Saturday, 1 February 2014

Pass the Peace, Please.

Last Sunday morning, I knew I was in trouble when I read the headlines on the Globe and Mail website: “Peace doves set free from Pope’s window attacked by seagull, crow”.

Photo by Gregorio Borgia AP

The story continues: “Two white doves that were released by children standing alongside Pope Francis as a peace gesture [for the Ukrainian conflict] have been attacked by other birds. As tens of thousands of people watched in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, a seagull and a large black crow swept down on the doves right after they were set free from an open window of the Apostolic Palace. One dove lost some feathers as it broke free from the gull. But the crow pecked repeatedly at the other dove.”
Photo by Gregorio Borgia AP
This does not bode well for a blog named after the crow. My 14 readers were a bit dubious about crows, but were tentatively willing to reconsider the crow’s reputation as a bad, bad bird. Now they are going to abandon me in droves, telling each other, “I knew it!”  That leaves only my two  aunties in Ontario to keep on reading Crowdayone out of a sense of loyalty.  Oh, and maybe my sisters and my resident sweetie will stick by me. Please, dear readers, please read on and let me plead the crow’s case once more before you hit the delete button.

I could say that this was an Italian crow, and you know the Italian reputation for fiery and emotional displays. This crow was not attacking the dove, it was showing affection in the only way it knows how, by pecking. (A crow-style kiss for passing the peace, you might say.) Or  I could say that the crow, a great imitator, was only following the lead of the seagull. Not convinced?

Hmm. How about this: the crow is a member of the Swiss Guard that protects the Vatican; it’s a military crow on patrol, driving out invaders. Or, consider this: even a crow can get up on the wrong side of the bed, grumpy and irritated, and swatting at anything that gets in its way before it has had its first espresso. Maybe he had a fight with his wife or kids, and lashed out. The real crow is hiding inside this pugnacious one, the crow with the heart of gold who participates in peace marches all the time.

Nope. These excuses will not do. Actually, the crow was doing what its genes tell it to do: “Take measures to ensure you survive.” The crow is not a malicious, aggressive murderer by nature, but it does hurt and kill other birds at times to feed its babies, to protect its nest, or to make sure that other predators are not attracted to its nest. Crows are territorial animals, especially during nesting season.
Photo by Ron Austing
Crows also have long memories which they pass on to their offspring. Perhaps, long ago, a white bird harassed a baby crow in this particular crow’s family; now all white birds are guilty of harassment, and must be chased off. It may not be necessary, but then again, you never know. Better be safe than sorry. Only about half the nests successfully produce young, so mama and papa will do what they need to do to ward off threats, and to raise their young.

The crow’s bad boy behaviour reminds me again that there are many lessons I can learn from this animal. Friends have commented that I must really love crows. No, actually, I don’t love crows. Nor do I hate them. They just “are”, which is what they’re supposed to be doing in this world. And when I watch them and their behaviour, I see myself in a new light.

This crow’s behaviour reminds me that I too will do nasty things sometimes to protect what is precious to me. I am guilty of creating separations between “us” and “them” – people who look, act, and believe different things from me. I may not attack them physically, but I drive them away with my attitudes. We humans are prone to build fences around our physical, social and spiritual communities to keep out intruders and other “undesirables”. Sometimes, we create walls around our hearts that proclaim, “No Trespassing”, blocking out new ideas and resisting change, not realizing the damage we are inflicting on peace at home, peace between peoples, peace within ourselves. Although we are all one human family, we have a hard time making room for others in our lives.

Pope Francis released two doves as a peace gesture; the crow attacked one of them to ensure peace in its home territory. Ironic, isn’t it? We often work at cross-purposes with each other, each doing what we think is right, not realizing we are treading on someone else’s territory. We're all responsible in some way for peace in our world. As the song says, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."

What I’m hoping and praying for today is peace and harmony around the world, and peace to you, too, dear reader.

Crows at Peace, a piece I created recently while reflecting on the word "Serenity."


  1. Jessie, thanks for this insightful and grounding message this morning.

  2. Splendid observations... it's unhealthy to anthropomorphize and romanticize animals. When we accept them as they are, we accept the wildness in ourselves.