Too Many Crows.

October 27, 2010 at 10:46 pm (crossroads, crows, life! a lover!, Uncategorized)

In the European mythologies of which I am fond, the land is often personified, deified, implored or commanded or feared, as a horse spirit. Horses are not native here, though. The First Nations words used to describe horses all seem to translate as, “it’s something like a cross between a dog and an elk.” Instead, in the moments in which I speak to the land and hope to hear some mysterious rustle in the underbrush to answer me, I think of the deer that my family saw when I was small and we went for a walk in the woods on midwinter. It stayed still, and we were so silent that we barely dared breathe, and we watched one another from a distance so close that, small though I was, I could have reached to touch its nose. It was the truest form of reverence I’d yet known. I think of the bones of a buck, marked by beak of crow and tooth of fox, that I found scattered in the woods one year ago. The land here is silent and skittish, hidden everywhere, caught only in glimpses before bounding off, or crashing into your car at a high speed.

Three things, of late, have been happening.

My partner and I keep marvelling to discover that we’ve both managed to fall in love with someone who is actually good for us. How unusual. She’ll be moving closer to me in June, once her children are done with school for the year, and getting them here is a task which feels monumental and difficult, and like a truly worthwhile and romantic endeavour.

I’m being sent to a store far outside of the city, a sort of civilised fishmonger missionary to the savage and untaught. A promotion should be forthcoming, and once that is made official, I’ll have to move there. I’ve been saying for some time that I’d like to get out of the city, and, unsurprisingly, the prospect of actually doing so terrifies me. The bicycle ride from the train station to the store, however, is magnificent: trees dressed in their high autumn finery, streams bangled with bridges, crows cawing and white tail glancing at me coyly over their shoulders.

My lover and I have a mutual former partner, someone whom we both loved and love dearly. They no longer speak, and he and I speak infrequently, but I think that we have all been having one another’s dreams. Old scars throb. In quiet moments when we are alone, we feel one another tugging, wondering, waiting silent and invisible in a corner somewhere. There are threads of longing and hope and uncertainty and rage that pull at my chest, that tangle across the world. I’m not normally particularly psychic, but the three of us are becoming increasingly noisy.

So I surround myself with the bones of that buck when I work. Skull and antlers, coccyx and vertebrae and ribs, mark the boundaries of the real world. A trance often feels like something I chase, something I seek. This last time, before I thought I’d found the correct slumped ritual posture of the moment, I felt myself to be surrounded immediately by Too Many Crows. Too Many to see beyond, there was only the black of eye and feather and wing, innumerable black, staring eyes, filling the sky and the earth, keeping only the distance technically required by a small circle of bones. I continued in my usual methods of seeking, thinking the ritual best not broken, wanting to see how the Too Many Crows reacted. They followed. Under water, under ground, they followed. I flew and they gave chase too quickly, moving not like the gliding carrion seekers that they are, but fleet as thought. All of these small crows were one large crow, cells in an infinite body. I chased and they swallowed and kept flying, and their belly was the size of my circle. I thought of Cerridwen, and chose not to have been swallowed, but to find myself riding them, possessing them while they possessed me. There is meaning in this, simultaneously elusive and obvious as a crack in the windshield and a dent in the hood of your car.

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Bones.

October 5, 2010 at 2:23 pm (crows, fishmongering, Uncategorized)

In recent years, the drain connected to the moat at the head of my cutting blocks has gone a bit finicky. My night crew has, too. So I’m expected not to leave them much of a mess, and not to allow things to collect in the moat. It isn’t easy for me, however. How am I to know what I have accomplished in a day if I can’t judge the size of the pile of bones and guts, fins and heads that have collected in piles around me and my knife? Bah.

fish bones

The fish that I can’t afford aren’t really things that I miss. Of course I could steal a bite of them whenever I like while I work, but for the most part I don’t. Those meaty and mild things are, I think, a little boring. I like the earthier, cheaper fish: trout, catfish, salmon, bluefish, mackerel. However, those fussier fish do serve their purpose. They make an excellent stock. I’ve never yet thrown out Chilean sea bass bones without feeling a little guilty for the buttery, rich stock they could have made. So last week I collected the Chilean bones, as well as halibut and bronzino bones, in one of the tubs in which our fish is shipped to us. I simmered them at home with salt, pepper, onion, carrot, celery and garden herbs until the cartilage weakened and the bones abandoned one another. It seems so wasteful that I ever buy vegetable stock, that I don’t do this weekly with the things that I could carry home for free, rather than hauling to the dumpster at the end of the night. And what sort of a crow would I be, what sort of great, great grandchild of the rag and bone men if I left bones so often uneaten?

Last week I used my stock to make a risotto with shrimp and scallops and crab meat. Today I’m making another with Chilean bones again, and with mild, juicy, wild Chinook salmon bones. By late afternoon it should be an Icelandic fish soup.

If you should happen to be in Philadelphia, I ought to mention that as we usually throw them out, if you call ahead to request that we save them our fish bones are free for the taking. A day’s notice makes it more likely that you’ll get what you want if you had something specific in mind, but a sufficient pile of bones of some sort can be saved within a couple of hours.

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We’re all crows.

July 6, 2010 at 12:35 pm (bears, crows, the ancestors, the sky gods)

I have always worked with crow. The corvids lead me to and in my trance work. Even in this city in which there are no crows, they appear when I am attacked, when I take or leave a lover, when family dies or is born. They fly like a black tear in the sky through which these changes come.

When my father was dying and had his stroke, the words he spoke were disconnected from any meaning. Occasionally, with great effort, he could speak in riddles and symbols, and when we solved them he’d nod furiously, fatigued by our ignorance. In one of his last efforts, he called us all crows. He was annoyed at the end by the constant visitors, and wanted time alone with my mother and my sister and me. It was supposed that he felt like the extended family was picking over his corpse while still it breathed. But I wondered what it really was that his elf-touched brain was seeing.

When I go dreaming, there are black feathers and rasping calls. When I die, I’ll crawl off to let those birds pick my bones.

My older niece, who just recently reached the age of reason, spent the other evening in my company, and together we watched the sky. There were bats, fireflies, fireworks, stars. She hoped to see Ursa Major and Minor, or, as she called them, the Mommy Bear and the Baby Bear. And, as she has done several times before, she asked me about those birds, the black ones. She never speaks of them by name, only waits for me to offer, “You mean crows?” and solemnly nods her assent. She tells me that she is afraid of them. She tells me that she just doesn’t like them, that she feels like they are watching her, as if one day they might come after her.┬áIt was dark enough that she couldn’t have seen the odd expression that took my mouth.

Because, really, they might.

The Raven

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