Raven’s Wake

Everbody is a wonderin’ what and where they all came from,

Everyone is worrying’ ’bout where

They’re gonna go when the whole thing’s done

But no one knows for certain and so it’s all the same to me

I think I’ll just the mystery be.

~Iris DeMent, Let the Mystery Be

Do other beings mourn like humans do?

Those dog and cat owners would answer in the affirmative. What about other animals. Can a newt morn? Do snakes ever get depressed? How about birds? Can you really tell if a bird is in mourning. Ravens are always wearing black.

On the way to get coffee this morning, I saw something that might provide an answer or simply create more questions.

On the sidewalk was a dead raven, lying face down. At least that is what I took it for at first, in the dim, morning light. In reality is was a feathered raven figurine that a neighbor must have used as a Halloween decoration. There was black string trailing behind. The “raven” was set out on the sidewalk with the trash.

I picked up coffee at the local coffee shop, which is seven blocks away. I took a different route home and I noticed that the two ravens perched on a power pole, had their attention directed to the north. They both flew off to the north, with purpose, calling.

I walked a block further and as I came to the intersection of Noriega and 26th Avenue, I could hear the eruptions of crows and ravens one block over.

I headed north on 26th to see what was going on. As I neared the intersection with Moraga, there was a swarming cloud of about 50 ravens and crows, circling above the intersection. They were all calling, which seemed intense and heightened than the corvid norm. I knew what had drawn their attention.

It’s always a fool’s game to try and put human thoughts or feelings into the heads of other animals, partly because we will never truly know how another being is feeling or thinking (some would say that understanding other human beings can be just as obscure) and also it seems highly hubristic to put your own thoughts and feelings in to the mind of an animal, especially a wild animal.

From my observation, the mixed murder of ravens and crows were calling up an alarm, so much so that the neighbor on the corner was looking out her window to see what the commotion was all about. This alarm was calling in all corvids within earshot.

I told her that a dead raven was on the corner and this had attracted the attention of the corvids. When I took a closer look at the “raven” I realized that it was just a faux bird.

As I’ve noted before, with experiences with nature observations, that you may never know the “why” but that is the mystery of the natural world. There are things in nature that we may never know and I am fine with not knowing. Indeed that is why I continue to seek out these experiences, whether they on the streets of San Francisco or the deep forests of northern Maine.

So after the murder/congress of crows and raven dispersed and their calls became less frequent, a few crows and ravens perched nearby on power lines and poles. What were they thinking? Were they mourning the death of the “raven” on the cold, wet sidewalk?

Or could they simply be “rubbernecking” by the side of the road?

Whatever they were really doing or thinking, I think I’ll just let the mystery be.

The corvid wake is coming to a close. Many of the members had dispersed, some flying west while others perched on nearby power lines and poles.

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