Thoreau’s commute

ThoreausCommuteTwo weeks in the Maine woods, and  my morning commute is remarkable: I walk down a short gravel road to a pathway, then amble a mile to work through tall hemlocks and oaks. Mid-way, I mosey slowly across a long wooden bridge — the product of 20 years effort, I’m told.  I have to stop and watch Sandy Stream as it meanders down to the great green Atlantic, reflecting my world like lady with a liquid mirror.

STC.sunlight.forestometimes I wonder if I should record my morning walk, with the sound of gravel underfoot, and wind in the trees, and crows calling to each other.  I’d record it for people who are stuck, as I once was,   in elbow-busting  proximity to strangers, in suffocating, claustrophobic  subways, or in cars, belching out air toxics and carbon di- and mon- oxides as they rub bumpers and push their way to to the top of another imaginary hierarchy.

Yesterday I came across a small murder of crows who circled around me and called,  as I called back with a few of my own crow-calls.  I learned that years ago from a friend who loved crows. Back of the throat, blast of air. Easy when you get the hang of it.

Living in the country, as we did back in the 70s,  we would frequently come across flocks of thousands of them.   Once I walked out into a great mass of several thousand crows resting in a field, and watched in amazement as they rose and swirled around me like one giant organism, so close they were darkening the sky,  wingtips almost touching, air shushing through their wings like waves disappearing into the sand…

Today we see far fewer crows, in part because of the West Nile disaster of the 1990s, when millions of crows and other birds died.   I find this greatly distressing.  If I had such a thing as a totem animal, it might be a crow, or perhaps a white crow, since I have the distinction of being anomalous. Still,  I often wish I could do more to protect what is left of wild nature, and that’s not so unusual.

We don’t really know a lot about what crow calls mean.  Cornell University has a collection of typical crow calls here.  I’m of the opinion that four together signals danger, three is a general “all’s well” sort of call, and one is a kind of probe to see if anyCrow is out there.

Yet two is always a mystery.  Two people,  two logs, two crow calls – somehow there’s magic and the potential for fire in that number.  Just as you can’t have fire with only one log,  it takes two people to kindle something special.  That’s the kind of thing Im musing about, out there on the trail.

It’s astonishing that anyone could wish crows ill, for all that they have been through.  And I can’t imagine that anyone would want to eat crow.  And yet, the state of Maine, it seems, is seeking comment on crow hunting.

AUGUSTA, Maine —Maine officials are soliciting comments about the proposed crow hunting seasons for 2015 and 2016. The Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife has proposed a new crow hunting season and will take comments until May 30. Crow season would take place from early February to mid-April and early August to late September in far northern Maine. The proposed season in the rest of the state would take place from late January to late March and early August to late September. There would be no daily bag limit. Comments can be sent to Becky Orff, Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, 284 State Street, 41 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333. Comments can also be emailed to or phoned to 207-287-5202.

I’m dying to hear what the crow hunters of Maine have to say.


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