This morning, I saw two crows sit in companionable silence on the mango tree across the yard. If you know anything about crows, you’ll immediately wonder what I’m talking about.
Crows, as a rule, don’t seem to know about silence. Their raucous “Caw! Caw!” ring through the air almost unceasingly. The shrill sounds pierce the morning dawn and the rest of the morning, and their echoes reverberate again in the evenings.
They call out like this because they are solitary birds. Or, at least, that’s what they seem to me. Yes, they congregate in gangs around garbage, but otherwise, they sit by themselves on tree branches. Close to other crows, yes, but still separate.
That’s why these two crows today captured my fascination even as I was still rubbing the sleep from my eyes. I watched them, minute after minute, and they sat together in stillness. No sound, just physically near each other, like a couple, communicating in non-verbal ways.
Soon, one of them dipped her (I think it’s a she) head, and the other one started caressing it with his beak. Gently, his neck moved, from top to bottom, from top to bottom. His partner sat in docile silence, submitting to the gesture. Eventually, he stopped, she looked up, and again dipped her head. The shiny silver grey crown was offered, and again, he began sliding his beak over it. Later, they sat, side by side, and she leaned into him, as if to lay her head on his shoulder.
It was touching. Firstly, because it was crows. We in the cities don’t tend to look too kindly on these winged city-dwellers. They’re loud, unpleasant to look at, and contribute heavily to the cacophony of the urban jungle. And yet, here was a pair of them behaving like doves in love.
The other reason it was so heartwarming was because of the act. To bow down one’s head is the ultimate gesture of submission, vulnerability and therefore, trust. The female gave herself openly, and her boyfriend returned the emotion generously. It was tenderness in action.
Some days are defined by the unexpected. This was one such day. What a magnificent display of the one emotion that cuts across all labels, divisions, and species, love.