One morning in May, I was walking down the street in Ballard minding my own business when something smacked me hard in the back of the head. I turned around to see black wings flapping away. A mother effing crow had dive-bombed my head. I was shocked, insulted, embarrassed and confused.
Naturally, I turned to google for answers. I found that May and June are prime time for baby crow training, and the mama crows are extremely protective of their little babies that are learning to fly for the first time. Even though I wasn’t after any baby crows, nor knew there were even any crows around, I felt better knowing I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and this mom was only defending her young. But then I started to read about their intelligence and ability to recognize faces, as well as anecdotes about crows attacking people. Somehow this all spiraled into a three-month problem for myself. I became scared. I was scared it would happen again, but I imagined next time there would be more crows and more beaks and more talons and more blood. It brought new meaning to Hitchcock’s famous horror movie.
Now, I don’t want to admit this, but I am going to, because it’s the truth and this here blog is all about truth anyway. I have let this fear of another crow attacking the back of my head get out of control. It has affected my life in the last few months more than I would want anyone to know. I have expressed my fear to a few people close to me, and they laugh and think I am overreacting and probably ridiculous, so if they actually knew the extent to which this has impacted my life and my walking and my overall thought process in the last few months, hell they’d think I was crazy. But whatever, screw them.
At first I was mad. These damn birds were interfering with my great love: walking! I still went for walks, but all I could think about were the damn crows! Every time there was one in the tree above me, I’d put my hands above my head and try to detract it from “getting me” even if it was not even paying attention to me. I was convinced that I needed to protect myself in case they were going to get me. If there were some crows chilling on a street corner eating a half-eaten burger someone threw out their car window, I would move to the other side of the street as inconspicuously as possible. My parking spots had to change because one street in particular was a “highly active crow street.” And how many a times have my shoulders hunched in fearful anticipation when I’ve seen flapping wings?! I’ve cried. I’ve run to my car and hidden in the back seat with crows towering over me on the telephone wires. I became convinced that every single crow was out to get me.
I’m sure some of you are laughing at me. I do believe I have had full rights to worry about the crows because they have followed me and been territorial towards me and whatever. But I know the extent of my fear is totally dumb. I tried to calm myself, but I wasn’t able to. That is, until the other night. It was a warm August evening when I wandered out into the world on a journeyfoot that was much overdue.
As I started my journey, my mind began to drift as my body dribbled on down the street. In light of my recent post on fear, I decided to walk down the “highly active crow street” in an attempt to face my fear. So I walked down the street and nothing happened. Then I started to think more deeply about the root of my crow-fear, and instantly remarked at the similarity between my fear of crows and another fear I have been experiencing lately: my fear in my relationship with my boyfriend. My mind was blown as I so clearly saw the connections between the two. They are both completely ridiculous fears based on nothing except the chance that it could happen. The following is an internal look at the workings of my mind-on-wheels, so don’t judge:
But see, the thing is, I am never ever, ever going to know for real if another crow is going to dive bomb my head again until the very instant another crow dive bombs my head. Likewise, I am never going to know if I am going to be without this person I care so much about until the moment I am without this person I care so much about. What is the use in preparing for that to happen when I am not sure it ever will happen? There is no use. The stress and the worry is not worth it.
I realized, in my newly-enlightened mind set, it is not about knowing whether or not the crows are going to smack me on the head. It’s not even about trusting that the crows won’t attack me. It’s about knowing and trusting that I will be able to handle that situation if it does ever happen. And it’s not about knowing whether or not my boyfriend wants me or loves me or is only passing time. It’s not about trusting that he will never kiss another girl or that he won’t lie to me or that my heart won’t break for any and every reason out there. It’s about knowing and trusting that I will be okay even if all of that does happen. And that all really comes back to trusting myself; trusting that I have enough strength and courage and power and ability to overcome any challenge I am faced with, even if it does break my head, or break my heart.
And as I danced through these epiphanies, I finally felt like I had found a way to solve my problem in respect to both fears, because essentially they were the same fear. My fear is based on the prospect of being hurt, either physically or emotionally, thus my fear of scary animals and love lost.
In that exact moment, something so profound happened to me that I don’t even know if words will be able to convey the meaning of the experience. I’ll tell you anyway though! It will be something I surely will remember for my whole life. The timing seemed too perfect to be coincidence. I walked into the botanical gardens at the Ballard Locks and the skies began to sing as the voices of dozens of black crows screeched through the orange evening air. They were louder than any crows I have ever heard. I was consciously aware of the fact that I was walking directly towards the trees on which all of the birds were congregating, and that I should have been feeling fear as I normally do, but I wasn’t. And I didn’t. I just kept walking into what had previously been my worst nightmare. One black crow on the street corner had terrified me for the last three months. But now there were dozens and dozens of crows meeting in the branches of the trees above my head, and all I felt was an understanding that everything would be okay. I chose to believe that everything would be okay.
I continued west up the path as the glowing sun streamed orange strands of color through the green branches. I saw this moment as an opportunity and I felt as though the heavens were aligning and that everything was happening exactly as it was supposed to and I was being given a gift of insight from mother nature herself. It was as though every single event and thought and worry had led me to this exact point in time for the sole purpose of teaching me a valuable lesson about an issue I have been struggling with all of my life. Trusting that I will be okay when something happens that I really, really, really don’t want to happen.
I cannot describe the sense of peace I felt as I topped the little hill overlooking the Locks and sat on the grass scattered with goose poop. It was the feeling of faith. That everything was going to be alright, no matter what. I surrendered. I let go. I put faith in everything.
There was some sort of crow social going on that night. It was a congregation. A meeting. A concert. A party or a political debate. I’ve never seen so many crows all together cawing and moving and communicating in such uniform organization ever. Ever. I counted ten crows on one branch, and there were several branches next to each other filled with the black birds. On the other side of where I sat were more trees filled with even more crows and they flew back and forth over my head all the while cawing in waves of unison. It was fascinating.
When one flew too close, I would feel my shoulders tense ever so slightly, but I focused on letting go and believing they were not out to get me and the tension dissolved. In truth, I came to realize the crows didn’t give a shit about me. I became a part of their world, instead of them being a part of mine, and I saw them from a whole new perspective. I stopped thinking they were out to get me, and I just observed them. The communication and socialization was absolutely amazing. I wish I could speak crow so I knew what they were saying.
Have you ever felt as though every single element of life has fallen together in the most poetic stream of existence that it must have been designed that way all along? Or perhaps it really is that way all the time, but we only see glimpses of its truth every now and again, in moments that crawl under our skin and demand the breath be taken from our lungs at the mere realization of such beauty and truth. A moment of clarity. A moment of knowing. Understanding. One in which everything makes sense. And in those moments, which are often fleeting, do you ever feel as if you’ve discovered the secret to life? I felt connectedness. My heart was so happy it could have burst from fullness, and I’m sure it would have exploded into colors of reds and oranges and yellows.
I spent some time on that hillside just under the crows and then eventually moved on to continue my journeyfoot. I did not see one crow again for the rest of the walk, even as I was passing back through the Locks on my return trip. It was as though they had shared their insight with me, insight I was needing, and then were on their way. As crazy as it may sound, I believe my torment with the crows in the last three months was really an opportunity for growth and self discovery. Perhaps nature really does bring us everything we need, and we only need to have our eyes and minds and hearts open to accept its wisdom. I feel so strongly about this experience that I am adopting the crow as my “spirit animal,” if you will.
Maybe I’m giving way too much credit to the crows and really they were never giving me any lesson and tomorrow I will be pecked to death on the side of the street. Maybe mother nature is not giving me any gifts of insight or wisdom or life changing lessons. But if I believe in it and it positively changes my life, then what does it matter anyway?
I needed that journeyfoot. It was long overdue in more ways than one. I feel as though I am returning to myself and re-centering. It feels good. I believe in the universe. I believe in myself. Having faith that I will be okay regardless of what life throws my way requires constant practice, but experiences like the one I had last night are brilliant reminders to stay on course.
No one likes feeling pain, and everyone protects themselves from the hurt they fear in their own way. Some people build walls to avoid the potential pain that may arise. They don’t allow themselves to experience the good because they are too scared of experiencing the bad, so they close up and resist it all. They never allow themselves to get to the point where they could get hurt. So they don’t go on that trip to another country. Or they screw up their relationship with the one person they truly care for. They never leave the job they hate. And in the end, they end up probably hurting themselves even more than they would have if they had just said “eff you fear!” I’m not one of these people. I’m in the other camp, which is no better. I have never had any problem throwing myself whole-heartedly into something I want even in the face of potential pain, but once I’m there, I get lost in the constant worry and stress that arises from not knowing whether or not that pain will come. I dwell on it until it depletes the good in the very thing I wanted all along.
So what’s worse? Not doing something you want to do in order to avoid potential pain, or doing something you want to do but not being able to fully enjoy it because of constant dwelling on the potential pain? I guess they are equally toxic in their own way. So what’s the other option? Fortunately, there is one and I just learned it. What it comes down to is first, a decision, and secondly, faith. Am I going to do it or not? And if I am, then I better have faith; faith that everything will be okay no matter what. Nature and people and events may remind us from time to time that we must have faith and how to get it, but there is only one place that faith comes from, and that place my friend… is within.