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!”


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!


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

Crow fledgling and parents reunited!

June 9

  • Lesson from a crow parent: A fledgling left on his own does not mean he has been abandoned.
  • Fledgling crow says, “I’m just testing my independence”


The traffic on Venables Street was busy as I walked up the north sidewalk on my way to Commercial Drive to get lunch at a nearby cafe. I noticed a crow standing on the sidewalk with his back to me. He was facing the wall of an industrial storefront. I stopped a few feet away and looked to see if he was injured. There were windows above the wall where he stood, so I wondered if he’d flown into one and was stunned by the hit. He stood quietly with his eyes closed as though sleeping. A woman came out of the shop and we chatted. She hadn’t heard him hit the window. Then, he opened his eyes and blinked a few times. They were blue, so I knew he was a young one. He had a short tail and looked a bit rough around the edges. He turned to me and gave a squawk. Just one. I called back and he stepped towards me. I looked around to see if there were any adult crows nearby, but couldn’t see anyone. I was hungry, but I didn’t want to leave him unsupervised. I feared he may wander out into traffic. I called Greg and told him about the crow baby. He offered to come watch and to bring a cardboard box in case we needed to rescue him.

When Greg arrived with the box and a towel, I called Wildlife Rescue Association (604 526-2747) and left a message as instructed by their answering machine. I went for food and Greg stayed behind to supervise. After about 20 minutes, a woman called back. She advised that this is fledging time for crows. Young ones will experiment with flight and forays away from the nest. She said it is normal for parents to leave fledglings on their own for up to an hour. She also asked to notice if he’s pooping. If so, it indicates that he’s not been abandoned and has recently been fed. She said to watch him and if after an hour no one comes to claim him, place him in a cardboard box and bring him in, or to Animal ER, the emergency facility in Vancouver where transport animals to Wildlife Rescue.

fledge1When I returned to join Greg, the little crow had wandered down the sidewalk and was looking at a glass door. Thinking his reflection was another crow, he tried to fly into the glass. After a few minutes he gave up and flew onto the roof of a car. We were now quite worried he’d fly into traffic. He may not have the skills to avoid the moving cars. We looked again to see if any parents were nearby. We saw a crow heading south across Venables, towards a tree a few hundred yards away. She flew inside the tree. She had a nest there. We couldn’t see the nest, but this kind of flight—to a destination deep in the tree—is an indicator of a nest location. We saw another crow fly north overhead. The young crow saw this one and called to him. I thought these must be the parents and that they were looking for him. It would be a good idea to move him away from the traffic and towards the nest. So we gently coaxed the crow off the car and towards the sidewalk. He swooped down and walked over to a storm sewer drain and looked down into it. He was probably thirsty. Greg slowly corralled him into a corner against the building where he scooped him up with the towel. We carefully put him in the box, removed the towel and shut the flaps. The fledgling protested by calling and rattling around while I walked with him across Venables and towards the tree.

I found a grassy bit about 30 meters away from the tree, and well away from traffic. I put the box on the ground and let him out. He walked over to a telephone pole, as though looking for cover, and stood beside the pole for a few seconds orienting himself. He called again, and this time the parents saw him. And me. The adult male, complaining, swooped down at me. I turned around and calmly walked away from the baby, simultaneously explaining the situation to the male. I didn’t want to harm the young one, but was trying to help him find his parents. Satisfied—that I had moved far enough away or had given a good enough explanation—he turned from me and flew up onto the telephone line just above the fledgling. I watched as the female joined the baby on the ground. She touched his beak with hers and reassured him with a few quiet words.

Zen + Dogs: Dog Bowl Aesthetics

Nov 25

  • Lesson from Sugi: Even dog bowls can be “shibui”
  • Sugi says, “I enjoy a lovely piece of pottery from which to sip water”

robson bowljohnson bowl

In the summer of 2012, Greg, Tom and Sugi and I were enjoying our camping holiday on Saltspring Island touring the studios of local potters. We had visited Meg Buckley, known for her beautiful and useful large bowls and tea pots. She was spending her last summer in the house on Saltspring, moving into a condo in order to be less tied to the maintenance of a large property. She urged us to visit the Saltspring market on the weekend and to look for a small stand of pots by Lari Robson. Although we had started to avidly collect Westcoast pottery, we weren’t yet familiar with Robson.

The morning was cloudy and a bit chilly even though it was the middle of summer, so Lari was huddled over a hot water bottle wearing a toque and scarf. He tried to talk us out of buying anything, saying that, with the exception of a few mugs and cups. the pots were no good. He explained some of his techniques: wood firing and salt glazing—a particularly difficult and toxic form of glazing. Wood firing allowed for unexpected patterns and colors to grace the pots. We ignored his attempts at dissuasion and bought a bunch of things including this small gray tea cup.

Recently I’ve been reading about Japanese aesthetics in relation to pottery. Robert Carter writes about Shoji Hamada, the renowned potter and Living National Treasure of Japan. Hamada, and the English potter Bernard Leach, had profound influences on Westcoast potters: Wayne Ngan, John Reeve, Tam Irving, Michael Henry, and later Charmaine Johnson, Lari Robson and others. Robson called himself a “slave to the Leach/Hamada tradition” (Carr 2012). In the language of Japanese aesthetics Robson’s pots are examples of shibui: austere, subdued, plain, simple, serene. The wood fire kiln and the use of salt glazing allowed for unexpected irregular qualities to emerge in the final pot, events that recall mushin (no-mind). The wood kiln provided an uncontrollable atmosphere, therefore overcoming the authorship of the potter.

Soetsu Yanagi, a Japanese philosopher and friend of Hamada, writes eloquently about the inherent qualities of particularly auspicious pots from Korea, China and Japan. Yanagi discusses the differences in Song era pottery in China, and the everyday use pots made in Korea during similar periods. Song pots are especially renowned for Ru ware, a style characterized by delicacy, exact shape and flawless celadon glazing which has a color close to “the blue of the sky after rain”. (Krahl 2012). An auspicious Ru dish using the name Taizhen Woshi Pen (Great Perfected Little Dog’s Dish) dated to 1761 was used by the emperor’s dog as described in the poem inscribed on the bottom of the dish by poet Yuzhi Shiji. Charmian Johnson’s azure bowls—an example shown here—follow the tradition of Ru, having perfect form, gentle texture and translucent opulence of an after-rain sky like those we experience in Vancouver. Korean ware from the Yi dynasty (17th century) used hakeme technique to brush on a light slip as a glaze, with swift brush energy. Robson used the hakeme brush technique on this unassuming little gray cup.

A few weeks after we got back from Saltspring, we got a call from Charmian Johnson who told us that Robson had recently died! We were shocked and saddened by the news and realized that the little table he had set up at the Saltspring Market probably displayed his last sale of pots. I felt extremely fortunate to have met Robson and had come to love the humbleness of his pots.


Carr, Diane. “Remembering Lari Robson” in the Potters Guild of British Columbia, Sept 2012, Volume 48 No.7.

Carter, Robert. Becoming Bamboo: Western and Eastern Explorations of the Meaning of Life. Montreal & Kingston: McGill University Press, 1992

Krahl, Regina. Ru From a Japanese Collection. Hong Kong: Sotheby’s, 2012

Yanagi, Soetsu. The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty. New York: Kodansha USA, 1972.

Zen + Dogs: Stone Wisdom

dogs-and-rocksThis post is Inspired by Robert Carter’s and Graham Parkes’ writing on Zen aesthetics specifically the role of rocks in Zen landscape design.

Nov 12

  • Lesson from Tom: Dogs like rock energy
  • Tom says, “I love to jump from rock to rock and run on the uneven surface”

Living on the Westcoast, one can’t help but appreciate the power of mineral world: the grand wall of Seymour and Grouse Mountain to the north; the diverse shapes and textured rock formations on the water’s edge of each Gulf Island; the rock outcrops, small mountains in themselves, emerging from Victoria’s front yards. Athletic dogs like Tom, and timid but adventurous dogs like Sugi, like to get to know stones by exploring the boulders on shorelines, and navigating the rocky hills of hiking trails.

In Zen Buddhism, rocks are particularly auspicious sites of kami, the vital energy of the universe present in all things. Shinto, the ancient belief of indigenous Japan, practices ‘the way of Kami‘, a belief in the wondrous and divine nature of the universe. Zen Buddhism adapted the aesthetic practice of garden design developed by Shinto masters, to produce the Zen rock garden. The rock garden is specifically designed as a meditative aesthetic form where rocks can be seen as sources of understanding.

In Zen, it is thought that mountains are particularly strong sites of kami, and the rocks in a Zen garden take on the specific role of attracting kami. These rocks may also function as scaled representations of specific individual mountains, a practice influenced by ancient Chinese landscaping practice. In the Zen rock garden, no water and very little plant life participates. Instead, the absence of these are emphasized through the arrangement of ‘dry’ elements: fields of raked, patterned sand; cascades of rocks recalling waterfalls; and rock paths seen as dry stream beds. In the practice of creating the rock garden, according to the classic treatise Sakuteiki, the master gardener would dialogue with the site and elements at hand, understanding the fuzei, “wind” and “feeling”. Following the principle of kowan ni shitagau (“following the request of the rock”) he would choose the most powerful rock as the starting point and dialogue with it and the rest of the rocks about their placements.

The Zen garden serves as a site of attention, where the observer can partake in a harmonious arrangement of living and nonliving organics, and participate in the contemplation of “dependant co-arising”, the interdependence of all things. The great Zen Master Dogen (“Valley Sounds, Mountain Sights”) said that all sentient beings and non-sentient things have the Buddha-nature and therefore all are equally divine. In this dharma discourse all of nature, including rocks, have something to say and teach us about existence.


Carter, Robert. The Japanese Arts and Self Cultivation. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008.

Parkes, Graham. “The Role of Rock in the Japanese Dry Landscape Garden”, from Reading Zen in Rocks: The Japanese Dry Landscape Garden. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005

Zen + Dogs: Enso Meditation

ensoThis post is Inspired by Robert Carter’s writing on Zen aesthetics ¹‚ ² specifically on enso sumi-e (ink painting) ³ and the energy of the brush.

Oct 12

  • Lesson from Sugi: Dogs are attuned to the moment and sensitive to energy from others.
  • Sugi says, “I feel good when Julie is practicing art or mindfulness.”

Calligraphy and other Zen arts, such as landscape design, ceramics, tea-ceremony, and aikido are seen as a practice in self-culitivation; as forms of meditative practice towards cultivating a positive state of mind leading to compassion, benevolence and equanimity. One key aspect of Zen arts practice is that the mind become “unattached” so that the body can move freely with energy.

The image is a photo of a mark I created based on enso* (circle), a stroke traditionally made in sumi-e. I enacted an ‘enso’ session by meditating on mark making, with Sugi’s assistance of course. I made numerous marks trying out different relationships with energy, brush and mindfulness. The most successful marks had a represented energy, a balance of elements, and fluidity. I noticed that these ones were created when I did not think about controlling the brush, but instead focused on the energy needed.

I sent this one to my dear friend Sandra (who also designed the stamp image in the photo) as a birthday wish.



1. Carter, Robert. The Japanese Arts and Self Cultivation. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2008.

2._____________. Becoming Bamboo: Western and Eastern Explorations of the Meaning of Life. Montreal & Kingston: McGill University Press, 1992.

3. from wikipedia: In Zen Buddhism, an ensō (  ), “circle” is a circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create.The ensō symbolizes absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and mu (the void). It is characterised by a minimalism born of Japanese aesthetics. Drawing ensō is a disciplined practice of Japanese ink painting—sumi-e (墨絵)“ink painting” . The tools  and mechanics of drawing the ensō are the same as those used in traditional Japanese calligraphy: One uses a brush to apply ink to washi (a thin Japanese paper). Usually a person draws the ensō in one fluid, expressive stroke. When drawn according to the sōsho (草書) style of Japanese calligraphy, the brushstroke is especially swift. Once the ensō is drawn, one does not change it. It evidences the character of its creator and the context of its creation in a brief, contiguous period of time.