As you probably know, I normally just post about  birds on my blog and on social media.

My aim is to share my love for ravens, crows, and other birds — but I also hope to convey, through my portraits, a feeling of empathy.

I like to think that the feeling of kinship with another species will spill over into similar feeling for our fellow humans, however different their life experiences may be from our own.

Yesterday I stuck my head over the social media parapet to express how sad and worried I feel about some of the things happening as part of the “Freedom Convoy” currently demonstrating in Ottawa.

Many people felt the same, but others disagreed heartily. One commenter felt it was inappropriate for me to express my political views on my Facebook page.

I do generally try to stay away from politics, trying mostly to share the beauty and humour I see in my subject matter, and give people a respite from the more stressful areas of social media.

However, sometimes it feels that just posting pretty pictures of birds is not enough.

I feel a real connection with the birds I photograph and — I hope it goes without saying — with my fellow humans, many of whom have had a very rough time through Covid.

What makes me so sad and worried about the “Freedom Convoy” is that is has gotten very far away from a protest by some truck drivers angered by a new cross-border vaccine mandate affecting their industry. It has been co-opted to a large extent by groups with far more extreme goals and intimidating tactics.

It’s important that we feel empathy for truck drivers who have been working hard to keep us all supplied with the things we need through some very tough times — but it’s equally important to feel the same sympathy for: 

  • the exhausted and often abused nurses and doctors working through the pandemic
  • the front line workers forced to confront angry people as they go about their often low paying service jobs
  • the teachers and school staff struggling to provide children with some sense of normalcy and to keep everyone safe at the same time
  • people with underlying health conditions (and their caregivers) whose lives are far more affected by Covid than most of us
  • those in Ottawa unable to get around, or get sufficient sleep, due to the ongoing disruptions there
  • people who have been intimidated by some elements among the demonstrators
  • those who feel indirectly, but realistically, threatened by the very presence of swastikas, Confederate flags and Pure Blood t-shirts on blatant display
  • journalists who have been trolled in threatening ways on social media and in real life for doing their jobs

The list could go on …

I lead a pretty privileged life, and I’m chilled to the bone by what I’ve seen and read over the last few days, so I can only imagine how those in the direct far-right line of fire must feel seeing these things.

So, I just felt I had to say something yesterday.  And again today.

I had to say THIS IS NOT OK, just in case, by my silence, anyone might think I believe that all is well as long as we just gaze at lovely birds. 

I believe a huge majority of people in Canada are far from OK with it and that we need to say so, even if it’s not what we usually do.

Respectfully, if you find this post too political I will be fine if you decide you don’t want to follow my blog or posts any more — or you can just stay tuned for more crows and ravens and empathy.

So here we go, resuming normal programming with some pictures of ravens — some in fog and some in sunshine. 

I hope you see in them beauty and kinship. 

The Jon Snow of Ravens

Domestic moments with ravens
A face in the fog
When the morning sun catches the corner of your raven kilt …
Raven profile in sunshine This raven has his own dedicated team of feather polishers. Up at the crack of dawn each day, they shine each individual feather for maximum sparkle.





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52 thoughts on “Empathy

  1. Here, here…good for you!!!! I feel the same way and you expressed these feelings thoughtfully and eloquently. I lead a pretty sheltered life and surround myself with all things positive…family and culture. On Saturday, I found myself in the vicinity of the protest in Vancouver and was aghast at the level of “hoodlumism” and lack of respect for those who happened to be in the area…many of whom were, I suspect, are the same people who turn out for any protest. I responded with a mild thumbs down while forced to listen to the loud blasting and was then given the finger…sworn and screamed at…and louder and longer honking, a clear sign that these were not people who were rational. This scares me that there is so much anger out there and people willing to do whatever just to get their own agendas out there…mostly anti-vaxers. I do believe that the situation the truckers are in needs a change of mandate…in Canada and the U.S. but this fight has become so much more than the truckers rights (more of them are vaccinated than not). So sad, that this polarization is getting out of control and ugly. Thank you for providing us a chance to stop and look at the beauty around us and the freedom to enjoy it!

  2. Thank you, June. So well put. I am sad and worried too, and as an immunocompromised person, I am tired of all the posturing.

  3. Thank you for the blog about the Ottawa convoy that’s been hijacked by others with offensive and dangerous agendas. I agree with you 100%.

  4. I believe we are of exactly the same thoughts and I feel bad that anyone might challenge your comments and feelings. All good wishes to you JH.

  5. Well said. I appreciate your thoughts and am glad you shared them. This world right now can break your heart, but I am heartened by your words.

  6. I love your birds and I love your words. And for what it’s worth, I figure my Facebook page, my rules. If someone doesn’t like what I say there, they’re free to move on. If they argue with me, they’re about to move on anyway, because I’m going to delete them. Canada may have “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication”, but nothing says it has that freedom on my Facebook,

  7. Thank you for posting your thoughts. It is your blog, and obviously you can post whatever you choose to! I agree completely with what you have said…we are *all* tired of Covid, mandates, etc., but there is only one way out of this. It is so depressing and frustrating to see this misguided minority clinging to what garbage they hear in their echo chamber, needlessly prolonging this awful phase we’re in. Kind regards to you.

  8. I really appreciated your message yesterday as it captured some of how I was also feeling, sad, It is important, and our responsibility, to speak up when there is injustice, including racism and antisemitism, and threats of violence against front line workers. Thank you for sharing your feelings and speaking up.

  9. Good for you and I agree wholeheartedly with your position on truckers protest and what the hooligans are doing at the Nations Capital and the monuments surrounding the area. So disrespectful and blackens everyone involved. We are civilized human beings here in Canada not crazed out of control idiots.

  10. I agree with everything you said. Just reading Inez’s post also, and the description is scary. mob mentality makes people brave…too bad it shuts off the ability to think like a sane person. If you aren’t in the logistics industry then you have no need to be at the protest. The truck drivers voice is going to be lost in the louder voices of the “professional” protestors. FB poster’s post every view or thought they’ve ever had; whether we need to read it or not. Whoever made that comment about not posting your views must have just crawled out from under a rock.

  11. Keep up the good work. If people don’t like what you post on Facebook they don’t have to read it. They can mute you too. This should be repeated many times – vaccines protect all of us from Covid, measles Polio, etc

  12. Hang in there. I live down in the lower 48 and have banged my head against this right wing form of thought. I have even decided to just not comment because it causes me so much stress and changes no ones minds.

    This week though sadly one of the Washington State Patrol who refused to get vaccinated and was fired died from Covid. He told our Governor to kiss his butt on his final radio call over the WSP airwaves.

    Very sad but one has to think is this a form of Darwin theory? Karma is a terrible thing and our true say in all this is to Vote!!

    So.. stay true to yourself and the crows who are more flock strong then our humankind.

  13. Good on you June! This “trucker protest” has been co-opted by those with hate and anger in their hearts. And we all have to speak out –

  14. Hi June,

    Actually, you need to turn off MSM (and yes, especially, CBC), and have a look at the Freedom Convoy 2022 FB page itself. You will see the many great and wonderful Canadians who are part of and members of this protest. It’s a peaceful, entirely appropriate protest, with both the media and JT himself generating the completely negative, polarizing, undeserved, extremely antagonistic criticism of it. The whole pandemic at this juncture has become extremely political and polarized as we have all now been fed a “central message” of the benefits of the mRNA drugs. With the remotest debate, comment or criticism to the contrary by those health professionals and scientists who have dared to do so, being condemned, suppressed and persecuted. And whether you are a proponent and believer of these new drugs or not, the key point is, mandated drug policies such have been instated throughout our country the past year are both historically unprecedented and a very dangerous thing. As such, all many, many people believe is that a choice is essential, and that is all. And that is the sole purpose of a protest and rally initiated by the truckers of this country. I don’t think using your site as a platform is appropriate given the acute misinformation and animosity being generated now by mainstream media and our politicians. A return to a much greater tolerance and compassion for all must be restored. And the start of that would be a return to a CHOICE in personal autonomy and a respect for the rights and decisions of all.

    Thank you.

    • You’ll see a group of self-satisfied narcissists, who are not doing a stroke of work while costing Canadian taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in policing costs,

    • That’s what the Nazi’s did – shut legitimate media down and demonized democratically elected government officials, then murdered them.

    • I have every right to use my site and social media to speak my mind. I will also get my news coverage and scientific and medical information from the sources I find the most trustworthy. You may disagree with me, of course, and you always have the right and ability to unfollow me if you find my rarely stated opinions offensive.

  15. Thank you, June, for your thoughtful words. As someone with a public forum, you are right to express your dismay at what some of protesters in Ottawa are doing. Everyone has a right to their own opinion and the freedom to express it in a democracy, but no one has the right to deface memorials, brandish hateful symbols or prevent essential workers from doing their jobs.

  16. Oh, and I truly cannot understand the statement that the protest is about cross-border travel. The US has mandated vaccinations for anyone crossing the border, so why not protest there? Even if we didn’t have the ruling in Canada, one couldn’t get into the US.

  17. Not too political at all June. Those of whom you speak are a very small minority of Canadians. We cannot and should not sit quietly by. We need to express our discomfort with the viewpoints of fringe far right elements in our society as they do not speak for us, and never will.

  18. Thank you June. Your words and heart are, as always, full of compassion and integrity. It is the hate and anger that destroy our unity, our freedom of speech and our hope. Please keep on, and thank you for the beauty of your vision.

  19. Bravo June for having the courage to speak.
    I was raised by a mother who lived through the Nazi times in Germany. Her tales were so vivid that they stuck in every part of my body.
    The times we are living through are 1930’s Germany again!
    Shivers run down my spine every day because I know where this hatred leads. The hatred for all who are different and don’t share their ideology will lead to a building of gas chambers and massacres. They’re already calling for killing and coming with Nazi flags. Whatever happened to never again?
    Those guys occupying and terrorizing people in Ottawa now are coming for us all.

    • Ditto!

      We need to speak up when something is not ok.
      Spreading hate is not ok. Threatening soup kitchen volunteers is not ok. Desecrating Terry Fox’s memorial, a symbol of hope, love and strength, and a person who has inspired millions in donations to medical research, is not ok.
      Spreading lies and ignorance and hatred is not ok.

      The bird and animal kingdoms seem far wiser than the human race.

  20. Remaining silent in the face of injustice makes us complicit. We should all be speaking up even if we cannot do it as eloquently as you do. The sheer arrogance of anyone dictating the “acceptable” content for your FB page is stunning. I’m so happy that you gave them the literary finger by writing this blog.

  21. Gorgeous photos as always, and well said on the empathy front. It’s very easy to get caught up in your own troubles and forget that others are suffering, maybe even worse than yourself.

  22. I’m with you, too, June. It’s funny how it’s only when you don’t share someone’s views that they tell you not to express those views publicly…we are all citizens and all entitled to express our views. Whatever the initial motivation of the convoy, the behaviour of at least some of the protesters in Ottawa has been shameful. And so many people are struggling right now that are not getting the support and sympathy that they should.

  23. Thank you June for your wisdom and your beautiful art. Your thoughts on this issue make good sense and were such a relief to read. Thank you

    I’ve been so confused by this trucker protest and what it is they want. A group of 6 years old’s would be more rational and logical than the people I’ve heard speaking on behalf of the truckers. I want to understand but their arguments get buried in vague attacks and complaints. This pandemic has caused a great deal of suffering and loss. How much more death and illness would there have been without the vaccines? I sincerely hope that convoy fever will break soon and that common sense will kick in.

  24. My mom follows you and shared this post with me because she knew I’d empathize with it. My wife and I just fled from bright Red Idaho to Neah Bay, Washington. I’m a teacher, and I write a blog about my passion for upland bird dogs and hunting (chukarculture.com), and I get the same blowback from some readers whenever I broach something political, which is rare. So I feel in league with you and your thoughts, which makes me feel a little better. So thank you. It’s weird to be in a much Bluer area but listen to the Vancouver CBC radio reports about the “Freedom Convoy”; it’s definitely burst my bubble that Canada was immune (because it was smarter) from the idiocy and reckless selfishness of anti-vax “protestors.” Hang in there. I look forward to being reminded of humanity by your posts about non-humans.

  25. Thank you for your words and for speaking out peacefully! Whether we like it or not, we are all political beings, in that our societies affect our lives, governments and laws control them. Personal is political, whether we are passive and accepting or active and trying to make change. Thanks for saying something! Personally I like to know who’s behind those magnificent corvid photos! The pen is mightier than the sword and a picture speaks a thousand words – clichées but true. Thank you!

  26. Hi June, thanks for your post. Not to worry; I’m completely on the same page as you regarding the sickening actions of these “protesters”. The ones commiting actions of disrespect and hate mongering are opportunists who simply see this as an opportunity to commit these actions. From watching the news, I can tell that authorities in Ottawa are teetering on when to move beyond allowing the truckers’ right to peaceful protest. Perhaps there are truckers who are frustrated with the ongoing effects of the pandemic; who simply joined this action to vent that frustration. But unfortunately there’s the element who are only interested in disrespect, hate and general mayhem. I hope that soon the authorities will take actions to rid the capitol of such so and so’s.
    Thank you so much for your amazing photographs of corvids. I so enjoy seeing them, along with your uplifting comments about their daily lives. How fresh and freeing, if only for a fleeting moment, to soar with the ravens!

  27. Thank you June – of course for the birds, but especially for your empathy, bravery and clarity regarding the impact of the protest and actions of the protesters in Ottawa and across the country.

  28. You have a right and duty to state your feelngs…”I may not agree with what you say, but i will defend your right to say it” or something like that. Thank you for ALL of your posts

  29. I am totally in agreement with you June – well said…it makes me sad and angry to see our Canadian flag being used/abused as a banner by these selfish, destructive, belligerent people.

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