The other day I heard a crow make a very strange noise, nothing like the usual long caw or the chuck-chuck sound or even the k-k-k-k rattle I’ve heard them utter. This sound was soft and throaty, melodious, almost a coo.
It sounded unmistakably like love.
I was running late and getting into my car when I heard it, and it stopped me in my tracks. I looked up to see something black and fluffy huddled atop the telephone pole. At first I couldn’t tell what it was, it was so crouched and nestled, but then I made out two crows disguised as one, a couple exuding the distinct impression of unity.
You can tell when two creatures are connected, can’t you? They just look like they belong together. Some people hold hands like that’s where their hands belong and when they glance at one another, the air ripples with meaning. Some bonds are energetic, electric, palpable. You see it in young couples who can’t keep their hands to themselves and in old partners who don’t even have to touch to feel each other anymore. There’s something very attractive about that kind of attraction.
In March, crows perform their courtship ritual, which consists of dramatic aerial maneuvers and a dance involving bowing, strutting with spread wings and tail and a general puffing of the feather coat. While dancing, the crows utter a gentle, uncrowlike “rattle” song. After mating, they spend 5 to 13 days building a nest: smaller twigs interwoven with strands of bark and lined with soft tendrils of shredded bark, moss, plant fibers, grass, feathers, wool, fur, rootlets or leaves. The female deposits a clutch of four to six eggs in early April. Males feed the females during incubation. After 18 days, the chicks hatch and are tended at the nest for approximately five weeks. (Adapted from this website.)
Although the courtship ritual is not always repeated by a mated couple, crows mate for life. Even an amateur birdwatcher like me can easily ascertain which crows are paired. They roam together as a unit, held together until death by some invisible force of nature.
Why does it make me so happy to know that crows mate for life? For me, there’s something very satisfying about consistency. When I hug John goodbye every morning, I feel it, and it’s there when I hold his hand in mine, and when I awake in the darkness and hear him breathing. I see it in the patch my feet have rubbed on the floor in front of the kitchen sink where I stand doing dishes. It’s slow and steady like the tick marks climbing up the wall where we measure our daughters’ growth and tenacious as the weeds I pull every year from the cracks in the pavement out front. By now, we can predict the spark and arc of our arguments. How many earthquakes have we survived in this house? Too many to count and still, it’s still standing.
When I first met John twenty-one years ago, we were young and beautiful. We knew nothing about consistency, and we didn’t care. He flexed his muscles and strutted back and forth while I preened and wiggled and laughed. We made all the appropriate noises. We didn’t know then what it was all for. We had no idea. We were merely obeying nature’s dictate, following the biological urge, and look where that got us.
Now it’s springtime again. The sun is shining and the birds are chattering and doing arial displays outside our bedroom window. I roll over towards my man. Sunlight falls across his face, sparking the gray hairs at his temple. His essential beauty is constant and unwavering. His nature pulls me and holds me tight, like gravity. The space between us ripples with meaning.
Click here to hear crow sounds.
Click here to hear Lullaby of Birdland by Sarah Vaughan.
(Comments are disabled for this one but thank you for reading!)