Sunday, December 20, 2009

29 Crow’s feet – Finsbury Park

Saturday December 19, 2009:

“The crow she is the Cailleach’s bird,
She brings magic to the world.
The bravest man is he who shows
No fear to talk with big black crows.

The crow she brings you news of death
Where‘re a baby draws its breath.
And as he grows, where’re he goes,
He’ll be followed by big black crows.

There is a man amongst the grain
Through the summer he shall rein.
His father sent him many foes.
His enemies are big black crows.

There is a woman by the hill.
If she’s not dead she lives there still.
The henbane all around her grows.
Her only friends are big black crows.

The biggest crow I ever did see,
Was taller than the tall oak tree.
We shot him with arrows and with bows,
And we feasted for days on big black crow.

Fly away big black crow.
Crow don’t go where ploughman go.
Where the seed grows, the good seed grows.
Without the help of big black crow.

(Words adapted by LH from an original song by someone else … thanks, unknown songstress!)

The garden is stiff with frost. It crunches beneath our feet as we step carefully along the slippery path. The shrubs hiss grittily as we brush past them, their twigs frozen in stillness against the sharp northern wind.

“There are bird prints in the snow”, says my companion, carefully placing her model of a crow down amongst them on the grey slate bench. Theconcreate owl perched on his log hard-by sits silently watching as we make ready to connect with the spirit of the crow.

It is so cold that we determine to move about, even hopping perhaps as the crow does. I stand on one leg and tentatively bounce. Nothing happens. I don’t seem to be able to get lift off. I flap my arms as though they are wings and try again. My knee groans in protest and I desist, placing both feet firmly on the ground, I shuffle a bit and then grow still.

Across the curved breast of the snow blanketed hillside, large bird prints March darkly into the distance. I put my feet down carefully so as not to obliterate their sharp three-pronged beauty and follow them. At the top of the hill, I see the tracks ascend into an Oakwood, dark twisted arms, tangle stark against the white sky. I step carefully down into the vale.

Beyond the trees, I see something dark flickering against the white snow. I speed up but it seems to be moving away faster than I can walk. Through the trees now, the path rises and then dips down into another valley. More bare leaved trees stretch, climbing the steep sides of the hill. I trudge on, sure I can see something dark and moving against the silver sky.

My boots crunch sharply on the frost rind snow. My labored breathing meets the beat of my feet with every step I take. Still the bird prints lead me on, up and over another hill, through rocks and boulders, their deep black showing only in the parts where the snow has not settled...

“takka-takka-takka-takka!” rattles a magpie three gardens away …

Down amongst oaks and birches, guarded by dark, dark sharp holly, with berries deeply red like shiny beads of blood, stands the blackest of squat, gnarled hollow oaks. The bird prints lead right up to it. Beyond is mystery, but I am determined to follow. Bending low under the prickly protective arms of the holly, I stoop and enter the low wide gash in the side of the tree.

Black against the black she stands, her feathery clothing trembling in the chill of the dark chamber. Her face, the great beak, severe and cruelly sharp, the black eye shining as she observes me. I hold my breath and wait.

“Death is silence and stillness” she caws. Stillness is patience, patience, patience.”

I bow my head in submission and caw …

High up in the sky, circling over the ash tree beyond the fence crow caws three times...

Bidding crow farewell, I bow and back out, turning I climb stiffly under the overhanging holly. I look to see my footsteps following the crow’s, but I see only two pairs of crow’s feet, one smaller than the other., Casting my eyes down to my own feet I see a pair of crow’s feet, half submerged into the snow, their curved black talons pointing in three directions.

I raise my head and caw. The hills throw me back my own call and we duet competitively for a while.

The slate crunches beneath me as I bounce up and down on one leg. But this is very hard work and I soon give it up. Cawing to each other, my companion and I stump back to the house and the warm.


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