The big animals that know how to get away with life in the big city have my respect and admiration. I root for them, hoping they don’t get shot or imprisoned; the only two options it seems when they get discovered stealing someone’s pets or flowers.
Not that I don’t love the small stuff, I do too: the hummingbirds in my garden, one of them brooding in its twoonie-sized nest on the camelia a few feet away from my kitchen window; the woodpecker mindlessly hitting its head against the metal cladding around the chimney, the flocks of tiny finches flitting away from one bush to another and then – poof! – gone again, to the next backyard, working their way down the block. The raccoon mafia-bandits parading around the house in their odd gait. Even the fists-full of worms in my garden compost bin are pretty amazing. And the skunks: how can such a handsome animal, all formally dressed in black and whites, be so intensely wicked when that lush plume of a tail goes up? The Gore Vidal of the animal world, perhaps.
And then, of course, there’s the astounding local, daily phenomenon of the crows collecting themselves by the thousands into what’s called a ‘murder,’ flying – and fast – on the diagonal across the city to roost at night in the trees around Still Creek, in the very heart of the metropolis. In the late afternoon when this happens, I stand in awe of their fly-over, while an endless, motorized peak traffic file carries on in its usual slow and oblivious ways down below, on the Cassiar freeway that slices through East Vancouver. The crow parade should be the only cause to stop traffic, nothing else, so the drivers can see. The Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowski had this to say: ‘Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness.’ I don’t envy these people stuck in their cars every day, ‘keeping their show on the road,’ but they may not have much of a choice. The best blog about crows is the one by June Hunter, the ‘Urban Nature Enthusiast,’ who lives a few blocks away from me. She’s a great photographer and describes individual crow-temperaments in the most entertaining ways, proving amply that no crow is alike. Much like people; it’s intriguing. To me, the freedom to roam on foot at any time, to have all your senses work ‘overtime’ is a blessed way to be in later, retired life.
Then there’s you, housemouse, or roofrat, whoever you are; you’ve only recently begun to invade my nest but I haven’t met you yet. You ate one-third of my pear, left for a while, then you ate half of a banana. We hear you, little bugger, racing around between the floor and the ceiling. I also found an empty nut shell somewhere else but you refuse to grab the tasty tidbit in that little piece of machinery I’ve set, especially waiting for you (I can’t mention the T-word of course, or you’d know, wouldn’t you?). Plus, you haven’t quite found your way to the washroom yet, so you’re a bit of a mess too, aren’t you? I can’t particularly wax poetic about you, even though you have a cute face and belong squarely in the parade of small, well-adapted urban animals.
(Obit: Mr. Roofrat died on Feb. 21/2021, of unnatural causes, after being previously identified by a webcam borrowed from the SFU Biology lab. He was last seen at night between the floor and the ceiling. He was admittedly cute and his company was kept for a while until he became a burdensome guest. He did not survive the agony of being made to feel unwelcome)