a peek inside the fishbowl

27 Jan, 2010

Moment of bliss #008: Sighting of the spirit bird

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Moments of bliss

This one requires a bit of explanation.

Sometimes I open the front door, lean faaaarr out with a plate or lunch container in hand, and toss its contents into the wind. I’m sure the neighbours wonder what I’m doing.

These bits of buttered bagels and bread crusts usually land under a mature spruce tree which shelters the corner of our home. (At least that’s where I’m aiming.)

In the summertime the girls pretend that its lower branches are the walls and ceiling of a house, and they play there happily. The other added attraction is that it is within earshot of a sidewalk, and they’ve learned that if they’re quiet enough they can eavesdrop on Teenage Conversations (the best kind, apparently, because they’re usually so dramatic).

Last Spring, Mark hung a bird feeder in the arms of that old spruce.  We wondered aloud how birdie real estate agents described the locale.

“New listing in great neighborhood! Gorgeous one room bird house sheltered by mature evergreen. Close to food and water. No cats. Perfect for fledglings!”

Sadly, there weren’t any takers. Potential avian residents didn’t seem to think very much of the place. But SOMEONE finds it interesting (although the bird house has since been removed):

curious crow

I’ve seen this fellow a number of times. I also think the little snoop peeks in our windows.

His feathers are glossy and beautiful; midnight black with a bright sheen. The other night, the moon illuminated the frozen twinkling branches of our neighbour’s tree, and the shiny black sky reminded me of him.

I watch him pop gently around the branches, leaning smartly, deeply, to take a look at the day’s offerings. He cocks his head to the side while he looks downwards. You have to know he is considering something.

It all happens so quietly. He’s as silent as the tree itself. 

These guys travel in small flocks of two or three. I wonder if they’re related. When I see one there’s almost always another nearby – father or brother? – perched effortlessly on top of the stop sign or on the telephone wire.

They call to each other. To our ears it is rather raucous, but it means something. Hurry up. So what is it today? Did the old squirrel get to it first? Any peanut butter? See if you can find some rye this time. And no cheese!

Some cultures believe in spirit animals. If that was true, I think my spirit animal would be a crow or a raven: curious, smart, capable of fun and mischief.

I wonder if he’s going to come back?

3 Responses to "Moment of bliss #008: Sighting of the spirit bird"

1 | Jodi

January 27th, 2010 at 11:38 am


If you really want to learn about crows, you should watch this documentary on the Nature of Things – “A Murder of Crows”.


It’s truly fascinating. Last spring my husband climbed our enormous spruce tree to collect a small crow from a nest to show the kids. (not something I’m proud to tell but all for science education, apparently) You would not believe the number of crows that appeared in the sky out of nowhere to “help”. It was quite literally Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”!! The documentary shows how the crows support each other and are, in fact, members of a family. They are incredibly intelligent and will even build tools to get to food. These crows remember my husband, as well. If the birds are near, they squawk angrily every time he leaves the house! Creepy.

Enjoy your new neighbour!

2 | Conspiracy and Murder

January 27th, 2010 at 1:22 pm


Ah, the Corvids….smartest birds in the world. And so interesting to observe. Funny though how the collective nouns for these species are so…um…negative?

A murder of crows
A conspiracy of ravens
An unkindeness of ravens

Murder of One (by Counting Crows)

I dreamt I saw you walking up a hillside in the snow
Casting shadows on the winter sky as you stood there
counting crows
One for sorrow Two for joy
Three for girls and four for boys
Five for silver Six for gold and
Seven for a secret never to be told
There’s a bird that nests inside you
Sleeping underneath your skin
When you open up your wings to speak
I wish you’d let me in

3 | Marla

January 29th, 2010 at 9:46 am


Josie chose this book from the library last week, and quite liked it:
(myth re: the origin of crows)

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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