Birds of — whoa!

By Emma Testerman | Jun 18, 2020

A couple of days ago, the weather was nice enough in the afternoon to take out a blanket, some snacks and knitting in the backyard. It wasn't too hot, it wasn't too cold, I could comfortably Goldilocks it out in the sun and maybe take a quick cat nap in between knitting squares of my current project.

Kind of spoiled my brother's graduation present, but that's okay.

With everything going on, it's hard to find joy in the smallest things. My initial psychological response to all of this, from the pandemic to the protests and the backlash online, is to sleep whenever I can. Everything leaves me feeling hollow or exhausted, especially after getting into an online argument with someone who refuses to believe that police brutality is still an issue in today's world. Sleep decreases the stress inside. Maybe. Probably not. Let's pretend it does. Maybe it might?

Everything is awful, so going outside and enjoying the sun while it was out seemed like a less awful way to spend my time after signing petitions and calling district attorneys.

I like to knit long enough where I start to feel my fingers ache. Something about knitting, the action of twirling yarn between two needles long enough to make something out of nothing, is a soothing way for me to feel in control of my surroundings. I can create scarves, dish cloths, pillow cases, and now blankets, if I put my mind to it. I thank my sixth grade paraprofessional for teaching me this skill to this day.

Knitting makes time fly by quicker as well. Maybe that's why I'm doing it more often, to make everything progress further in a moment of productivity. I can sift through multiple podcast episodes and have finished 14 blanket squares by the time I've caught up with all of them.

If you're looking for recommendations, Mission to Zyx and The Adventure Zone are two of my many favorites.

It wasn't until the last podcast finished and I began to rest my hands when I heard shuffling behind me. I turned around in time to see a black blur fly over, barely skimming my head, and landing at the fringe of the blanket.

It was a crow.

As a kid growing up back in Connecticut, these birds would swarm our back yard, and it wasn't until you clapped loud enough that they would fly off in irritation. I used to be deathly afraid of them. After all, there's a reason Edgar Allen Poe painted them as omens, and any horror movie is hardly considered one without a single crow in sight.

Personally, I was afraid of crows. Even more so after learning that a flock of them is called a murder. They have beady little black eyes and sharp beaks, and they're very loud.

Not going to lie, it was pretty terrifying at first, having that bird near me and just staring at me while hopping around and twitching its head.

Maybe my shock response is dulled by our present climate, or maybe the fear disappeared into a thought of, "You know what? Screw it."

I finally noticed that this crow was eyeing the crackers and cheese I had in my lap. Cheese is bad for animals, everyone knows that. But I figured a little bit of cracker wouldn't hurt them, so I broke off a piece and threw it in the direction of the back woods.

Sure enough, this little bugger chased after it with vocal glee, snatched it up, and hopped back over to eat it next to me.

Well. That's weird.

This crow ended up eating more cracker bits, then a few sunflower seeds, and merrily hopped around as if he was socializing. I continued to knit and still watch him with mild worry but major curiosity. Sometimes he'd fly into a tree, disappear for a few minutes and come back. I grew happier at seeing his periodic return.

When I was five years old, I would watch Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty on repeat, enough to wear out the VHS tape. At one point when playing outside, I tried singing to the summer birds in our backyard. A few of them flew close enough to me that I genuinely thought I succeeded, and I screamed and ran away. A tamer version of Princess Fiona from the famed Shrek movie.

Crows are frightening at first, with their loud caws, sudden movements and sleek black feathers. But surprisingly enough, they're very tame. And friendly. This crow never nipped, never scratched, never bit. (But don't go taming wild birds after reading this, I'm just a discount Maleficent. Ornithologists are probably reading this and are reeling that I fed crows.)

Did you know that crows hop literally because they find joy doing that? Hopping is a way for them to display happiness. And when you see a murder of crows in trees, it's often a group mourning for a fallen one.

They're surprisingly more emotional than most birds. I've grown quite fond of them since learning this. And I'm no longer afraid. I have to thank the many books and articles I've read that helped squelch that childish fear and ignorance I had towards them.

Again, don't go feeding crows. I just happened to be a successful Morrigan in 15 minutes.

Eighteen years later, I've befriended Tarly (yes, I named him. And yes, after Samwell Tarly from Game of Thrones.) while knitting outside, dressed like a little old witch in the woods. We can certainly learn a lot more from crows, if open-minded. We just have to listen and observe.

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