Our neighbor worries that the ravens are eating his corn.  We try to ease his concerns.  The ravens are too young yet.  They can’t feed themselves.  They’re carnivores.  They don’t give a rip about his corn just coming up.

But preconceptions and prejudices are hard to break.  

Hopi don’t like black looking birds because they supposedly destroy their crops.  There’s a simple solution, however.  The best Hopi farmers plant extra for the rodents and birds.  In a resource rich environment predators cease to be a problem. 

In which case perhaps we need to unlearn our distrust.  Trust and distrust, afterall, are also learned responses.  Ideally we first learn trust.  When we come into the world our mothers and fathers greet us with love and caring, food and nurture. 

But if a harsh world greets us, we can just as easily  learn distrust.  A scary dog chases the chickens and they learn to fear dogs.  A farmer shoots ravens and they learn to steer clear of the farmers.  

More comes down yesterday on the other side of the fence.  Chester, the stray pit, ambles up and nuzzles him.  He’s already shown something like affection toward the birds.  I note the variety of species running and flitting about the yard and getting along.  Two varieties of chickens, hummingbirds, doves, cats, dogs, wild birds, ravens, humans.  We all largely mind our own business.  We’ve all learned that this is a resource abundant, safe environment and we respond accordingly.  Introduce hunger though, and hunger will breed desire, desire begets aggression and soon we’ll all be going at each other.

The ravens sit on the fence and I talk to them. They listen and respond with their murmurs.

My heart goes out to Heinrich, and I appreciate (just a bit) the difficulty of observing and being with something that is supposed to exist in the wild.  Even our remote presence or insertion of a variable disrupts the process.  At this point, we don’t have wild fledgelings; their behavior may in fact be some weird hybrid of raven, people and chicken.  What ill-equipped monsters are we creating?

This is a terrible thing.

I still can’t help but talk to the ravens though.  They can trust me, I tell them.  They can trust Pearish and Kerry and the others that feed them.  We won’t hurt them.  But they can’t trust anyone else.  They can’t trust the world, I tell them. The world will hurt them.  Most other humans will hurt them.  I feel a sudden sadness in this recognition.  That’s what we are as a species:  the ones that hurt others.  We will eat anything in sight.  We disdain a creature just because it shits in a plot we consider our yard.  We will kill other living things just for the sport of it.  Sometimes we gain pleasure in hurting.  We’re sick.

Emancipation comes in honoring another life over your own.  Curbing your own appetite so that another may live.

I want the ravens to stay with us.  I want them as friends.  But that’s my selfish desire and I can’t impose it on them.  The day may come when I will have scare the bejesus out of them.  They may have to become terrified of us.  Just so that they may live.

© Kerry Hardy



A recent visitor asked what sort of cage he would need to keep a pet raven.  What to say?    Except that we can’t own another living thing.  No animal.  No plant.  Not even our children.  I was about to say “our own children.”   They are autonomous forces moving freely through the world.  A raven was born to fly.  Humans were born to walk.  Not live in cages.  Not stay at home forever.  Would we consider caging our own children?  How then could we do that to a raven?

Let’s be honest though.  How is our raven experiment truly any different?  The ravens stay at our house even though they’re not caged. They may end up staying because we feed them. Or because they sense this a safe place.  Or worse yet, because they are learning to be with humans and not their own kind.  In which case we will have erected a far worse cage – the one that exists in their own mind.

By extension, what cages have we erected about ourselves they keep us from doing things?  The should’ves.  The have to’s.  The “it’s easier”.  Or more comfortable.  Or we don’t know any different.  Or “it’s what everybody else does.”  Or it’s always been that way.  Or the huh – I don’t know.  Never thought about it.  Or I’m scared.  Or the I don’t know how to.  Or my own kind vs. their own kind.  Or my ideas.  My own mind.  Your own mind.  Us.  Them.

Categories are learned behavior.  Other learning would result in other categories.  We often pass learned behavior off as knowledge.  But this knowledge doesn’t exist a priori as an absolute truth.  It’s the framing of the universe through the senses and experience and information available to us.  Other species with other sense organs or physical experiences may perceive it entirely differently.  A raven raised in a yard only knows the yard.  The ravens in the wash, why they’re wash ravens.  Their neural pathways, if only slightly, will evolve differently.  If even in that a wash raven doesn’t trust us.  And the yard ravens do.

I’m scared.  We need to make them go.

© Kerry Hardy