Friday, July 16, 2010

educating Crow

Not only has Crow been around longer than any of us but he's also been quite generous in sharing his history with me. I was most surprised when he asked if I'd agree to draw some pictures and write down a story of his to share with you. How could I refuse?

You've always known me as a cultivated corvid, so it's difficult to convey just how much I've matured over the millennia since I was hatched and nursed through fledglinghood by dear Mama and Pater. They taught me as much as they could and sent me to the best schools where I learned a little geography, astronomy, calligraphy and systems theory. It was so long ago there was no such class as history.

There came a day when I grew bored with practicing the Copperplate chicken scratch font I'd been working on for days and I knew if I pulled one more quill to use as a pen, I wouldn't be able to fly for a month. From the window near my desk I could see mountains in the distance where I'd never flown. I remembered having been told a wise old bird was reputed to live in that vicinity so, just for fun, I decided to see if I could find him and see how smart he was.

It took some time to search out his aerie, but when I did I got right to the point and asked him the toughest question I could think of, 'So, old fella, what's the meaning of life?'

'Hmmm', he sighed, 'Are you sure you're prepared for the answer to your question at such a young age?'

'If you know, I think you should get on with telling me, but I'm guessing you don't have a clue', I replied. (Have I mentioned I was a callow and sharp-tongued youngster?)

With a twinkle in his beady eye he said, 'Since you're so sure you're ready, the answer to your question is that the entire world is the supreme reality and your highest Self is the same as God.'



Well, I was pretty cocky back in those days so what he'd said hadn't come as much of a surprise. I was young, healthy, could fly hundreds of miles without resting and was the smartest bloke in my class. So I decided to go out and test the theory.

While flying over the dense jungle near the sage's mountain I spotted an elephant walking purposefully along a narrow path. 'Ahah', I thought, 'Here is the perfect opportunity for me to show just how powerful I am in the world. Once I stop this perambulating pachyderm dead in his tracks everyone will come to me to learn the secret the wise old bird told me for nothing. I might even make some cash out of the deal.'

I made a perfect three point landing a couple of dozen yards ahead of its bulky bearing, and assuming a stance sure to convince him of my powers of persuasion, I opened my wings so the beast would be sure to see as well as hear me when I ordered him to halt. The ground shook beneath my feet as I smelled the warm, dusty scent of a hot monster with places to go.

'Halt!', I cried.

The jungle canopy began dancing to the pounding rhythm of massive feet that drew closer with every second and I heard a voice overhead screaming, 'Get out of the way!'

'Stop!', I shouted as the behemoth drew closer and I stood my ground with firm intent. (I had faith as well as conviction, you see.)

'GET OUT OF THE F*#KING WAY!', shrieked the mysterious voice again. It seemed to be coming from somewhere near the top of Gargantua. Was that a monkey riding the tremendous tusker? Yes! It was!

The elephant kept on coming and I knew it was time to bring all my language skills to bear if I was to arrest his progress. There was simply no way I was going to dive into the shrubbery. 'Cease! Break off! Pause! Pull up! Desist! Cool it!', I bawled.

'MOVE!!!', was the last thing I recall hearing that afternoon. There's a mammoth amount of inertia involved when an elephant lumbers along the path of his own least resistance.

Let it be sufficient to say I got flattened and we'll leave it at that.

Time passed.


Eventually, the splints were removed and so were the sutures. I was able to stay conscious for longer periods and spent much of the time idly staring at the scenery through the corbelled window arches of my room. The anger I'd cherished toward the old sage for telling me lies gradually slipped away, but I still wanted to express my disappointment and looked forward to our next meeting.

On a late afternoon not long after I'd finally been allowed out of bed, I heard a commotion from the hall outside my room; laughter and general chortling, along with the sounds of tinkling glass, led me to limp across the chamber to remind whoever was out there that in here was a recuperating patient requiring peace and quiet. Who should I see but Pater and the old sage chuckling up a storm as they juggled bottles, glasses and a large fruitcake on the other side of my door?

Still guffawing at the memory of whatever had caused their amusement, they came inside wiping their eyes and laid their burdens on a small table. Dad looked at me and snorted on his way out, leaving me flummoxed about his unusual behavior. Meanwhile, the old sage ascended the antique perch near the table and cut a small slice of cake which he held out as an offering.

'Hmpff', I thought to myself, 'Does he think a piece of my favorite dessert will gain my forgiveness of his perfidy?' Nevertheless, as I considered how to best phrase my dismay at his act of treachery toward an innocent young scholar, I took the proffered morsel and chewed (and chewed).

Finally, I gave voice to the question that had been plaguing me since I'd awoken in traction. 'You told me God is everything and I myself am one with God, so what I want to hear is your explanation about why that colossal creature was able to clobber me?'

Fixing me firmly in place with his eagle eye, he placidly replied, 'Oh yes, it's a fact that everything is God. Since that is true, why didn't you listen when God told you to get out of the way?'

I was dumbfounded. It was so simple but I'd managed to misunderstand. While I surveyed the floor in search of the socks I'd had knocked off, my ears pricked up to the distinctive chime of crystal. When I looked his way, the venerable teacher smiled softly and said, 'You're grown enough now to have a snifter of Remy Martin to wash down your fruitcake'.


I hope you've enjoyed the story Crow told when I asked him how he became a connoisseur of fine French brandy.


  1. HILARIOUS and profound. Love you crow. You are the best. Thank you for sharing your hard won lessons with us. I love the imagery---even though I hate to see Crow in peril. Hope the Remi Martin and the fruit cake softened the blows.

  2. Very wise and very funny story, Crow! And drawn beautifully, Susan!

  3. Loved it! Now we know why Crow is so very wise. He's had to learn the hard way.

    And everyone knows how dry fruitcake can be.. Remy is just the antidote.

    Loved the images, too.

  4. This was fantastic, such a slightly askew Alice simplicity that holds unbreakable truths at the same time. I hope we get some more tales of Crow in the future!

  5. belette - He told me the worst injury was the one done to his ego but he needed that. Glad you enjoyed it.

    marja-leena - Thank you so much. I'm having more fun than ever with the art work.

    nancy - It turns out to be a fact of life that usually the only lessons we remember are the hard ones, yes?

    randal - Sweet. He has a lot of them - far more than I - so chances are..

  6. Wonderful, as always. I love the jungle illustrations (wonderful elephant), and the beauty of the old sage. As usual, I'm fascinated by your use of negative and positive space and the way you divide and fill the pages.

    I grinned at the detail of the hospital gown ties in the last illustration...

    I have to try a good French brandy.

    The lesson which Crow passes to us is a good reminder at any age. It's so easy to forget we are one with God - and to err therefore in either direction (cowardice/despair or hubris). Thanks to you for sharing this, and to Crow for asking you to write it down and illustrate it. It was wonderful this afternoon to find a new entry at Adventures, Ink.

  7. A wonderful story with equally wonderful illustrations. Thank you both.

  8. i'll have to give Remi Martin a try. i'm so glad you survived your first grand adventure, Crow.

    just came by for a bedtime story.... and i'm off to walk a puppy before we turn in. he wears the same regal black as you, Crow, with a few white accents.

  9. steve - Once again, I'm very happy to read your compliments. The elephant was fun to draw but once the whole thing was done I found my personal favorite was the monkey emt brigade. I've never drawn monkeys before. Glad you noticed the hospital gown too.

    Yes, it's a good to remember we don't know everything, isn't it?

    the crow - Our pleasure indeed.

    gfid - It's a fine help to warming up on a cold winter's night. I'm glad you enjoyed this one and I'll try not to be so long next time since he has promised more.

    Maestro is already very elegant and will only become more so.

  10. i prefer when the world revolves around me. but i understand why it doesn't. i pretend it does anyway.
    ya, i've been flattened a couple of times.

    i love the illustration of the elephant with the monkey on top. i mean, all of them are good, but that one is my favorite.
    get out of the wayyyy!

    you and crow make a great team.

  11. sera - Me too and it hasn't stopped yet but the whole point seems to be getting back up, doesn't it?

    I like that one too but in the end the monkeys with the stretcher amused me most to draw. Crow and I will be collaborating again in future.

  12. I love your story! I think I may have heard it in other forms at one time or another, but to hear it as you tell it, Crow, well, it is grand!
    I remember when I was a gamling man, I'd pray to God and ask that I could be the winner of the lotto. God spoke to me immediately and told me,"Joe, help me out a little here, at least buy a ticket."
    It dawned on me, like it did to you, Crow, when the message was received loud and clear. I had to eat crow.
    Now don't get offended, it's just a saying. I'd never eat crow. Why I hardly eat any meat of any kind these days trying to stay healthy.
    thanks for the wonderful story. Your knowledge is great and we all should be paying more attention to blokes like you.


  13. I forgot to mention that dear susan's drawings are superb!

  14. spadoman - Crow and I are both delighted you enjoyed the story but, as he asked me to remind you, it's a very old story but then he's also a very ancient corvid. The old saying 'eating crow' just made him smile. Like you, he prefers a more vegan lifestyle - so long as there's a good French brandy to wash it down.

    and thank you for the compliment :-)

  15. I did enjoy your talent and your tale, read properly now rather than in a skimming rush, now that I have found some sleepless time to indulge. And I shall continue with what follows, below this one.

  16. andrew - Adventures Ink is a work of love still in progress even though it has slowed down a bit. I'm delighted you discovered the place and came back to read more. I only wish I were a more skillful writer.

  17. i never knew crows had ears to perk; i thought they just had ear holes.

    for the last week or so, there's been a frequent *bink* noise coming from my bedroom window. it's a tiny bird that keeps flying into the window over and over again. it is very strange behavior. i wonder, shouldn't this little creature be flying south?

    i am reminded of harry potter and his owl-as-messenger. what is this tiny bird trying to tell me?

    *bink* *bink*

    i have trouble listening to god too. maybe some remy martin would help...

  18. sera - Crows perky ears are hidden beneath their feathers. That way nobody realizes exactly how much they hear and they certainly rarely stop to tell us what they know.

    Are you sure your little 'binking' bird isn't a parakeet looking for someone to talk to? Maybe you should let him in and find out. But don't offer him Remy. If he's little a glass of red wine should do.

  19. Dunno where your followers were, so I just left you a message that I hope to see you soon Upstairs, girl, where I'll be your servant for eternity. I love you. See ya soon. God bless you.