In the fairy woods, I find a black feather. Crow. I don’t find many of those as a rule. Crows rule here and nobody, it seems, fancies the taste of crow. I remember we had one, once, back in Tapselteerie days, a decoy for the controversial crow trap. Crows kill lambs, but slowly, the weak ones, the ones left behind by first time mothers who go through the whole pain of giving birth and then walk away once the pain has stopped. We trapped the crows back then, but now I know how pointless that was long term. Dispatching crows to Crow Heaven just makes space for other crows. It was a losing battle. The decoy, called Jim, smelled like a rotten fishcake and that smell filled the milking byre with a stink I never want to experience again. We fed him over winter then put him in the trap with something dead to lure the others in. Not a part of farming I am proud of.
However, one lone feather is compelling. It doesn’t stink but just lies there in the fairy woods catching sunlight and glinting blue. Crow medicine is strong. Crow is an omen of change. I could do with some change. Perhaps that is why I find the feather, although I don’t pick it up. it can stay down there on a bed of old larch needles and peaty earth. In my garden feathers abound. The young sparrow hawk, all gangly flight and poor timing makes a rush at the garden birds every day. Sometimes she is lucky. Mostly not. But she will pick up speed and improve her timing by the autumn. When she shoots like a bullet into the midst of bird breakfast, she sets chaos in motion. Birds of all sizes and creeds erupt like the ground just exploded, leaving feathers to flutter, curlicues of soft down, lightly onto the grass. Some birds hit the window. Some recover from that close encounter, some do not. I watch the hawk cant away over the field, my eyes hoping for empty talons even though I know she must eat too.
These feathers jettisoned in panic are obviously not critical for flight. It thinks me of what I need, what is critical for my ‘flight’ through this life. Certain that I need this or that for everything to suddenly be quite marvellous is foolish, and, yet, I am guilty of that. Spending money on extras like a new summer dress may be justifiable but not if it doesn’t work with the cash available. But, hang on a minute…….am I not caring full time for no pay whatsoever? Am I not deserving of a few ‘little somethings’ to make me feel less crow more peacock? I well might be, according to Disney. But there is no Disney in this tail of functioning feathers. There is only survival. Like all birds I cannot afford to be looking the other way when the sparrow hawk strikes. I must take great care of my feathers, all of them so that I can fly to greet another day.
Some days I am crow, the omen of change. Other days I can peacock my way through the fairy woods, lifting my colours into the world and making enough noise to scare off a heffalump. I read, once, of a woman who was transported to the New World in the bowels of a convict ship for stealing one peacock feather. I often wondered what became of her. Perhaps she was the start of something. Perhaps, through her, came the woman who invented barbed wire or the man who abolished slavery. Perhaps her journey meant something. She may have lost hope at times, felt abused and rejected, torn from her own future, but I choose to see her fighting spirit and her courage and determination as a force to be reckoned with.