There are crows that hang around the west side of my building. There is a pair, I can't tell if it's always the same pair, that moves through the budding branches of the manitoba maples, the blue spruce and the cedars scattered on the far side of the pressure treated fence. The fence, perhaps eighty feet out, runs the length of an apron of lawn that extends the length of the building. There is a string of lamp posts that runs down the centre of the lawn, the posts maybe eighty feet apart from each other. One lamp post sits just outside my window. During the night, it draws my attention. During the day, the crows.
When I move in to this apartment, the lamp post light is intrusive, sifting into my bedroom between the blinds and keeping me awake like it's trying to poke me and figure out who the hell I am. The next day, I stand looking at it, drinking my coffee and trying to get a feel for this place. There is snow on the lawn and I realize that this specific light is compelling for me because, there in the snow, it reminds me of the Narnia lamp post in C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe series. The light stops being just a light for me. It becomes a cue toward the idea of fictional access to a different paradigm.
The crows are indifferent to the light but it makes me wonder. This morning I watch one choosing and breaking off thin little branches from the maple tree while his mate stands guard. They do that for each other, stand guard. I used to watch a pair outside of the high school where I would sit waiting for one of the boys after school. There was a man who lived in a little yellow house across from the school. He would come out, around the same time every day, and leave pizza or bread on the boulevard. Minutes later, a pair of crows would show up. One would stay up high on a telephone wire or the roof of the school and keep watch. The other crow would fly down and land near the food. He would walk towards it awkwardly like some kind of bowlegged old man, fast enough that nothing else would get it, but slow enough to be able to have a good look at it to make sure it was safe. He would take as big a piece as he could handle and then fly up and off, joined in the air by his watchful mate. 'Same scenario here with the twigs: one crow chooses and then the two fly off together, if you are foolish you may assume, to build a nest.
It is folly to assume with crows. Crows are smarter than most other animals. They figure things out. They can use found objects as tools(check out youtube), so perhaps my pair is using the twigs to break into someone's mailbox or remove the annoying clasp on a bird feeder. Maybe they are trying to short circuit a stop light so they can get to a juicy bit of road kill without being interrupted by traffic. Any of this is possible.
What blows me away about crows is that they are, apparently, capable of communicating news of situations or events that occur in different times or locations(displacement). I take this to mean that the crows understand time but since time is relative, does this mean that crows have a sense of self? The man leaves the pizza and then they come and get it. They are part of the event. Are they conscious of this? Are they aware of their "crow-ness?" They know about cars: I have never seen a dead crow on the side of the road, yet they are all over the carrion of the other dopier animals that can't seem to figure it out. Evolution? Absolutely, but I think with more going on than we know.
And crows can play. This is where the lamp post comes in:
If crows understand time and location and are intelligent enough to use tools to carry out useful tasks, AND are intelligent enough to play, they must have some sense of self. If they have sense of self, they must be aware of others because part of self involves having a relationship with another. Since another may die, crows must have an idea of existence. They live anywhere from around twenty to, believe it or not, almost 60. Do they realize that they exist? And if so, do they have any inkling of different paradigms? Does the pizza appearing out of the house represent, to them, a different paradigm? Like we imagine Edmund or Susan traveling to see Aslan through the back of the wardrobe(If you haven't read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, for God's sake, drop what you're doing and smarten up. Read it.). Do they simply appear? Do the crows imagine? If they play, then they must be able to imagine because in order to play you must come up with false parameters with regards to the reality of whatever your game is: a simple task(get the stick into a hole) or magical realism(someone/something appears or disappears).
The crows are nowhere to be seen as I finish composing this. I assume they are somewhere doing their taxes or downloading avian porn. I know I have made a few cavernous philosophical leaps but as I am, at this point, enduring a profound existential crisis, I have to believe that we don't have much figured out. Being human is ridiculous. We are the authors of our own demise and we're getting near the end of the book. But maybe since we're just near the end and not at it, we could change the writing style and lighten up a little. We might be able to see more than we've been allowing ourselves to. Maybe I'm not seeing the crows right now because they have used the lamp post as a portal to Narnia? I'll keep an eye on the standard for the rest of the day and I'll let you know. If I go down there and find pizza I might simply explode. If Mr Tumnus is serving it, I will pixilate and blow away.