Crow was hopping along the trail maybe 20 feet in front of us. It tried to lift off and couldn’t. Trav’s Flexi extends that far, but I held him back. He leaned into his harness and panted, not just from the heat. Crow had to know there was an eager dog just behind but still — hop hop, flap flap, it continued down the trail.

I let Trav’s leash out a little further. Crow veered to the right, through some not-very-tall grass into a little clearing. Hop hop, flap flap. No other crows in sight. Crow probably won’t last the day, but my dog won’t provide the coup de grâce.

Crows are so often portents, so no surprise that by the time Trav and I had crossed Old County Road onto Pine Hill, I was humming Sydney Carter’s “Crow on the Cradle,” one of the most haunting songs of all time. When I got home, I found a Jackson Browne cover of it, with David Lindley:

Lately one of the CDs in Malvina Forester’s CD changer has been Debra Cowan and John Roberts’s wonderful Ballads Long and Short. (Yes, it’s OK if you follow the link and buy it now. Just come back when you’re done.) Among the ballads on it is the traditional “Twa Corbies.” Corbies are ravens, not crows (although I just found a translation from the original Scottish that called them crows instead of ravens), but ravens and crows are both big, black, and portentous, so I was thinking of that too. “Twa Corbies” is not only haunting, it’s a little grisly if you’ve got a vivid imagination — though as traditional ballads go, it’s pretty tame.

Debra and John’s version isn’t available online, so here’s the Corries’ cover of “Twa Corbies”:

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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2 Responses to Crow

  1. I had not heard of either song but instantly like them both! Thank you for sharing them… As for crows or ravens, I am fond of neither because they seem so preternaturally smart… I swear they understand human speech. A little to eerie for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a raven, but at least at a distance they’re hard to tell from crows so maybe I have. I did see a film once about how the CIA and the US Army trained ravens as spies: they would carry little cameras around their necks and use their beaks to snap a picture while hovering outside a window. I was impressed.

      I’m not a musician (though I like to sing), but my life has had the most amazing soundtrack. Sometimes an incident will trigger a song I haven’t thought of in years, then it stays in my head for weeks.


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