Friday, 14 March 2014

As the Crow Flies

What are you afraid of?

That’s the question I asked myself when I was invited to take a flight in a small –  in fact, minuscule  –  airplane recently. Or maybe it would be a helicopter. My initial reaction was, “Aghghg!”

It got me thinking about my fears, and checking out fear in general. There are the common, garden-variety fears: spiders, snakes, and thunderstorms, for instance. There are others that people may not be aware of, but which impact their lives anyway: fear of commitment, intimacy, and rejection. There are very strange and particular fears, with their own strange and particular names: trypanophobia (fear of needles), mysophobia (fear of germs) and – don’t read this if you are afraid of long words –  hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (yes, you guessed it, that’s fear of long words.)

It’s hard to believe, but some people, thanks to Alfred Hitchcock,  are afraid of crows. That’s called corvophobia. And what are crows afraid of? Since they are so sassy and brash, you might be tempted to say that crows are afraid of nothing, but that may not be true. The Great Horned Owl is Enemy #1 on the corvid Most Wanted List. And crow just may be Choice #1 on the Great Horned Owl’s Most Wanted for Supper List. If I were a crow, I’d be scared silly of the owl, constantly looking over my wing to make sure no owl was following me. I’d have fear of owls: oclophobia.

Great Horned Owl Quilt by Barbara Strobel Lardon
So how do crows handle this fear? Fortunately, crows do not have ligyrophobia – fear of loud noises. Nor do they have enochlophobia – fear of crowds. In other posts, I’ve written about the many ways crows can communicate with each other, and also about how they band together in family groupings. When a crow spots danger in the area, she calls for help, and responders add their voices to the call. Soon the air is filled with raucous distress signals. Then, together, they go on the attack. This behaviour is called mobbing. They gang up and bully that poor old owl until it gives up and flees the ‘hood. It turns out that owls have ligyrophobia, enochlophobia, and corvophobia, especially in the daytime when their sight is very poor. One crow versus a Great Horned Owl = disaster. Many crows versus the owl = OwlBGon. And a good by-product of mobbing is that you can safely teach your crow babies to face their fears. Calling for help, knowing your family has your back covered, and acting as a group are  strong weapons to combat oclophobia.
So how did I cope with my pteromerhanophobia, otherwise known as a fear of flying? I took a lesson from the crows. (I do not have sophophobia – fear of learning.) The invitation for taking a flight came from my grandchildren – they’d heard about an organization, Women of Aviation, that was offering free flights to girls and women on the weekend I would be visiting. Would I like to sign up with them? I took a deep breath and said yes. It helped to know that I would be part of a group that including three beautiful grandgirls, as well as my beautiful daughter and daughter-in-law. My daughter-in-law confessed that she too was scared. Both of us, however, talked a good line about going on an awesome adventure just in case the girls got cold feet (ha! as if!). Share the fear and talk big – not a bad way to cope.

We got to the Langley airfield and found hundreds of girls and women lining up for this awesome adventure. We were – tee-hee – mobbing the airfield. I’m guessing that there were many others there who were being brave in the face of pteromerhanophobia, but there’s strength in numbers. Many of the women wanted to show their girl children that the world was a grand place to experience adventure.

Here we are, walking towards our helicopter. Daughter Danielle was sick and missed the adventure.

There were five tiny airplanes and five helicopters lined up on the runway. We ended up in a big black helicopter that seated 6. It WAS the awesomest adventure, as you can see by our facial expressions. Wow!! Wow! And WOW again!

My granddaughter Karina is sitting in the co-pilot's seat behind me. Lucky girl even got to push some buttons.

"Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts...."
-- Marianne Williamson

For more information about this experience, and about Women of Aviation, check out

These 2 links have interesting real-life reports and pictures of crows mobbing an owl:

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