This post will have stories … about crows … eventually.
But first, I wanted to share a few thoughts that have been rolling around in my head about the idea of “story.”
Mostly I look at the world in a visual way. I’m a photographer, so I’m always looking for shapes, colours, light, shade, textures and so on. They do say that a picture is worth a thousand words but, for me, the words hovering behind the picture are just as important. Every photograph I take has at least the inkling of a story behind it.
My academic background is in English Literature — so, naturally I’m a sucker for narrative. I guess that’s why, even though my work is pictorial, I’ve come to love writing this blog. The thousand words behind the picture.
Crows seem to be the perfect subjects for both pictures and stories.
Visually, they are fascinating — whether viewed from a distance as inky calligraphy against the sky …
… or closer up, where you can see the myriad colours in the allegedly black feathers, and the soulful intelligence in their restless eyes.
Story-wise, they’re an endless resource. They’re a minefield of metaphor and motif; a stockpile of symbolism and simile.
And character — don’t get me started! Every time I spend time with a crow, I can’t help but see something in their expression that parallels the human experience.
And I guess that’s the value of story.
It lures you into looking deeper into worlds that aren’t your own, and makes your life richer, funnier and more full of empathy as a result.
OK, enough rambling and, finally (as promised) some crow-necdotes!
Tales of Mavis and Marvin
As winter dug in, it became clear that these two had become de facto king and queen of my back garden. For a while some of the younger crows from the Firehall Five would try and horn in on the action, but there must have been some sort of back room deal, because I now never see them in the yard. Occasionally there is some minor skirmish with Eric and Clara who will make forays into the front garden, but generally detente has been reached in the hyper-local corvid community.
On Christmas Day Marvin and Mavis had the garden to themselves, apart from the chickadees, juncos, song sparrow and lone hummingbird.
Marvin continues his fascination with the garden statuary.
Not sure if this was a gesture of affection, or frustration at the failure of his efforts to get a response.
Attempting conversation with the equally taciturn cast iron crows by the studio.
New Year Challenge
The daily offering of peanuts and dog kibble was becoming a bit routine, so I decided to give Marvin and Mavis a bit more of a challenge. Once they’ve had a few easy-picking peanuts and kibble from the back deck, I set up a bit of an obstacle course for them.
There’s a gnarled piece of Hornby Island driftwood in the garden by the picket fence. I wedge a few peanuts in the stick and watch Marvin and Mavis problem-solve how to get them out. First challenge is negotiating a route along the tricky picket fence.
The first few tries had them scrambling and flapping. It’s also a bit of a “beat the clock” affair, since chickadees are snatching them easily from the driftwood while Marvin and Mavis are figuring out how to get to them.
King of the driftwood castle.
After a couple of weeks, they are now experts. This photo of Marvin, showing off his picket fence mastery is now one of my favourites (and available as prints and tiles!).
As usual in Vancouver, we’ve had a winter mélange of snow, rain and wind. Some of my favourite crow portraits are catching them in seeming response to adverse weather conditions. It’s then that they most remind me of myself, waiting at a bus stop or trudging home with shopping. That stoic and and somewhat exasperated look.
Philosopher Crow — or, Mavis adopts a philosophical approach in the face of inevitable.
Curse, you winter! Actually, this was Mavis’s response to Edgar (the cat) being out on the back deck. More like, “curse you, cat!”
So, the crow stories are endless really. I’m sure I’ll have more I can’t keep to myself soon. I hope they get you to look at the crows in your part of the world with more interest and affection, because life is just more entertaining once you let crows in.
Some Crow Valentines in my shop now.