Corvus Rising – Synopsis

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>

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 we know that they talk to each other, as shown by Michael Westerfield’s marvelous book, The Language of Crows, whose recordings of crows and ravens dialogs in a variety of situations tells us their speech is not just about looking for a mate to make little corvids with.

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.

garden_ant_180_tcm9-60508

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…

615645dcfad8ce6a1f0e885b6d4ed1fb

Banksy

 

 

 

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