Crow Journal 3

08 / 04 / 2023

Thoughts about crows, sightings, encounters, communication ... 
Chris and I went walking and talking. We saw crows on the way. We’ve worked out now that you can always see them, in the late afternoon, on the church spire and in the tall birch trees next to Pizza Posti. 

We walked down Frog Pond Road where the ice is still slippery and we talked about what it meant to research. I talked a little about what it sometimes felt like to research, and to be a little lost, a little stuck, a little kinda making it up so it looks as though I’ve done some research.

You see, I research a lot. I read and look and I am constantly finding out. But that’s not really the kind of research that I want to do.

I felt a bit frustrated.

But Chris is smart. Much smarter than I am in many ways, and he was able to ask me some questions and help me see that research can be a lot of things. And that perhaps I am still locked into an NT way of thinking about research, when autistic research should perhaps look like something really quite different. 

I realised I have two gears. The first is having ideas, and the other is doing something about it. I’m not good in the kinda halfway place where the ideas are done but I’m not doing anything about it. I’m more a practice PhD kinda autist. 

So. We talked. And I felt better. 

We identified three main things I would like to do with this research, each one corresponding roughly to the three months that the research period covers, as well as a list of supplementary things to do that support the research.

I would like to make a short, body-based performance (perhaps around 15 minutes max) that arises from thinking about and engaging with the imagery and symbolism, and reality, of course, of crows. It is important to me that this performance is a solo and it is just me and my body. I would like to build confidence as a performer this way and I would like to work wordlessly. I feel as though wordlessness is vital to an autistic way of being and making art.

a) I would like to make a crow costume. On my own. I don’t know how I will do this yet. 
b) I would like to listen to the sounds the crows make from recordings online and my own observations, and I would like to try to make the same sounds.
c) I will record something of this performance perhaps. Perhaps I will wear the GoPro or I will strap it to a tree in the forest.

I don’t know much about this film yet but I know I like making films. I think this will be a combination of footage that I collect that is inspired by crows and then perhaps a voiceover or perhaps some music. I will see. I will do this after the performance, so right now, some of the ideas for the performance are also kinda bleeding into the idea of the film but that will get easier once the performance takes shape I think.

a) I have recruited a couple of friends to take photos and make little films of the crows they see around them.
b) I’m going to send out a questionnaire about crows to lots of my friends and see what they think. Perhaps these questionnaires could form the backbone of the film. Actually, thinking about it, it would be great if the questionnaire could be a spoken one wouldn’t it, like a self interview. But then I think text could also be really nice on the screen. 
c) I wonder if Chris Packham has made anything about crows. 

The story of ‘The Crowboy’ is one that’s haunted me for many years. Haunted is maybe a bit of a dramatisation, an overstatement, but, it’s been there, lurking in the background. And I’ve only managed to see it with half an eye. 

I have a memory of an actor being interviewed on daytime television back in the 80s, perhaps in the early 90s. I don’t remember who she was. I think she had something to do with musical theatre, maybe. I can remember knowing who she was at the time, but now her name and her face have faded in my mind. She wasn’t Rula Lenska, but that’s who my mind supplies as a stand-in. Perhaps also because Rula Lenska is Polish (see below).


The actor talked about the story of The Crowboy. She said it was a Polish folktale. Something about a child who was a boy and a girl, not a boy not a girl, who lived in a tree outside the village and all the villagers pretended not to see him/her, apart from one child who could see them and tried to ask the other villagers about them. I’ve searched online for The Crowboy and all I get is a children’s book written in 1955 by a Japanese author called Yashima Taro:


karasu tarō

からすたろう』(英語:Crow Boy)は、日本出身でアメリカ合衆国に移住した八島太郎による絵本知的障害を持つ児童が、理解ある教員に出会って、周囲からの見方が変わっていく姿を描く。1955年にアメリカで英語版が刊行され、1979年に著者自身による日本語版が日本で刊行された
Crow Boy is a 1955 picture book written and illustrated by Taro Yashima. The book tells the story of a shy Japanese boy named Chibi who hides at school until a new teacher takes notice of him. The book was a recipient of a 1956 Caldecott Honor for its illustrations[1] and shared the 1955 Child Study Association (now affiliated with Bank Street College of Education) Children's Book Award (now called the Josette Frank Award) with Plain Girl by Virginia Sorensen.[2] This book was translated into Japanese by Taro himself and published in Japan in 1979.[3]


And when I search for wroni chłopiec in Polish, I get the Legend of the Crow King from Poznań:

W bardzo dawnych czasach stary trębacz wieżowy miał młodego syna, który najchętniej przesiadywał na jednym z balkonów wieży. Pewnego razu do stóp chłopca spadła zraniona widocznie wrona; chłopak zajął się nią troskliwie i wyleczył z ran. I razu pewnego, gdy bawił się z prawie oswojonym ptakiem, ten nagle zmienił się w krasnoludka odzianego w purpurę, w złotej na głowie koronie. Jestem królem wroniego państwa - rzekł chłopczykowi krasnoludek - chcę ci podziękować za to, żeś mię leczył. W nagrodę masz oto srebrną trąbkę; jeśli kiedyś znajdziesz się w niebezpieczeństwie, zadmij w nią, a ja ci dopomogę. - Tu zmienił się znowu we wronę i odleciał w świat. Minęło wiele lat; chłopiec zmężniał i wyrósł. Aliści Poznań otoczyli wrogowie i postanowili miasto zdobyć; i tu chłopiec przypomniał sobie obietnicę króla wroniego, wbiegł na wieżę i zagrał na srebrnej trąbce. Na dany hejnał nadleciały ze wszystkich stron tak ogromne masy wron, że aż niebo stało się czarne. Wrogowie napadnięci przez skrzydlate rzesze, uciekli, a król wron dochował obietnicy. Od tej chwili postanowiono grać hejnał stale. Jednakże chłopiec podczas tumultu bitewnego zgubił srebrną trąbkę i nigdy już wrony się na znak nie pojawiały[1].

I wonder if the actor made the story up. Or was it lost? Or are there things in the world that are not on the internet (of course there are)?


I tried to write it once as a novel. I will try to write it again — begin it at least — as a playscript.

So I suppose this is a work-plan!