The Road I Know

Life of Objects No. 3, paper collage, 2022

I’ve been sprinkling food on the ground beneath my bird feeders for the past year. The squirrels very much appreciate it, of course, as do the doves and sparrows, who often show up in large numbers during cold weather. Although, the reason I do it, really, is to feed the crows. 

Our neighborhood crows visit several times a day, usually in a flock of 3-10. They’re too big to fit on my bird feeders. If there’s no food on the ground, they will “caw” loudly and persistently until food arrives. (To be sure, I am the one who’s conditioned in this scenario.) What’s fascinating about crows: they’re extremely intelligent. They belong to the family corvidae (“corvids”) and are among the smartest birds in the world. They are capable of problem-solving. They know how to use tools. They are capable of facial recognition and are known to hold grudges against individuals (including humans) who’ve harmed them. They have tight family bonds and even hold funerals for other crows.

American Crow

What’s unfortunate is that we often fail to appreciate them because they’re so common and, when compared to brightly colored songbirds, are rather plain-looking. Indeed, this morning when I went outside to feed them, I was struck by this very thought. And on walking back into the house and watching them eat from a distance (they’ll only come down from the trees if no humans or pets are present), I was struck by another thought: tread lightly

Maybe a strange thought to have after feeding a flock of hungry crows. Or maybe not. I often get a unique sense of peace when I am in nature—a sense that all is well. And that includes me. That is, I am well and good and worthy as I am…and I should be sure to treat myself and others and all of my pursuits that way. Nature restores my sense of trust in myself. And indeed, there was something about my interaction with the crows this morning that inspired a sense of wellbeing—that, in effect, took me out of myself, out of the normal bounds of my perception, for a moment.

Tread lightly with yourself. I need to be reminded of that from time to time. I imagine many of us do. Unless I make a continuous, conscious effort to treat myself with compassionate kindness, I will revert to operating from a place of self-distrust. I will be my own taskmaster. I will be driven by a sense of lack and insecurity—a gnawing sense that I need to be and do more, that I need to be better. And I will sabotage myself without consciously meaning to—but I will do it because something within is probably telling me that’s what I deserve. That’s part of how my darker impulses seem to operate.

American Crow

During the course of my readings, I have begun to envision these responses as well-worn roads. Ways of thinking and behaving that no longer suit me (if ever they did). The stories I tell myself about who and how I should be or how the world should be are roads I’ve traveled again and again. When X happens, I walk the road that leads to Y, my response, even if Y isn’t helpful or productive. But it’s the road I know. Maybe what I need to do, in that case, is build a new road. Even if I don’t realize it. Especially if I don’t realize it.

I am less and less a creature of influences in myself which operate beyond my ken in the realms of the unconscious. I am increasingly an architect of self. I am free to will and choose. I can, through accepting my individuality, my ‘isness,’ become more of my uniqueness, more of my potentiality.

Carl R. Rogers

It is my experience that one effective way to do this—to build a new road, say, from one that leads to self-sabotage or lashing out or negative self-talk to one that leads to more helpful and productive responses—is by altering our perception. For me, this isn’t something that can be learned in a book or that can be accomplished by thinking alone. It needs to be experienced. I need a moment in which I see differently. A moment in which a crow is more than just a crow. It’s like witnessing a brand new road where there was none before—it is the distinct sense that a different way of being is possible. 

American Crow

This ability to envision is surely part of the healing power of imagination. But it is also, to my mind, a part of the healing power of nature. This is a gift that nature gives us by virtue of its being—the ability to see differently. To reorient ourselves. To take a detour from the roads we know and move closer to our own “isness,” as Rogers calls it. 

To see, to hear, means nothing. To recognize (or not to recognize) means everything.

André Breton

What’s more: I think our souls are desperate for that kind of experience. Doing what we’ve always done the same way we’ve always done it is sometimes the recipe for a miserable life. A final thought that came to mind while contemplating crows this morning: the natural world is always reaching out to us, always beckoning to be seen, to be recognized, and always inviting us to see differently. It is up to us whether or not we allow it in.

Just a reminder: I am having a Black Friday Sale through midnight tomorrow (11:59 p.m. ET). All art prints are 25% off. Use code FRIDAY25 at checkout.

12 responses to “The Road I Know”

  1. I’m a big fan of crows too. But I don’t get them in my yard. Though in the cemetery near me, sometimes hundreds gather together. Which is really spectacular to see. I’ve taken to putting seed on the ground too, but for the opposite reason: I have two squirrels who take over the feeder, so to save seed for the birds, i sprinkle them on the ground.

    I’ve really begun to pay attention to my inner monologue, which can be pretty difficult at times. I like what you said about nature. I think this is why I like walking so much, it a kind of meditation. And gets me out of my head.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Seeing hundreds of crows must be incredible! I’ve only ever seen photographs of that kind of thing. They are fascinating creatures, to be sure, and I enjoy their visits.

      With regard to squirrels…I had a squirrel problem when I first put my feeders up, so I moved the feeders to a different part of the yard and installed a baffle collar…which ended up working fine for the squirrels but not raccoons. They actually ended up destroying one of my feeders and ransacking all the others in the middle of the night one night. Now I have a large heavy duty baffle collar that none of the critters can get past…but it’s been a bit of a struggle.

      I think I know what you mean about internal monologues being difficult to reckon with. Mine are too, sometimes. I find that the more frequently I realign myself in nature, the more effectively I can keep the rest of life in perspective and stop a lot of that negative or absurd self-talk before it starts. I’m also finding increasingly that it’s important to stay on top of those habits, like walking, that help keep my thoughts aligned properly.

      Liked by 2 people

      • The crows are pretty awesome to see when they all gather like that. I’ll look into collar for the feeder. But the squirrels that live in my yard are pretty crafty. I agree…when I’m walking I am able to step away from that monologue.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Squirrels are crafty! They’re something of a force to be reckoned with. And I think, too, that we sometimes forget how important simple things, like walking/jogging/riding a bike, getting ample fresh air and sunshine, even listening to birdsong, are to our overall wellbeing.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. My goodness, what a beautiful post 🥺.

    I had no idea crows were so intelligent. Instantly fascinated by them now and must learn more.

    I relate to the sense of well being, worthiness, and self-trust you get from being in nature. It’s definitely restorative, which helps with the dreaming up new realities/shifting perspectives.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you so much! I’m happy this post resonates. 🙂 And yes, crows are fascinating! It is easy to become fully absorbed/mesmerized when we’re observing and learning about nature. I think that’s part of what quiets our minds and instills a sense of peace.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pavlov’s secrets have been revealed to the crows or these were thing they always knew, like song learning for wintering birds, which comes first or what’s the difference or what really grows and counts as symbiosis? This post really got me thinking about the bridge of inner knowledge we make to that which is outside of us, (anthropos)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for commenting. Learning in birds (or what I know of it) is quite interesting, as in the way juveniles of some species stay with their parents for an extended time, learning how to hunt, forage, communicate, etc.– essentially, learning how to be birds. Birds like crows, who seem to possess certain problem-solving abilities, are especially interesting in this aspect, I think. And I’m fairly certain they have conditioned me…whether they meant to or not. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The crow photos are perfect with your entry 🙂 And your thoughts on a “different way of being” shines light on the possibility that change is within our grasp. We must take the time to listen…while we sit within the beauty of nature and take in the gleaming black of the crow, we sense the healing balm and creativity that blooms when we travel down a different road, with a different point of view. Well done. And I love the photos of the too often overlooked crow 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, my friend. As you suggest so beautifully in your comment, taking the time to allow ourselves to be rejuvenated and reminded of the possibility within is necessary. And the healing balm of nature is its own reward, to be sure. 🙂 I very much appreciate your feedback.


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