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Newly transplanted to California from having spent a quarter of a century in Las Vegas, the afternoon sun finds me this late July day up in the hills east of Oakland perched on the deck of my new residence.

A beautiful place, I initially had fought against moving here. Now, with age 46 quickly approaching and an incredible man still wanting to be with me, I have uprooted myself from a good job, my grown children, close friends, and my own home in order to move here to this place where I had never imagined spending my life. The onslaught of change has me spiraling through a world fraught with newness. So, high on this steep hillside I sit, seeking to make peace with this place, yearning to shed the anxiety brought on by the slew of transitions.

Purple Finches dart from fence posts to ground and back, their red-hues a delight to this Las Vegas girl who is used to seeing more pigeons and doves than other more finely feathered creatures. A woodpecker taps away at a towering eucalyptus tree. Hummingbirds buzz through the air around me. Even crows are joining in on the chorus. Hearing all kinds of tweets and birdspeak, I am soothed – nature’s balm for a scraped up psyche.

Having begun as subtle cawing, the crows’ calls quickly grow louder. I hear more of them; they have created a choir of their own. Turning to see what the ruckus is about, I spot a neighbor’s pine tree looking much like a connect-the-dots image, its upper branches dotted with numerous crows. Minute by minute, more arrive and join in. I am reminded of a trip to Indonesia and the bat forests where the trees are filled with huge black blobs, all bats.

The murder of crows (the term for a large group of crows) was a curious sight. They had an eerie, almost discomforting presence. Counting up to 30 that I could clearly see, I wondered what made them gather like that and why they were there. My little dog was uneasy. Having splayed herself across the deck while enjoying the fresh air, she relocated herself to a spot underneath the patio table at my feet.

At approximately 8:05 pm the crows flew away. Not en masse, as one might expect, but in 3 separate, large groups.  One stayed behind solo only to fly away moments later following the others. Maybe he was the lookout. Perhaps he just didn’t realize his cronies were leaving.

Inquisitive, I took to the Internet searching to find out why crows might gather and what a large cluster might mean. Always respectful of and interested in other cultures, spirituality and beliefs, I perused a variety of sites.

Historically, the appearance of crows has been associated with death and my first fear had to do with my senior dog, a German Shepherd. The night before, I had dreamt that he died.

Apparently, large flocks of crows gather in the late afternoon in pre-roost staging areas and move on in groups at sunset to their final roost location where they sleep at night.

More interesting to me was finding out that the crow is a useful animal totem to call on when you need support in dealing with adversity and that they carry the energy of life mysteries and the power for deep inner transformation.  http://www.spiritanimal.info/crow-spirit-animal/

As noted at http://www.religions-and-spiritualities-guide.com/animal-totem-crow.html, the crow teaches:

-there are not one, two or three worlds but many

-the laws of Sacredness

-to balance our need for partnership with other areas of our life

-to value ourselves

And from http://spiritwalkministry.com/spirit_guides/bird_animal_spirits:

When in the darkness of emotion pain and turmoil the crow is the Carrier of Lost Souls into Light.

The crow instills the wisdom to see things beyond the limitations of one-dimensional thinking.

The crow is the spirit which represents the transcendence that will reveal the true path to life’s mission.

I find this information fascinating but I know not everyone does. For those who scoff at such stuff, you’ll be pleased to know that there are pages and pages of sites about crows that provide more detail than one might ever want to know or be able to remember.

I learned the difference between ravens and crows; initially I wasn’t certain which type I was seeing. Ravens are larger than crows and their beaks are different shaped, they appear rumpled where crows look sleek. Ravens make a deeper, more guttural sound than crows although they both can make all kinds of different sounds. Ravens soar and can do a roll in midair; crows don’t soar and can’t roll.

If you take nothing else away with you from this story, at least humor me by trying this:  Step outside and look around. Truly look. Sit out in nature and let her present her wonders. Listen. Feel. Smell. Explore.

Before yesterday, I didn’t know what a Purple Finch was nor a Nuttall’s woodpecker. I didn’t know a crow from a raven from a blackbird from a cormorant. Okay, so I still don’t know about blackbirds and cormorants but that’s not my point.

I sat, I watched, I took pictures, I looked things up online. It’s a fascinating world, you just need to take the time or make the time to notice and find your peace within it.