Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Crow Planet

Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness, by Lyanda Lynn Haupt, is a book written about the interconnectedness of life, of humans with nature. A bird lover and author of two other books involving mostly songbirds, Haupt was asked to write a book about crows by her publisher, and she reluctantly agreed. What follows is a book incorporating science, nature, anecdote, philosophy, etymology, ecology, history, and current environmental concerns.

Most people seem to have very strong opinions regarding crows, whether they hate them or love them or just think they're strange. As Haupt says, everyone has a crow story. The first crow I ever saw up close had been brought into the clinic (at this point I can't remember why) where I worked in Pennsylvania. It was young, shiny black, soft as a rabbit, and when I looked it in the eye, it looked right through me. It sat, afraid but calm, while its sharp black eyes were taking in everything in its surroundings. I was taken aback by the clear intelligence of this bird. Everytime I think of a crow, I am reminded of the line from Jurassic Park when Muldoon is describing the velociraptors: "When she looks at you, you can tell she's working things out."  Haupt describes several attributes of crows and relays anecdotes about their playful, intelligent, advanced behavior.  We think of crows as common birds, and probably there isn't anybody who hasn't seen a crow. But the way they interact with their world is uncommon. While we have managed to shut out many native species from our cities, crows are there. Not just surviving either, actually thriving. They adapt, and do it well, probably better than most humans.

I bought this book to read about crows. But what I ended up reading is an exploration of the definition of nature and the place of humans within. We like to draw lines, and say nature begins here. Nature doesn't belong in my house. When insects or wild animals are found in our houses or our developments, we say that doesn't belong there! Crows, however, follow us everywhere. The crow population is the largest it has ever been, and so is the human population. In an ever changing and shrinking world, crows have adapted to live alongside us.  They are a constant reminder that nature isn't out there, its here. Right here.

One of the author's main points is that humans are a part of nature. We are a part of it right in our homes, cars, backyards, cities, and everywhere we are. We affect nature and live in it in our daily every day lives. She says "...the most essential things we can do for the deeply wild earth have to do with how we eat, how we drive, where we walk and how we choose every moment of our quotidian urban lives." And she's right. If we think of Nature as being here, not out there, it changes how we interact with our immediate environment. And how we interact with our immediate environment affects and translates how we interact with our greater environment. We are interconnected with everything. Let the crows remind you.

"We are connected by the ways we choose, consume, and share water, food shelter, and air - just like all the other animals." 

The interconnectedness of life is a theme that is common to the other book I [ironically] happened to buy at the same time as this one, The Vegetarian Myth. I can't wait to tackle this in my next post.

Lyanda Lynn Haupt has a blog, The Tangled Nest, if you would like to follow her work.

Crows are fascinating, and if you want to learn more, go out and watch some crows. But do not let them know that you are watching, for they will likely scold you and fly away.

I would love to hear your crow story. Please share below. :)

3 comments:

  1. Crows.net is a great site where folks who enjoy crows post their observations. Two summers ago, when the local crow family was visiting my yard, I saw one of the younger crows grab a small hanging branch of the silver maple tree in my back yard and swing upside down for several seconds. Apparently it enjoyed the sensation because it did it another few times before flying away with the rest of the group.

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