I do not pretend to know who she is and what she stands for – or even what she is telling me (being human and somewhat prone to storytelling). What I do know is that crow stands for me. Watches over, me. Speaks to the soul, deep within me.
Eight years ago when I sold everything I owned, including my beautiful mountain home, it was the crow who saw me off the mountain; a row of sleek and shiny black birds, one on each fencepost, caw-cawing their merry salute to my surrender as I drove away for the last time.
I don’t know when the crow first started showing up for me. Before I left the mountain I had a waking vision:
I am sitting on a large wooden fencepost at the end of a long and dusty road. The day is warm, the sky is plain blue. I am wearing jeans and my arms are bare. I am alone. The fencepost is old and splintered. I am relaxed, though alert. The road is fenced with rusty, kinked barbed wire. The fencepost is one of a pair that supports a gate at the end of the road. Beyond the gate is more wide open blue sky. The odd gum tree, mostly ghostly-dead, rises from bare, rolling hills covered in grass nibbled to dust by long-gone sheep. The sun warms my arms. I sit cross-legged on my fencepost. The occasional screech of the white cockatoos snatches my concentration. I consider going through the gate. No. I’ve travelled far enough on my own. I think about walking back down that sun-baked red-dirt road. Nope, not goin’ back either.
I watch. I wait.
A shiny black crow comes to rest on the wire beside me. I turn to look and her beady yellow eyes are staring straight into mine.
“What do I do?” I asked.
“Wait,” she said. “Help is on the way.”
I wrote to my friend Brunette and told her this story.
She sent me a postcard, saying: “Never doubt the wisdom of a crow.”
And so, in the many years since, I have not.
When I decided to leave my marriage and walk with my son for the middle leg of his 7000 km / 5000 mile pilgrimage from Canterbury, in England, to Jerusalem – meeting him in Rome with my compass set for Istanbul – each morning I would wake to a big black crow pacing the grass, wet with dew, outside my bedroom window.
‘Aaa, aaa, aaa.’
‘Aaa aaa aaa.’
Each morning for three weeks I was reminded that I was on the right path.
When the crow aaa aaas it strikes a chord in my chest like gong. I am tuned now for this sound, which I like to think of as the voice of life itself, speaking to me. Calling, to me. A direct conversation between the soul of me and all the presences of this great universe through all time.
When I was in Kathmandu last year, standing on a narrow road in the mountains, I felt drawn to a small forested hill. I ducked into the trees, following a winding track to the summit. Within moments of standing there I was surrounded by more crows than I have ever seen in one place in my lifetime. They swooped. They soared. They lighted onto the branches around me. Caw caw caw caw, aaa aaa aaa aaa. I drank their attention like one thirsting for water in a desert.
A few months before I left Byron Bay to meet my son in Rome, my husband and I found a counselor with whom we shared the agony of our existence. One day, as I sat with him in the tiny office in the garden of his home, his attention was diverted to the window.
“I’ve never seen that bird before, he said.
I turned to look. There was a crow behind the glass.
“She’s here for me, I said.
The counselor paid no attention.
“My Jungian wasp moment, I added softly, as I smiled awkwardly at yet another man deaf to the mystery. Or to women. Now I wonder if there’s a difference
(From My Pilgrim’s Heart)
When I arrived in Los Angeles two months ago for my first US book tour, sitting on a concrete step outside the airport waiting for a cab, two crows alighted onto the sidewalk and paced the ground around me.
Aaaa aaaa aaaa aaaa.
As I rattled my way across the southern deserts of the USA on the train, over and over the crows would fly with me outside the window.
Aaaa aaaa aaaa aaaa.
All the way to New York City, the crow journeyed with me.
Aaaa aaaa aaaa aaaa.
I did not notice the silence until I had spent a few days in Chicago. I remember noticing the silence because in Boston and then Chicago my world was no longer as surefooted as it had been, as if I was no longer in the right place – that’s when I notice the absence of the crow.
Two days ago in Seattle, as I was walking down to Starbucks for my daily dose of internet, caw.
Aaaa aaaa aaaa.
The voice of that great universal creative force some call god calling me home: once again I am on the right path.
Last night, over delicious pizza with my new friend Kari, she turned to me and said ‘can you hear those crows? They’ve been making a racket all day! I don’t remember hearing them like this before.’
I listened more closely to the cacophony in the darkness outside.
Yes, I hear those crows.
Voice of my courage.
Song of my soul.