Crow fledgling touches ground for the first time!

July 4

  • Lesson from crow mother: We help our babies leave the nest. 
  • Fledgling crow says, “I can fly!”

firstbabyfeeding

Yesterday morning there was a lot of crow activity on the corner of Woodland Park diagonally across the street from us. I could hear the adult crows—the ones who built their nest in the nearby tree—and their two off-spring from last summer. The adult crows called with excitement. I got up from my office chair to look out the window. The male adult was sitting on the baseball diamond fence scolding too-close people as they walked by. The two juveniles were walking around the lawn not far from the base of the tree that housed the nest (in the photo behind the red car).

Through the binoculars, I could see into the tree one of the crow babies perched on the nest’s edge. This year, the adult couple had a slow start with their babies. They had two nest failures; nests abandoned after damage from strong winds. They finally had success re-using a previous year’s nest in the tree at the edge of the park. The baby was flapping his wings, testing things out. The mother flew from the ground to the tree, over to the telephone wire, and back down to the ground. She seemed to be coaxing the youngster to make his first flight. The male kept guard, continuing to scold humans, while calling to the female. The juveniles walked around the grass pecking at things, seeming ready to provide back-up if needed. Juvenile crows may help their parents with nesting activities until they’re about 3 or 4 years old. This is how they learn to be parents themselves.

After the pedestrian and car traffic settled down, they stopped calling. Then, in this quiet moment, the fledgling swooped down from the nest onto the lawn. His first flight! The mother greeted him and regurgitated a bit of food into his mouth. Crows will prepare a mixture of food and saliva to feed their babies. This mix contains good bacteria for the babies health. I felt happy to have witnessed their group effort getting the baby launched! I went back to work.

After about 20 minutes, I heard the couple calling. The calls were coming from our roof. It was one of their typical calls caw-caaw—caw. The first and second caw paired with a slightly longer space between the second and third caw. The second caw slightly rounder sounding. I went up to the roof to give them their daily popcorn. Every day since their eggs hatched, I’d put a handful of peanuts and popcorn on the roof.

When I approached the edge of the deck I saw three crows, the two adults together on the neighbor’s roof, and the baby on our roof! He sat calmly and watched me put the food out. He had downy feathers on his chest and looked a bit ragged. His parents called a few times. I greeted the youngster and the parents. I felt honored—hello world!

 

reference:
Kilham, Lawrence. The American Crow and the Common Raven. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1989.

Zen + Dogs: Thanks-giving

tom-thanks-giving-sThis post is inspired by Robert Carter’s discourse on ethics in his book Becoming Bamboo. He integrates views from Western philosophy and Zen Buddhism. Zen practice is inseparable from ethics. It is a way of life, a ‘spirited caring and effective willing’.

Oct 12

  • Lesson from Tom: Dogs are attuned to their human’s emotional states and often mirror this state back to the human.
  • Tom says, “When Julie’s anxious, I get anxious and I don’t know what to do!”

“We got this amazing delivery of twenty pounds of pork yesterday!” she said. “We had the whole machine there and all the materials for making sausages!”

“It was incredible to dig your hands into the meat…!” he said.

I look at them and don’t respond except with a weak expression of interest. Greg, at my side, just says “Oh.”

“Are you vegetarian?” she asks.

“Vegan” I say.

“Ah” they both say in unison. “And you?” they both look at Greg. I don’t look but hear him say, “I live with her”, gesturing to me. He elaborates, “I eat vegan at home, but sometimes away from home…” his sentence peters out. Then, as though intending to deflect the attention, “the dogs are vegan too.”

Instinctually, I glance over towards the front door. Tom is there, mildly hyperventilating with wide eyes, giving me a look that says, “get me out of here!”

We are at Greg’s sister’s place for thanks-giving dinner. She kindly invited us over while we were in Victoria visiting my mother. She warned that there would be meat, but that she and her daughter would provide vegan options which they generously did. I often feel torn about going for dinner to meat-eating houses. It is uncomfortable for me to watch people prepare, eat and discuss the meat meal because it brings up images in my mind of animal suffering. On the other hand, I feel grateful that people go to the trouble of inviting and hosting. I usually offer to bring something. I try to look at these dinners as opportunities for small openings towards conversations on ethics. This time, the couple changed the subject to growing veggies, which I welcomed.

I take Tom and Sugi outside, sense the crisp damp air and feel better. They let me know that they’d rather wait in the truck than in the house. After, I return to the dining table to be seated.

  • Large browned turkey. I think about the appalling living conditions of turkeys bred for consumption.
  • Brussel sprouts with bacon. Don’t they taste great already? The image in my mind is of the crammed conditions of pigs who never get to see the outdoors, and the gestation crates where females are forced to lay on their sides for months nursing the piglets who’ve had their tails and other parts cut off without anaesthetic.
  • Mashed potato with butter. There are great alternatives to butter! I think about the male calves born into the dairy industry who are born and disposed of, or kept alone in veal cages for months before slaughter.
  • Apple pie made with lard. Seems that this would conjure a disagreeable image for anyone.

The whole evening, I practice meditative techniques of breathing, attention to the moment, compassion towards the other guests, but with mixed results. I continue to feel a small familiar cloud of despair hanging overhead…

Zen + Dogs: The Three-Headed Daimon

This post is part of the series “Zen and Dogs” (a project I’m doing for my PhD study) and experiments with forms from Zen story-telling, traditionally used as means for moral education. I’ve become interested in Koan practice. Koan is a public story or dialogue that relays an interaction between a Zen master and student and may describe a test to the student’s Zen practice.

Sept 26

threeheaded

  • Lesson from Tom: no use getting frustrated by not being able to control the emotions or expressions of others.
  • Tom says, “Find something to do together that is enjoyable!”

It’s 8:30am. There is nothing to be done about the pouring rain and the reality that we have to go for a walk. My turn, with Tom and Sugi and Bruce whom we’re baby-sitting (last day) for Greg’s daughter Lauren who is traveling. Baby-sitting, an appropriate term here because the dog is brattishly balking every few feet in protest to being forced to walk in the rain, and worse, having to wear a raincoat. I am irked by his ingratitude towards my good intentions…

Pierre Hadot’s Philosophy as a Way of Life discusses the philosophy of  Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD) and his proposition (from his written Meditations) that the Daimon —nature’s laws and ways, the force indispensable for all creation, the natural spirits— can seen as a guiding principle towards freedom and a moral life.

En route beside Britannia High School, it occurs to me it’s the time when kids are on their way there. Tom and Sugi, both off-leash, head towards the school grounds. I yell that I do not approve. Tom comes back, Sugi continues to browse, ignoring me. I realize frustration linked to the dogs expressing their own desires [contrary to mine!] Anger now directed at Sugi. In different locations, Bruce pooping and Sugi too. Pick up Bruce’s, locate Sugi’s, while keeping track of Tom.

Aurelius proposed three philosophical exercises intended to confront life for its reality. 1. Desire and aversion: People are unhappy because they desire things they can not obtain or control. The task is to develop temperance and to cultivate desire that has moral virtue. “Keep the daimon within you in a state of serenity…”

I try leashing Bruce to Sugi so that Sugi can lead Bruce. Normally this works, allowing for keeping track of two better than three. Today, Sugi doesn’t have enough strength to pull stubborn Bruce, or maybe it’s Sugi’s lack of will…

2. motivated action should be “right action” in the service of community. Inclinations should be towards social justice. “…neither saying anything contrary to the truth, nor doing anything contrary to justice.”

Tom now calmly out in front. Bruce on leash, Sugi browsing close at hand. That’s better. Continue walking, thankful for the pack formation.

Once Tom’s done, we head back. Bruce now moving with purpose. Can’t seem to shake the frustration. Feel surprised by my lack of equanimity at such mundanity. Reflect, searching for a deeper reason. Can’t find any…

3. assent; give ourselves to only that which is true.

Later, Tom reminds me of a special treat the four of us can share. I open a pack of Seaweed Snax. All four of us enjoy the salty, oily flavor. I feel contented through this small act of mutual enjoyment.

seasnax

Zen + Dogs: Dogs + Beans

As some of you know, in my PhD I’m researching compassion as a means for improved awareness and relationships with nonhuman beings and their worlds, and the larger ecological context. In this semester’s course “Everyday Enlightenment” with Dr. Heesoon Bai we are examining Zen Buddhism for wisdom towards the everyday. For this course, I have began a weekly project on the Tom and Sugi Blog as a contemplative practice. This first post is a bit late because I was gathering courage to post these publicly. Here is the first in a series of posts on Zen and Dogs.

Sept 4

beans

 

  • Lesson from Tom: practice being in the moment including non-annoyance!
  • Tom says, “Bruce shit on the deck”

The first reading for the course is Pierre Hadot “Philosophy as a Way of Life”. Today, I’m reading Hadot in the dining room. Dogs are tucked into blankets after their slightly chilly morning walk. Note taking: historical texts portray the philosopher as outside of daily ‘bios’ or life… For the Greco-Roman philosopher ‘meditation’ was not linked to a physical practice as in Eastern thought, but towards rational, imaginative, intuitive practice including the assimilation of ‘rules for living’ which could be available ‘at hand’ in order to apply to life’s daily circumstances…

I hear dog nails on hard surfaces in my office. I go look. Tom is laying on the work table stretching his nose and forelegs towards the triangle of sun on the south-east corner of the table. Bruce, Lauren’s dog we’re baby-sitting, is on the floor under the table, his body in the sliver of sun reaching the floor. They’re after sun-heat.

I climb the too-steep-for-dogs stairs to open the trap door to the sunroof. They’ll enjoy laying in the sun. Tom barks impatiently as Bruce places his forefeet on the first 2 steps. Tom first. I help him climb the steps. Bruce next but slower (he’s smaller). Sugi says he doesn’t want to go. I return to Hadot: Theory is never considered an end in itself; it is clearly and decidedly put in the service of practice…

Tom, through the roof opening: bark, bark, softly: “bring me down”

...Every school of philosophy practiced exercises aimed at spiritual progress…Plutarch: controlling one’s curiosity, speech, consumption, anger, etc...

Bark, Bark, more insistent.

[annoyed] I climb the ladder, step through the opening onto the deck. The air is clear, warm, perfect temperature. A great day! [no longer annoyed]

Tom elaborates, “Bruce took a shit on the deck”, he points

[annoyed] I go get a bag, clean it up, hose down the deck. I should harvest the beans which haven’t been picked since the recent rain. Start on the red-runners on this end of the fence. They need to either be snapped off the stem, or given a forceful tug to get them off. Move around to the other end of the fence and proceed with the stringbeans. Rule for living: “The joyous acceptance of the present moment.” I tug at a stringbean. I notice I’ve pulled off the end of the vine [argh! too much force!] ….On either side it has a white flower + a tiny forming bean…perfect symmetry…[I feel bad]…

beanvineS

Heimlich Maneuver for Your Dog

heimlich for dogs

  • Lesson from Sugi: chewy Mochi can be a choking hazard! let it dry out before giving it to your dog.
  • Sugi says, “the Mochi got stuck in my throat and I had to ask Greg to give me a Heimlich maneuver”

In my previous post I talked about Mochi Fun Food for dogs. This post is a special ++Mochi Alert++. I now know that the Mochi should be left for a few hours after baking before giving it to your dog.

Last night I made a new batch of Mochi, Sugi’s favorite treat. When you first take it out of the oven it is lovely and chewy like fresh bread. When I gave Sugi a piece he chewed and chewed and then started clawing at this inside of his mouth! He desperately was trying to free the Mochi from the back of his throat! I fished around in his mouth with my finger but couldn’t find it. It must have been lodged further down. Sugi was freaking out and Tom was barking…Greg picked up Sugi and gave him a Heimlich maneuver. It must have worked because Sugi stopped pawing and gasping immediately and seemed very relieved.

How to give the Heimlich maneuver to your dog (from Canadian Living)
1. Stand (if he’s a tall dog) or kneel (if he’s a small or medium dog) behind the dog, with the dog facing away from you.
2. Put your arms around the dog’s waist. Make a fist with one hand and place your fist, thumb side up, on the dog’s abdomen just below his ribs. Wrap your other hand around that fist.
3. Give a hard, fast jerk or squeeze upward, toward the dog’s backbone. Apply enough force to move the dog’s whole body. (If he’s a very small dog, place two knuckles of one hand on the abdomen just below the ribs and the other hand flat on the dog’s back to help steady him, then give a quick, hard poke upward with your knuckles.)
4. If the object does not come out of the dog’s mouth on the first try, give another hard jerk. If after three or four jerks the object still has not come out or the dog still can’t breathe, rush him to the nearest veterinary clinic, where a vet can do a tracheotomy (cut a hole in the dog’s windpipe below the obstruction) to get air into the lungs and then remove the object surgically. YIKES!