“Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom From the Urban Wilderness” Book Review

Nathan and I have been fans of the blog The Tangled Nest for quite some time now. I would say more so me than him, since I am a woman as is the creator of the blog, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, so there is much more for me to relate to than he. Even so, there is a lot of great information and perspectives on various subjects of interest to many “urban homesteaders”, man or woman.

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Lyanda is also the author of four books — one of which I was fortunate enough to receive as a gift this past Christmas. I was unbelievably excited to hold “Crow Planet“ in my hands after having my eye on it for so long, and I got to reading it right away. Even with having to care for house and family full-time, I finished the book within two weeks. I simply couldn’t put it down and more than once considered not cooking dinner just so I could read more! It’s been quite some time since I’ve made the time to read, let alone engage myself in something that captivates my attention so greatly.

Specifically, the writing itself really captured me. It flowed so nicely — it was whimsical, technical, lyrical, philosophical, and truthful…all at once. Also, the content was diverse and interesting — she had information on birds (namely crows) and she intertwined her personal stories in a way that was very honest and graceful. As a woman, mother, lover of the natural world, and concerned world citizen — I found myself relating so much to her narrative and life philosophies even though if you were to examine her life and mine — they are dramatically different. With that said, I also think males with similar values would reap equal enjoyment from reading this charming book.

The book is greatly about crows in several contexts, but I also venture to say that it is about life and moving along more aware in it. She touches base on current global crises and how the future may seem bleak. Nathan and I try to remain hopeful in our actions while still knowing we cannot possibly change the world or the people who seem to not care (or simply are not aware) what consumerism and the degradation of nature does to the planet and our children’s futures. It’s difficult sometimes to be a knowledgeable citizen of the wide world with all of its problems and yet still remain hopeful. However, it is important to walk that line and be a part of both sides — knowledge and hope. Lyanda puts it well:

“It is easy to become cynical about the fact that we as a species appear to have waited until the last possible moment — the moment in which we must radically change our way of living in order to forestall an unprecedented human-created ecological collapse — and even that, for many, seems not quite enough incentive. It is easy to become cynical, but it is not helpful.”

We all need to be more aware of our actions and how things such as throwing items away instead of recycling or composting because it is easier, or readily putting chemicals in our gardens and lawns so that we can defy the natural world and make it look as if Martha Stewart presides over it, or buying disposable diapers for our children instead of using cloth…all these things have very real and concrete consequences for the world and all of its inhabitants — even if we can’t see the “direct” effects, apart from the global climate crisis and continued habitat destructions for countless species around the world… We need to open our eyes and begin to realize our deep connection to the natural world.

Lyanda says it much more positively and exquisitely than I ever could:

“How exactly, are we connected to the earth, the more-than-human world, in our lives and in our actions? And in light of this connection, how are we to carry our lives on a changing earth? These are questions we are called to answer in this kairos, this graced moment of opportune crisis. I have come to believe that opening ourselves to such inquiry and participating daily in the process of discovery it implies is our most urgent work as humans in the new millennium  And not because engaging these questions will make us happier, or smarter, or make more of our moments feel enchanted, though it will certainly do all of these things. It is urgent because an intimate awareness of the continuity between our lives and the rest of life is the only thing that will truly conserve the earth — this wonderful earth that we rightly love.”

We also should all, at some point, ask ourselves what our definition of nature is. Lyanda prompts this thought exercise:

“When people — usually scientists or academics or nature writers — bother to define nature, one of two definitions typically emerges. Nature is either the whole physical world, excepting humans and their various constructs, or nature is the whole of the physical world, including humans and their various constructs.”

Before reading this beautifully written book, I was admittedly in the former category — finding humans and their constructs (largely so far removed from any one material’s natural state) to be separate from nature. But now I find myself rethinking my previous stance and asking: Why wouldn’t our homes be considered just another species’ habitat? If they are not nature, at what point past our doorsteps does nature begin? Where is the defining line? Is there a defining line? There is so much to be considered when trying to tackle these questions, and I certainly don’t feel equipped with any real answers. That should be left for each to decide for themselves.

All these philosophies are all fine and well…but what about crows. The title of the book is ”Crow Planet”. Lyanda visits the subject of crows in several ways, including personal stories of her experiences observing crows as well as information about crow life around the globe and through history. She speaks of the fear and unsettling feelings crows often stir up in even the most rational of individuals — yet she also sheds light on how intelligent, playful, and caring crows can be (for one another). She describes how an acquaintance of hers witnessed a sort of “crow funeral” as a group of crows quietly gathered around a dead crow on the ground. If only there were a real-life Dr. Doolittle to dive into the minds of these abundant, common, yet extraordinary creatures! I can only imagine what magnificent things we could learn.

To finish, the book has a Reading Group Guide in the back, as well as Lyanda’s essential reading list which I found to be helpful. She also cites several great naturalists, scientists, and writers throughout her book including Rachel Carson, E.O. Wilson, and Aldo Leopold. All in all…it was a fantastic book that I am sure to read again…probably in the near future.

There is much more to the book than I could possibly touch base on here, but I wanted to highlight some of the things I found most intriguing and thought-provoking. I sincerely hope you all order yourselves a copy and relax with this great read.

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