The Crows of Nutcracker Way

bon appetite!

A much as I love the spring, I love the slow transition from winter nearly as much. Two days ago I spotted the first butterfly of the season and then this morning more snow fell. I am not disappointed. I get to bask a little longer in this liminal time and enjoy the lovely anticipation of the warm colorful, flowery days ahead. Plus, it offers me a chance to spend some time thinking and talking about the birds before we are distracted by the butterflies and completely consumed by the gathering of wildflowers as happens every year with pretty much every group of three and four year-olds.

My inner little-old-lady-bird-watcher came out to play with a vengeance just after I procured my first pair of bifocals a couple of weeks ago. Just in time to witness the returning of the birds from all vantage points.

But when it comes to kids, we simply have to start with the crows whom I love dearly for so many reasons. First, they are not shy. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to see them, or hear them for that matter. They carry with them a rich mystical lore and are known to be quite intelligent. I read recently that they have a problem solving ability akin to that of a four-year-old human! No small wonder they are right up my alley.

Our cheeky friends, the crows, are observable all year round which is allowing the children and I to develop a deeper connection to them. They are part of our visible landscape every day. With crows there won’t be any thrilling stories about rare sightings like there are with the more unusual birds like herons and storks that inhabit this area. Instead, our crow stories will be of relationship and gained intimacy. We had one such lovely story the other day.

On our way to the woods, we must first cross the big road then take the small road through the farmers fields to the entrance of the forest. There are always a million things to do and see along this road. In fact, in the early days of our forest play group we used to joke that we should call our group the “on our way to the forest play group.” And with the fields on either side of this narrow road lying fallow and covered with snow, we had occasion one morning recently to discover something previously unnoticed.

Week after week we walk down our road only to to find the edges littered with broken walnut shells. Occasionally a child will collect a few and float them like boats in the large puddles that form in the low lying areas near the horse stalls. Many times a kid will kick a single shell the whole length of the road Huckleberry Finn style seeing how far he can go before it is lost in the grass. Sometimes someone will make a game of stomping on the shells just to enjoy the big cracking and their utter destruction.

Today however we noticed the shells with new curiosity. There is not a walnut tree in sight yet the road is littered with shells. Where did they come from? A few interesting possibilities were suggested then I offered one of my own. “It’s the crows!” “The crows?” “Yes, the crows, the big black birds. They fly over and drop their nuts on the hard street to break them open… just like a like a nutcracker.” I think the kids were as impressed with the idea as I was. On the way back we filled my entire mitten with walnut shells, talked about how cool birds are and practiced our flying and nutcracking skills.

Back at the farm we filled each shell with bird seed and set them out under the big sheltering pine like a tray of scrumptious hors d`oeuvres, an offering and a welcome home to the birds and the coming spring.

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