Touched and Touching: Crows, A Carr, A Conversation, a Book

The other day, I posted the following on Facebook:

More and more, I simply like crows. They are unashamedly themselves; they are intelligent and act like it; they don’t blend in especially well; and they have serious Beingness.

It was a helpful for me to articulate for myself why it is that I have a fondness for these birds that gather in groupings known as “murders” and are usually commented upon largely because they are loud, monotone, single word, long-winded conversationalists and, well, eat pretty much whatever and wherever it suits them.

It’s their self-proclamation that I respect. Their present-ness without being able to easily hide or blend-in.

I just read Growing Pains, the autobiography of renown Canadian painter, Emily Carr. As I read it, I kept realizing and sharing with the people around me, I really like her as a person, or at least the person she is putting forward here. She had very few friends? We would have been friends…I do not doubt that. She too was unavoidably herself and either couldn’t or could not be bothered, to try and be otherwise in order to fit in with norms and expectations of her time—straddling the death of Queen Victoria. When she did try, her depiction of the results was often the depiction of someone who’d wished she had listened to and followed her own instinct. So far as the book conveyed, she didn’t set out to not blend in so well…it simply was that way.

And, because of that, there is an artistic body of work par excellence representing the Canadian northwest and its First Nation’s culture.

I had coffee recently with someone and had the most wonderful conversation about Big things, about being one’s glorious self—as she is. We spoke also of the spirituality of story and how the greatest connections happen when you know something of the story of someone else… the story being told in so many different languages…only one of which is spoken word…and you feel like you can share your own… and then in that freedom, make a deeper connection.

I was thinking about all three of these recent encounters earlier this morning while sitting with a rightly proportioned cup of coffee and The Marram Grass: Poetry and Otherness by Antigonish writer Anne Simpson.

Her first chapter opens with the Yehuda Amichai quotation, I look out the window: A hundred and fifty psalms pass through the twilight. An exquisite reflection on language and wildness follows.

But we tend to see ourselves lending language to the world , rather than discovering what is constantly being offered to us….Wild speech is thick with rustling, barking, whirring…perhaps it is beyond us to hear it, to note it, or be able, in any sense, to suggest its cawings and clamourings…When we write of the wild, Edward Casey asks us to consider it wholly since, ‘it is not so much the direct object of sight or thought or recollection as what we feel with and around, under and above, before and behind.’ (From Getting back into Place: Toward a Renewed Understanding of the Place-World. Indiana University Press, 1993, p. 313) It could be understood as another skin, enveloping us. Or put another way, human skin could be that which touches the skin of the world: one thing next to another. Touched and touching. (The Marram Grass: Poetry & Otherness; Gaspereau Press, 2009, pp. 15-16)

Isn’t that what it is to make ourselves vulnerable in this world? To expose our skin, so to speak? To let ourselves be that which touches another…by our Being…And, to have the courage too to touch, to learn the contours of an unknown story. Knowing that we will at times misunderstand or be misunderstood…yet share the commonality of that willing vulnerability, that freedom of being who and how we have been created to be.

And isn’t making space where That can happen an act of love?

What a gift for the world if that space moved where each of us moves, if it expanded with each breath and was saturated with tears, aerated with laughter, nourished by the minerals found in our different soils come together…touched and touching…so that understanding, connection, freedom, may take root, grow, bear fruit, and multiply.

And so that together we bear witness to the psalms that pass by our windows…and maybe we invite one inside.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Barbara McVeigh says:

    I loved this piece as I am feeling a strong call to be myself. I wonder and echo St. Francis’ question, “Who are you, God? And who am I?”. And I listen . . .

    An interesting fact I learned last year was that crows are the largest of the song birds. It gives me hope that I, too, have a right to sing – you all have a right to cover your ears – lol!

    Blessings, Barbara

    Sent from my iPad



    1. Sing away, friend!! Sing away! I am glad you feel that call to be YOU. And am glad to call you friend….



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