A Murder on Fortin Street. October 3, 2011Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Autumn, Crow, Fall
Somehow the return of the murder of crows to the tree in the next block behind my house lacks the Tin Pan Alley charm of the swallows of Capistrano. It is still a marker of the seasons; the crows come home to the Fairgrounds with the horses, flock to the track as the rake works the course, anxious for the coming time of scattered hot dogs along the grandstand rail. I have expected them since the short-course starting gate was hauled back from its summer home in the back parking lot along Gentilly Boulevard to just past the end of Mystery Street, the brightly colored slot numbers substituting for the change of leaves in this evergreen city. Fall is surely just around the corner.
Anglo culture have painted crows blackest black in their imaginations, carrion eaters of the battlefield from the most ancient of lays to the mythic hero. Then there were Odin’s servants Huginn and Muninn. The Christian assimilists of the Middle Ages could not have the servants of an unsavory character like Odin All Father given any stature. Not all cultures see Crow this way, and somewhere along the way I cam to understand the place of Raven and Crow in Native American culture, as tricksters, storytellers and message carriers between the world, and to me they entered into the mythological space of intermediaries reserved by most for the angels.
To hear them back reminds me to take my morning cigarette on the front stoop and not in back, to once again watch the thoroughbreds exercising in the morning across the street, to compare the breast-stroke flight of the crows with the loping of the horses, warming myself with coffee against the slight chill of October; to see in the animal kingdom, both the wild and the tame, the cycling of the year into a new season in a place where the only native tree to change its colors is the cypress. I lived for a time where the pumpkin and jam stands nestled beneath the turning trees but here the signs are more subtle. We are halfway between Equinox and Thanksgiving, waiting for the overture in that play of mortality against the fecundity of Autumn harvest observed long ago by picnics among the tombs.
In Spring we embrace the return of life. In Fall we slowly let it go, give up another of our years and live in the moment, in the feast my pagan friends have just celebrated at Mahbon and which my civil, Christian neighbors will wait until the end of November to observe. Have another glass of ale or wine and another helping of food before it’s gone. Be present in the moment among friends. Recount the old family stories. Ask not for whom the crows call. You will know that only when your chair sits empty on October mornings. For now welcome them back with a cigarette raised and cupped in prayerful hands like a censor as they fly past, and listen in their calls for hints of the stories they could tell you of their summer place.