Saturday, 9 November 2013

Meet You at the Roost

The crows have begun to do their fly-over on their way to their roosting site somewhere west of town. Flock after flock wing their way high above us, hundreds and hundreds of them, just as the sun is beginning to set. Somewhere out there in the woods is a grove of trees which will become their hotel for the night. The next morning, just as the sun is rising, they will leave their roosts and fly away, off to do their groceries and see what’s up in the world.

This nightly roosting activity begins in the fall, when the nestlings, now fully grown, no longer need mom and dad to feed them. Released from their parental duties, the adults are ready for some social time. They’re tired of listening to little “peeps”, and need to hear some adult news. “Time to hit The Roost,” they tell each other. (Aren’t some pubs named The Roost? How appropriate.) The kids are welcome to come along, and many do. Older single crows, not ready to mate, may want to hang out in town with the guys, but the gang will probably drop in to the Roost every few days. When all the crows have arrived, there’s an ungodly racket of cawing, screeching, chuckling and other undecipherable crow language. And just as it happens in hotels, at a certain point, suddenly all is quiet as they bed down for the night. Researchers aren’t sure exactly what these birds chat about in their crowlogues at the Roost, but it may be about good places to get food, which dumpster is overflowing, who’s dating who, and news about the latest sighting of their arch-enemy, The Great Horned Owl. They may spend a bit of time broadcasting news about who’s died, who’s behaving badly and needs some discipline, and whether any strangers have arrived in town. Young crows listen in and learn. Once winter is over and a new nesting season begins, the Roost’s regulars head for the summer cottage, where they’ll begin their family cycle anew. The roost will be deserted until fall arrives.

Crows love to be in community. Adult crows never kick their babies out of the nest – they’re welcome to hang around and help with the housekeeping. Some hang around for years (it’s the opposite of “empty nest syndrome”, I’m thinking.) Family groupings can get quite large in these situations, and each member of the group looks out for everyone else in the group. They also teach each other an enormous amount of crow wisdom to help the youngsters thrive and survive when they strike out on their own.

I created this small wall hanging of crows hanging out at the Roost. It would be fun to add word balloons above the crows’ heads!
I thought about this Crow phenomenon on Halloween afternoon, about the time the sun was beginning to set. I was driving home from Cumberland, a small town known for its funkiness and community spirit. It wasn’t crows I saw, however. Crossing guards at every corner of main street directed traffic, and the sidewalks swarmed with costumed revelers big and small. Children and their parents – in some cases, grandparents – teens in groups, even adults without kids, were strolling along, obviously enjoying themselves immensely as they paraded up one side of main street and down the other. The children were skipping and dancing, the adults were chatting and visiting, and the treats the local businesses were doling out were secondary to the fun everyone was having. They were gathering in community to chat and exchange news, to catch up on who’s dating who, who died, who’s been sent to jail, what Ottawa has been up to, and whether the coal mine should go ahead or not.

Both the Roosting and the Halloween experience remind me of the importance of intergenerational communities that include folks of all ages. In intergenerational communities, children learn from older folks, hear the stories, catch the values embedded in the opinions we speak and the sermons we preach – but probably, most of all, in the actions we take. Older people enjoy the fresh insights of the younger folk. We hear each others' stories, and are nudged to think about a bigger world than the small insular outpost we call home. We learn that someone is in trouble and we hatch plans to provide support. We talk to each other, and we are better together than we are alone.

You can find these intergenerational communities in extended family gatherings, in mixed-age neighbourhoods, at potluck suppers with friends and strangers, in events such as country fairs and community celebrations, in churches and school concerts, even in soup kitchens where parents down on their luck bring their children to sup with the homeless. And it is good.

Because we all need a branch to roost on.


  1. Jessie, your crows are surrounded by the right fabric, you found just the proper environment. Right on.

  2. Ah, Jessie, you never cease to amaze me with your writing. Thank you.