|I met him about twenty years ago, not long after his daughter and I became friends at the college we attended together. He became a good friend -- at times a mentor, at times a student, sometimes a fatherly figure and sometimes filling the role of a (younger) brother. He was quick with a smile, an anecdote or a silly story; he could also become deadly serious in a heartbeat, especially if he thought a friend was in trouble.
In short, he was a good man who cared about those around him, and he is sorely missed.
For a brief period, during what would turn out to be the last years of his life, we were roommates. We split the rent on a small two-bedroom house in Oklahoma, and often took trips to Texas to visit his daughter -- my best friend. In that time, I finally began to write again. I am grateful for that.
In Native American lore, the Crow is an omen of change. It is often be paired with the wolf, another powerful symbol -- represented in both my life and the life of his daughter by our Alaskan Malamutes. (Malamutes are one of the breeds of dog most closely tied to the original wolf ancestor of the canine species.) Crow's lifelong friends -- those who he grew up with, who'd originally given him his nickname -- cringed whenever his daughter or I referred to the Native American symbolism associated with it. They would point out -- sometimes pointedly -- that he was "Crow" and that it had nothing to do with "that Native American crap." Their use of the word "crap" wasn't meant to be derogatory toward Native Americans -- it was meant to be derisive of the "fluffy sparkle spirituality" attitude that they perceived in the attachment of symbolism of any sort. They were "real world" folks, and Crow's name had to do with their favorite past time -- football -- as well as their young adulthood together. But, like it or not, Crow's daughter and I still see some interesting ties back to that symbol, and make reference to it anyway. (In my case, sometimes just to tweak 'em.)
Crow knew this, and while he sided with his friends, he tried to keep an open mind whenever he'd hear his daughter or I talk about symbols, happenings or circumstances. We all had a love for strange coincidences, and the apparent capacity to attract them.
When I moved out of state, feeling like I'd abandoned my friend and knowing he'd be forced to move shortly due to the increased rent (I paid out two extra months to ensure him time to find a spot), I commented how I always knew he would be calling because of the very large, loud crow that would alight in the tallest tree right across from my desk. He thought that was odd, but he seemed to be inwardly pleased (most of the time) by the thought of it. He knew -- and had witnessed -- that I often encounter a Hawk whenever I'm making a journey of any significance or have to make a major decision. He's seen the Hawk show up, watched it follow me around, and marked the departure when I had done whatever it was that had apparently summoned it. It was something that I didn't question, and something that I've still not figured out how to explain when people ask me if it's "my Hawk" or a trained pet.
I think Crow would have appreciated a picture of his totem-made-manifest; I should've thought of it while he was still alive. Given some of the interesting manifestations of crows that have occurred since his passing, I am fairly confident that his spirit has no need of such things, and that he has played a role in stirring up several of the more memorable encounters.
Why, at this time, do I think of Crow?
Truth be told, he's a friend who I think of often, regardless of the circumstance. He was one of those people who makes such a strong, gentle impact upon one's soul that it is virtually impossible not to sense some aspect of his effect and presence while going through the normal daily tasks of living. However, there's a reason for thinking of him even more, now.
Shortly before I'd made the decision to leave the state and move back closer to my family, I'd been working in the computer department of a manufacturer. I walked out into the machine shop one day to an eerie quiet -- there was a lunchtime company-wide meeting for all the manufacturing folks, and nary a soul was left in that portion of the building. In the stillness, I heard the soft strains of the opening whistle for the song "Winds of Change" by the Scorpions. The acoustics of the machine shop lent a spooky quality to the sonorous tones, otherworldly and appearing to come from all over. I wondered for a moment -- before dismissing it with a shake of my head -- if that was one of those "coincidental happenings" that people often leaped at as signs of major change or upheaval coming. After shaking it off, I went back about my business.
On the way home, my Hawk was sitting atop a lamppost, silently watching me approach and drive by.
When I got home, I headed off to see Crow, unable to shake the feeling that change was in the air.
I moved a few short months later, and Crow died a couple years after that.
Over the past few weeks, I've been encountering crows everywhere -- if not through physical presence, then in word written or spoken, "Crow" jumps out at me. And I've been hearing the song "Winds of Change" quite a bit, too, in addition to hearing the phrase or simply seeing it in print.
Does this mean it should signify something for everyone else? No, of course not. I'm not sure whether it signifies anything. But I do feel that, as our world rapidly approaches escalating hostilities with a nation divided and a leadership of liars, that something big is in the offing.
Major change is afoot on several levels, evidenced by what we see in the blogosphere and some of the less unreliable traditional media -- political winds are blowing, mixing it up with winds generated by global warfare and warming. I wonder if we're ready for it, or spending too much time looking for where the wind is originating to watch where it's going and perhaps attempt to gauge it.
These are the times where I'd normally arise in the early morning hours, finding Crow -- likely as not -- either rising from his room to share morning coffee or already in the kitchen with a fresh pot. We would start our day just chatting, and sometimes exchanging news items or discussing current events. I regret losing that when I left Oklahoma. I regret more the fact that it is one aspect of life I won't get back; an ideal time of peace before the start of a day, just talking with a good friend over coffee.
The events of the past few years are ones that I would like to discuss with my departed friend.
I've a lot more reflections to share on and about Crow, which I'll likely weave into future diaries. For now, let me close by simply saying that I think we all need to find quiet moments to have a cup of coffee, tea or water with a friend, to ease the soul and gently prepare the mind for each of the coming days ahead. It gives a sense of peace and a solid start to the day, which I hope and pray everyone reading this can secure for his or her self.
JOHN DAVID CROW - RB (1957)
Crow was a consensus All-American selection as a senior in 1957 and was awarded the Heisman Trophy as college football's top player after rushing for 562 yards and grabbing five interceptions on defense. Crow helped the 1957 Aggies to an 8-0 start and a No. 1 national ranking before losing the last three games. Crow was a first-round draft pick by the Chicago Cardinals in 1958 and was selected for the Pro Bowl four times. He was named to the all-pro team of the 1960s.
Crossposted at ePluribus Media and StreetProphets.
I'll likely update the age at which Crow died as well as validating that I picked the right person that he was nicknamed after -- it was the closest "Crow" I found, but I'm not 100% certain I got the right one.
UPDATE: I adjusted his age, which I'd ballparked a little high, and I completely forgot that he'd had an older sister; the John David Crow reference is the correct Crow reference.