process is hard on those who know they are being left behind—like watching the
last days of a youngster's childhood—but it tends to sharpen the appreciation
of what remains of things as they once were. This was particularly true in the
case of Hello, who began doing something that any crow can undoubtedly do but
none I have known has done so memorably. After Hello began roaming, my wife and
I got in the habit of drinking our morning coffee while sitting on a stone wall
by the creek, calling him to join us. "Hello, Hello," we'd call to him,
and at first he came in conventionally, banking through the trees. Then one
morning we first saw (but could not immediately identify) him half a mile or so
up in the air as a small black spot against the mountain. Maintaining his
altitude, he swung directly overhead and then started down, turning tight
spirals, making back flips and side slips, until he dropped lightly onto the
wall beside us. Thereafter, about two mornings out of three until the last one,
he made the same sort of dramatic entrance.
There was no
practical need for these acrobatics or, for that matter, for him to join us in
any fashion. Perhaps doing so was simply his pleasure. Certainly it was ours.
The aerial display was in itself a marvelous thing, but there was something
else. Having a crow—so much another blood—dive out of a high sky to sit down
beside you creates a powerful feeling of connection, a sense that there can be
and has been a natural mingling of naturally alien essences. Something of you
is in the consciousness of a crow up in the air as something of him stays with
you on the ground.
There are risks
inherent in these relationships, not the least of which is the fear that they
will end tragically. Various companion crows I have known, precisely because
they were companions, have roosted in ill-chosen places and been eaten by
raccoons; have been trapped in cars and smothered: have been so innocent as to
make sitting targets for a mindless stranger with a .22. But as far as any of
us knows, the end of Hello came about as it should have. He dropped down one
morning and then went off with our son and granddaughter, who were taking a
hike on the mountain. Hello stayed with them, flying from tree to tree, now and
then riding on their shoulders until they returned to the house. He had a bite
to eat and flew off again. None of us has seen him since.
For a few weeks
after Hello left, I would shout "Hello!"—not so much hopefully but
reflexively—at passing crows, none of which acknowledged me. As with a great
summer vacation, though, the sense of loss, which is very strong immediately
after a crow has gone, passes. What remains are memories and feelings of
gratitude about what a fine time was had.