31 March 2016
Crow and the vernal egg
Guardian Country Diary, Wenlock Edge
by Paul Evans, first published in
There is a nervousness about the crow’s swagger. It walks as if it’s concentrating on something else, nothing to do with an egg, never noticed it before. Then it half-hops, half-shimmies a few steps towards it. Head cocked, one eye over its wing to see who else may be watching and the other inspecting the thing as if it ticks, as if it might go off.
I don’t know how the crow came by the egg, whether it took it from a nest, or another creature did and was either persuaded to relinquish it or just left it there next to some dead stumps for the crow to find. The egg is forlorn, there is no hope for it despite the crow’s edgy circumspection, and it’s already a bit cracked. It has lost the rocking movement of an irregular sphere and, despite its apparent weightlessness, it now looks ill-defined, like crash wreckage.
Eggs are powerful magic, especially at the vernal equinox, when they are associated with fertility and the Teutonic goddess Oestre, or in Christianity with resurrection at Easter.
I approach egg mysteries like the crow, with caution. It is hard to imagine any human culture not seeing some kind of symbolism in eggs – spring (in the temperate world), rebirth, life emerging from chaos, fertility, the egg as the world – but unwise to assume it’s all the same.Sumerian graves had eggs in them 5,000 years ago.
Decorating eggs is art’s way of bringing nature into culture. Eating them is the crow’s way of getting the magic into itself. Without further hesitation the crow breaks and enters the egg with the delicate surgical instrument of its beak. It does not guzzle but pulls a globule of yolk and swallows it as if testing a drug, waiting for something mind-altering to happen.
Maybe it does, maybe the egg will brighten the blue iridescence of the crow’s wing, make the black of its eye glint brighter than the space station at night. The crow balances on the equal day, equal night thing, eats the vernal egg and takes off, as Ted Hughes wrote, “flying the black flag of himself”.
Paul Evans is the author of Field Notes From The Edge, Journeys Through Britain's Secret Wilderness and Herbaceous:
Field Notes From The Edge a Journey into Britain's Secret Wild...through the in-between spaces of Nature – such as strandlines,mudflats, cliff tops and caves – where one wilderness is on the verge of becoming another and all things are possible.
Herbaceous is gardening with words. It is a book of audacious botany and poetic vision which asks us to look anew at our relationship with plants and celebrates their power to nourish the human spirit. - See more at: