit was due, to Paul Terry, the cartoonist behind Heckle and Jeckle. Carried away on a wave of nostalgia and the endless tides teeming with Heckle and Jeckle links on the internet to every possible subject that has ever existed in thought, word, deed, or image, video.

Heckle and Jeckle’s wear white vests. Crow’s feathers are all black. Heckle and Jeckle’s beaks are yellow. Crow beaks are black. Is this some form of artistic license, giving crows white vests and yellow beaks? I frowned, pursed my lips and re-googled.

Heckle and Jeckle are postwar animated cartoon characters created by Paul Terry, originally produced at his own Terrytoons animation studio and released through 20th Century Fox. The characters are a pair of identical anthropomorphic magpies …
–Excerpt from Wikipedia

Whoa, wait … MAGPIES ? They don’t look exactly like the magpies mawing down on the Nanking cherries outside my window. They have the white vests all right, though their beaks are black. Unlike the yellow of Heckle and Jeckle.

magpie

As it turns out, there are several kinds of magpies. Black-billed, mostly. And like crows, very intelligent. Magpies, for example, passed the ‘Mirror test’ (recognizing themselves in mirror) before their cousins, crows  and ravens did. Click here for more…

All of which is beside the point of Heckle and Jeckle having yellow beaks. It matters somehow, even though they are cartoons, that these two have some connection to reality.

Googling….yellow-beak magpie……

The Yellow-billed Magpie

Heckle and Jeckle are Yellow-billed Magpies (Pica nuttalli)!

“Found only in the Central Valley of California….” That’s what the Wikipedia article says.

That explains a lot. Irresistibly close to Hollywood, the two magpies (will I ever get used to it?) Heckle and Jeckle winged it to fame and fortune.

Yellow-billed Magpie

I’ve since watched many H & J cartoons on YouTube, remembering some of them. It’s been many decades. Every one of them opens with: “Heckle and Jeckle, the talking magpies in….”

But I couldn’t read then, back in the day. How was I supposed to know?

I can’t believe I am alone in this. But not many people are copping to the same childhood belief, that Heckle and Jeckle are crows. It’s not as bad as finding out about Santa Claus, or the Tooth-fairy. But still…

I know there are others. You know who you are. Believing in crows all these years. This one’s for you:

Click Image for animated cartoon