Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What the crow missed by dying today

Coming back from his regular pre-dawn walk the day after Easter, the hubby spied a sidewalk spectacle: a moribund crow with an equally dead crayfish still firmly clamped in its beak. Hubby tried to get me to go with him to photograph the sorry sight, but I convinced him he could do the job just as well. He came back with several shots, all good.

If you're like most people, your body goes through a predictable pattern when confronted with the unexpected sight of a dead body: recoil, look away, catch your breath, sneak another look. Then stare. The train wreck effect.

Then you try to make sense of what your senses are feeding you. Here's this being that once was and now isn't. In this case, there were two of them. 

Questions, questions. A duel to the death. Who died first, the crayfish or the crow? (Which came first, the chicken or the egg?)

How can I tell if this is a raven or a crow? Part of me hoped it was a raven so I could quote Edgar Allan Poe: "Quoth the raven: 'Nevermore.' " I had to look it up. Apparently, the bill on a crow curves downward. This must be a raven. It oozes dignity in death. And a little creepiness for good measure. 

How long could this bird have lived if it had lived its natural span? My online source records a raven that lived 40 years, although 10-15 years is more common.

This raven's eyes, shuttered now, had seen a few things in its time. For the rest of the day I took more than a passing interest in the sights still available to my eyes.

This blood-red bougainvillea clambers up a trellis outside the local Target store. Had the raven seen it, or was it always preoccupied with pursuing prey and evading predators?

I have a particular fondness for bougainvillea because my father grew them in an array of colors when we lived on an air force base in the Philippines. They're so sensitive to frost, which is why I haven't attempted to replicate Dad's garden. How does Target's landscaper manage to keep this healthy specimen alive?

In the wildflower patch that reseeded itself behind my house, the California poppies, calendula and other blooms are a riot of color. The wind was blowing full blast when I took the photos, so these were among the few without blur.

When the Mexican primroses are spent, I'll have to weedwhack the entire thatch to the ground. It seems a savage way to repay their valiant effort, but they must make way for new growth. I'm not sure this philosophy applies to the raven, though. Did the rest of the ravens benefit from his exit? (And oh! did you know the poetic term for a flock of ravens is a "murder of ravens"? Random fact.)

The johnny jump-ups had a near-death experience they lived to tell about. It seems the hubby went up on the roof to dismantle the anachronistic TV antenna. Rather than lower the entire assemblage to the ground, he flung it off the roof. It landed with a satisfying (to him) crash, barely missing their little purple and yellow heads. Here, they've settled down from asking each other "What just happened?"

I had no idea TV antennas could be so salvageable. Those aluminum rods are pliable enough to refashion into a trellis for this season's morning glories. Heaven-sent supplies! Or at least hubby-sent. I've soaked the seeds to prepare them for planting.

On our sunset stroll, the hubby and I came across the spot where the raven lay in state. It seems his passing did not go unmarked.

We ended the day as we began it: marking life, death, and everything necessary in between.