They're everywhere, intruding on our lives: noisy, black crows, soaring around our yards, picking at trash, stalking the pavements for road kill. When crows come up in my conversations, I notice many folks associate them with human darkness - Halloween, bad omens and so on. How could we name our sunny little health food market after such a dark and annoying creature? Here's an attempt to explain.
Human darkness, that puts living crows on the shadowy side of meaning, has little to do with the reason we are called Common Crow Natural Market. While marketing mavens will shake their heads, saying our customers won't be able to get past the Halloween connection, we disagree. Things real crows do in nature are the kinds of things we tell our customers to do. Real crows (not Halloween crows) are living creatures with remarkable survival and adaptation abilities, complex social lives, and ironclad immunity. We think that they are, in fact, valuable models for a good and healthy life!
Crows have family time, when raising young in spring and summer, and community time in the winter where they collect in larger groups to stay warm and seek food. At Common Crow we believe in two pillars of good health - strong family bonds, and community involvement.
Crows eat everything. Survival is too important to them to be limited to special foods. They do eat roadkill, but they also eat bugs, berries, worms, and will kill rodents and competitors for food, like owls. Their digestion is strong, and they can metabolize many toxic or rotten things without ill effect. At Common Crow, we know that all foods are made to be eaten, and while we welcome and support all diverse eating systems from raw/vegan to Atkins, we know that humans need food diversity too. Eating the best of what is available (organic & local!), listening to the real needs of the body and choosing what is best for your strength and energy are our goals.
We also feel that our best defense for immunity is a strong and resilient digestion, and encourage you to take care of that gut of yours with probiotics, fiber and good nutrients.
Crows play and learn. They chase, play on wind currents, toss objects around and tease other animals (we don't advise teasing!). At Common Crow we feel that play and fun are also pillars of good health. A sense of wonder at the world around you, feeling hopeful and positive, being physically involved with the natural world around you, are all emotional qualities which research has evidenced as promoting healing and wellbeing in people but we already knew that without the research.
There's no doubt the corvid family is exceptionally intelligent. A recent research film (viewable on YouTube) showing a crow bending a piece of metal to create a hook in order to extract a bucket of food from a container has created a stir about the kind of intelligence crows have. At Common Crow, we think that active engagement, problem solving, creativity are also pillars of good health and longevity.
There's a lot more to say about corvus brachyrychos, the common crow, and why we named our business after this intelligent and resilient species. After all, we think about crows a lot! But I'll save the rest for another time. Now I want to share a story about crows in our own back yard.
This spring, we had the rare opportunity to see crows build a nest and raise two chicks to fledging in a Norway maple in our back yard. Crows are very private about nests and babies - they hold family very close. As common as crows are, it's not common to watch this process. We were able to observe the three adults (one of them probably a youngster from a previous nesting) build the nest about 30 feet up in the canopy of the tree with a scope from our backyard deck.
I first noticed the sticks. Curved pieces of branch with a similar radius and about 1/4" thick, falling on my car with a clunk every day. Then I saw the crows retrieving them from the top of my car, returning to the tree top to continue work on the nest. Methodical, organized and precise building of that nest went on for about ten days. During that time only the whoosh of wings alerted us to the crows' presence. A nest is private.
Over the next six weeks, we sort of forgot about them, busy at work, as usual. All of a sudden, though, there was a lot of noise up there, and we began to observe more closely: the little ones were getting coached and coaxed on to flight. Hanging over the edge of the nest, whining to be fed, practice-flapping of wings, the little ones and the adults were talking all the time to each other as the adults were demonstrating flight and bringing only little bites of food. Then the nest was silent.
One day, two owl pellets were left on the roof of my car and I knew that the owl left its calling card in the empty crow nest as if claiming it from its opponents. The babies were fledged.
Today, the youngsters have nearly mastered the familiar caw-caw without sounding silly. They are less and less often accompanied by an adult chaperone (one to one supervision and training!), starting to hang out together like teenagers, and I haven't heard one begging an adult for food in a few weeks. The crow family is beginning to shift into fall and winter behavior, joining with other crow family groups and flying together outside of nesting territory.
These summer months have given me the gift of crows' life observed. I feel honored for the chance to know more about these birds, which are life teachers to me. One gift of wisdom the crows offer is about the ordinary things in our lives. We so often take them for granted, looking for something bright and shiny to make life better, but sometimes we need to stop and notice the simple things, common things, that we need to attend to.
A crow's feathers are only black if you look once. Look again and you will see the magical iridescence, all the colors of the rainbow, on this ordinary bird. At Common Crow, our 'healing medicine' -and wisdom - is not about all the shiny new things you can buy to feel better. We always encourage you to attend to the ordinary things in your life, like drinking enough water, making connections with family and community, and being active in nature, as the place we all need to start if we are to be healthy.
In the ordinary lies the extraordinary; in the dull black of the crow's feather hides the rainbow.
You can choose to look for the rainbow.