Thursday, 20 October 2011
The White Crow Mandala
Very early one summer morning, a young white dove was awakened from her sleep in a Hawthorn, to find a big crow trying to pluck out one of her tail feathers. Annoyed at being interrupted from her dove’s dreams and yet more annoyed that a crow would have the audacity to steal her feathers while she slept; she asked, in her most indignant voice,
“Excuse me, just what do you think you’re doing?”
The crow was startled and instantly released the feather, and stood open-beaked and speechless for several long seconds; perhaps he had not expected her to wake and wasn’t ready for such a question. He eventually began to stutter and stammer in an attempt to explain himself;
“I… please… I’m… sorry, I… well… you see”, he continued to fluster and mumble, finally managing “please, forgive me, I just wanted… a feather. You have such beautiful feathers.”
“But what does a crow want with dove feathers?”
“To make a Mandala,” answered the crow.
“Well I think if you’re making a Mandala out of feathers then perhaps you should use your own rather than stealing mine,” said the dove, but no sooner had she finished her sentence when she realised that the crow was in fact almost completely bald save for a little tuft of short black feathers on the top of his head, which made him look quite ridiculous, and a little sad.
“Oh dear” she said quietly and now feeling a wee bit embarrassed, “you haven’t got any.” The crow bowed and shook his head.
The dove sat up and regarded this slightly eccentric and unusual crow with some curiosity. He was tall and slim with big dark eyes and slightly crooked beak which seemed to give him a permanent smirk out of one side. In fact, ignoring his baldness, he was a handsome crow, in a quirky sort of way. It’s not every day, she thought, that you meet a bald crow who wants to make a Mandala.
“So what’s happened to all your feathers?”
“I lost them. It was probably my own fault I suppose”
“How did you lose them?”
The crow turned his head slightly and gazed into the distance. He looked sad and his eyes seemed a bit watery. He sighed, and after a long pause, he said,
“She was beautiful.”
The dove wondered if she should ask him further about feathers, or just leave him alone in deep and distant thoughts, but then, he was trying to steal her feathers, so she surely had a right to ask questions? There was an awkward silence for a while but she was a curious dove and could no longer resist.
“So, your feathers? Who was beautiful? And you want to make a Mandala? Out of my feathers?” She waited for a response. “Well?” Her voice impatient.
The crow cleared his throat and began;
“She was a swan and she took my feathers.” This seemed odd to the dove.
“Why would a swan want crow feathers? Was she a black swan?”
“Oh no,” said the crow, “a white swan. Beautiful, graceful and elegant, and as white as any swan ever was.”
“So why did she steal your feathers?”
“Oh she didn’t steal them. Not exactly,” explained the crow. “She took them.”
The dove was perplexed by this. “I know it sounds a little strange,” continued the crow, “but I suppose I really sort of… gave her them.”
“Okay Crow, now I’m confused. Let me get this right; you gave your black crow feathers to a white swan? Why? Was she making a Mandala?”
“No.” The crow swallowed hard and gathered his thoughts for a moment. “I’ll try to explain,” he drew his breath. “Dove, have you ever been in love?”
“Why Crow, I’m too young to have been in love, but maybe one day.”
“Well when you do fall in love, and you surely will” explained the crow, “you’ll realise that it’s a madness. It can make you do all manner of things you wouldn’t normally consider.”
“Like giving all your feathers to a swan?” asked the dove in a slightly teasing sort of way.
“Yes. Exactly,” nodded the crow.
“Are you serious? You fell in love with a swan and gave her all your feathers? Why that’s the daftest story I’ve ever heard, you mad old crow” she laughed.
“Aye,” agreed the crow, “daft right enough, but there you go. That’s what love can do if you let yourself get carried away.” The dove shook her head at the crow and said,
“When I fall in love I shan’t get carried away and do all manner of mad things, and I certainly won’t give away all my feathers. The very idea of it - we’re birds; we need our feathers. Surely everyone knows that; I wouldn’t be so stupid.”
“Ha ha” laughed the crow, “of course you won’t.”
The dove didn’t much like the crow laughing at her and said sarcastically,
“I don’t know why you’re laughing at me - I’ve still got my feathers.”
“And I do hope you keep them - don’t give them away, not to anyone, not for anything.” The dove looked thoughtful. She wondered if the crow was perhaps wiser that she first thought although she still didn’t quite understand why a swan would want crow feathers.
The crow continued his story;
“So yes, strange as it may seem, I did fall in love with a swan. I’d never set eyes on such a beautiful creature before, and was besotted from the start. However I couldn’t imagine that such a beautiful and aloof bird would want anything to do with a mere crow. I tried to think of how I might win her over. When I tried to talk to her, she was too busy for me, or didn’t notice me. Then one day I overheard her friends talking about how she liked to dress up and go dancing, and how she had been looking for a black feather to add to her outfit for the summer ball. I plucked up the courage (if you pardon the pun) to offer her one of my finest black feathers. I was very handsome in my gleaming black feathers; they were my pride and joy. I was nervous, but when I handed her that tail feather she smiled at me and said it was the most perfect feather she had ever seen, that she would be honoured to wear it. However the next day, I saw her again and she said how everyone thought I was very generous to give her such a gift and wondered if she might have another. She even gave me a peck on the cheek. How could I say no?”
“By just saying no?” asked the dove.
“Well of course you’re right,” agreed the crow, “and that’s what I should have said, but for some reason I didn’t, and then there was another feather, and another and another. I began to wonder what kind of outfit this swan was wanting, but even more, I wanted the swan to love me - and thought being generous was the right thing to do.”
“And did she love you?”
“No.” admitted the crow, “but I was convinced she would.”
“But she didn’t?”
The crow smiled at the dove.
“Indeed she did not. I hadn’t seen her in the last few days before the ball and wondered where she was. I asked her friends and they told me she was busy preparing her costume. That was when I realised that after all this time, I hadn’t actually been invited to this ball. I had to find out what she was doing, and wanted to tell her of my feelings for her - so I watched as everyone went to the ball and there she was. I went up to her and told her I’d missed her and I was in love with her. She just laughed and said it was ridiculous to think she could love a silly old crow with no feathers. She turned her back, walked off with some handsome young swan, and around her neck, she was wearing a black feather bower.”
The dove felt a bit sorry for the crow - even though she could see that he had been really silly but it still didn’t quite explain why he wanted to make a Mandala. The crow went on;
“You know that a Mandala is a beautiful thing, like a pattern, and looking at it for a long time helps you to contemplate and imagine many things?” asked the crow. The dove nodded. “Well I decided to give up on chasing after swans and the like who just want to take feathers and such like for themselves, and instead concentrate on meditating and thinking; on the wonder of nature and life, on making beautiful things for others who will appreciate them. I wanted to make a beautiful white Mandala, which I suppose is my way of forgiving the swan, for it really was up to me that she took my feathers.”
After hearing such a story, the dove was very quiet and thoughtful. She realised she really liked this mad old crow and wanted to help him somehow.
“Maybe I could help you make your Mandala, but you’re not having a feather. After such a story, I dare not give away a single feather, not for anything; not to anyone.” The crow smiled the biggest smile he’d smiled in a long time.
“I quite understand.”
The dove took his hand and said,
“I know a tree in the woods with white flowers we can maybe use for your Mandala,” and with that she led him to the tree where she watched as he busily took the petals and skilfully laid them on the forest floor. Finally he finished his Mandala. The dove had never seen anything so beautiful. Without saying a word, she pulled out a long pristine white feather and placed it at the centre of the Mandala, then pecked the crow on the cheek.