When I started this blog in the new year I stated that one of my intentions was to become more authentic. Immediately on posting that people started asking me ‘exactly how do you do that?’
Not being entirely sure myself I had to do some reading. I discovered psychologists say we are not living authentically when our actions are governed by the expectations of others. The psychotherapist Eros Candusso writes that “One reason we fall into this false self is because we want to conform with the group… We don’t want to be weird or isolated. So we get a sense of payoff by being false.” By developing awareness of the true intentions behind our actions and, as a result, developing more control over how we behave, we can move towards greater personal authenticity.
I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to acting falsely. A good example is my previous post where I decided that I needed to write my memoirs because my younger sister asked me about some family history. Because of convoluted family dynamics I immediately felt I had write an entire book about what I knew of family history. It took me most of the day to realise that I could simply answer my sister’s question then say I wasn’t all that interested in digging up the past right now.
The entire episode made me think more deeply about personal authenticity.
Crows are birds who have no qualms about expressing their authentic voice.
Since early spring (September down here in southern Australia) I have had a family of crows living in the tall gum tree behind my house.
I first became aware of them when I noticed a crow parading around the garden with a twig in its mouth. After a moment it flew off with it then shortly returned to get another. When a second crow began doing the same thing I realised they were building a nest.
Over the next few weeks the crows became increasingly territorial. One day I was painting in my studio when a ruckus in the garden made me look out the window. A crow had a neighbourhood cat bailed up on a fence top and was pecking at it with its beak. The cat cowered in fear until it snatched a moment to make a quick getaway. Crows immediately went up in my estimation for as a young teenager I know said “You have to admire any bird that can hold its own against a cat!”
In due course the baby crow arrived and the two adult birds were kept busy ferrying food to it. At that stage the baby kept up a constant squawking. Its parents were never very far away and often made re-assuring noises.
It was about then I began to realise that crows speak to each other in their own language. They don’t always squawk raucously. There are all kinds of subtle midtones and short abbreviated sounds that they use to communicate with each other. The most annoying of these was when the baby grew larger enough to leave the nest but was not big enough to find its own food. Every afternoon it would march up and down my yard crying piteously. As the days went by it was left alone for longer and longer periods of time.
One evening the three birds perched on a branch overhanging my garden. As I watched the mother regurgitated food for the baby while Dad watched on protectively. Poor mum didn’t get much of a break before the baby started crying again and nudging her for more food.
By December the baby was able to fend for itself and the din in the yard lessened. The family still live in the gum tree and fly around my house chatting conversationally. The baby often perches on the fence top and watches me as I work in the garden.
This intense involvement in the life of crows led me to look up their symbolic meaning in the book “Animal Dreaming” by Scott Alexander King. He says that the crow symbolizes natural law and writes –
“Crow encourages us to seek the wisdom found in the inner silence and to ponder our actions and reactions to life…her appearance generally heralds a sudden but necessary change, a wakeup call or a lesson in self-discovery.
Crow demands that you listen to your instincts and act upon them in a way that honourably serves your purpose.”
Around the same time I had a really strong urge to paint on my Medicine Drum. After consideration I realised that the image I wanted to paint on its surface was a crow.
These days when I play the drum I feel I am drumming my authentic self into being.