The Bird’s the Word

It’s the crows again. I might as well rename this blog Corvine Central.

Not on my roof this time, knocking tins of cat food against my skylights or – scarier still - pecking to get in. Not dragging their slick black tail feathers against grass and pavement in their fledging state. Not even several murders of them, gliding across the pages of my novel The History of My Body, teaching my young protagonist Fleur what she couldn’t learn from her own parents - that we have to be mired on the ground awhile before we can actually fly.

No, this time the crows have proven themselves to be smarter than a child of four, able to strategically drop stones or other heavy objects into a container of water in order to raise the water level high enough to drink. Not to mention using twigs or even self-fashioned hooks made of wire to extract worms from crevices – a kind of tool-making anthropologists once credited solely to humans.

Nicky Clayton, the Cambridge researcher who reported all this speculates that the miracle that we humans call intelligence may be much more widespread in other creatures than we species-centrically assume.  

It’s kind of a joke, really. We keep looking for signs of intelligent life in the universe, when we have scads of species here on earth who have something to teach us about our ineluctable interconnection with all of life on this planet and the cosmos itself. That’s what writer and healer Deena Metzger keeps trying to get through to us from her visits with the elephants of Botswana, what Rupert Sheldrake suggests in his Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, what my friend Molly reports from her daily engagement with horses, what's driven home to me constantly by my feline friends Buster and Hobbes and Jezebel (aka Jillily, for whose of you who’ve already read my book).

That interconnection was something I first got wind of as a very small child, when I stood in front of my house and reached out to touch a particularly beautiful bush, becoming suddenly and powerfully aware of the-sun-shining-down-on-me-touching-the-bush. I got the message again from American’s true poet laureate Walt Whitman when I was fifteen. (Actually, I’ll be posting a brief story about that on Just the Right Book’s Facebook wall on Dec. 11.) More recently, it’s what my creative muse taught me as I wrote about my ever-curious, painfully wise protagonist Fleur. I had to get yanked around by Fleur’s anxiety about black holes, loss, and the void to really appreciate what the scientists have been telling us for ages about such phenomena as the butterfly effect, in which the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil sets off, say, an earthquake in Kentucky. The natural corollary to such inextricable interconnection is that what we do actually matters, not just to us, but to the universe itself. And yes, Virginia, there really is global warming, and if we don’t get that as a species soon we will ALL be proven to be less intelligent than the dogs, the elephants, and the crows.


And while Fleur was my fictional tutor on the ripple effect of what we do, I’m just beginning to appreciate what being mentored in the experience of publishing a novel can provide. I've discovered in family and friends a life-saving tribe holding me up when I falter from shyness and self-criticism. I've found in my publicists Gretchen Koss and Meg Walker a patience to keep plugging away in a culture where books themselves are under the gun. And, like Blanche DuBois, I’m learning about the kindness and generosity of strangers: welcoming (if not always uncritical) book reviewers like Mary Ann Smyth of BookLoons and Patty Porch of Pancakes Gone Awry; novelist and blogger Melissa Walker, who's featured an essay on my book cover on Unabashedly Bookish; environmentalist and educator Heidi Hutner, inviting me to blog on TerraSpheres; the kind folks at Just the Right Book, who’ll be featuring a response about my favorite holiday gift book; Connie Martinson, whose interview of me on Connie Martinson Talks Books will be aired this coming week nationally on cable TV, internet TV, and You Tube; and Patricia Damery and Smoky Trudeau Zeidel who’ve invited me to participate in a Blog Hop on December 16 – do come back and visit that day!

Not to mention you who are so kindly taking the time to read these words. As Martin Buber discovered after the suicide of one of his students, we are nothing if not in dialogue with one another, needing for our very existence to be heard and needing for the vitality of our souls to hear. 

I’d love to hear from you. You can comment on this blog, email me at sharonheath@sharonheath.com, and join me on Facebook and Twitter.

Until we meet somewhere in the cyberworld, blessings to you in this season of light and love penetrating the darkness, loving wishes in all seasons from me AND the crows.

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