What is a Global Positioning System? Precision in timing, leading to accuracy in position, leading to display of location information, matching reality.
What is a map. A simplified scaled down representation of geographical reality. What if we scale it back up again? What have we gained? What have we lost? We have re-gained complexity, we have lost simplicity. We will have re-gained detail, and lost an easier to recognize lay of the land. The solution to this is found in a scalable map of lesser of greater detail on your GPS. But this evolving complexity dysfunction bleeds over into other tools we use. Take paper maps for instance. You may make the map of simple detail, or heavier detail, but they cannot be scalable, their nature being paper. The more detail they have, the less functional they are for the average citizen. Paper maps are loosing the evolutionary race to electronics. But electronics are more complex to use and maintain. Seniors are befuddled, the young enthralled. Heads-up displays are taking us closer to the complexity of reality by adding layers of information on top of reality. Is this truly helpful? Yes, to a point and for some purposes, but when does the tool overwhelm; when does the information become dysfunctional? Texting while driving is the first clue we have. Death by texting is a very real - reality. Overwhelming information can kill. We are reaching our limits to deal with it, in some areas. Perhaps a simple map of less detail works better in some cases than that which we have recently wrought.
I think in the area of evolving complexity dysfunction we will find other areas that fit into this scenario sooner rather than later. One that strikes me is the fragility of the general infrastructure. That, to me, is the greatest threat to civilization as we know it. We rely on it too much, necessarily so. There are things that can take it out, and we are not prepared. A perfect solar super-storm. An atmospheric nuclear blast. God knows what else. If any major part of our infrastructure is taken out for any length of time, recovery may not be possible. Forget the gun. I suggest you buy a case or two of pork and beans, a portable water filter, and a paper map.
Sometimes I am the greatest recipient of my own hides. Sometimes what things were when I was there rarely occur again. Sometimes the cachers who came did not do the same things to achieve the same results as I had hoped they might. But people vary. Things change. The world is a dynamic place. It is its nature.
This is a story of crows. It is also a story how a box alone is not the thing meant to be found. But boxes are easy. People have schedules to keep, jobs and families to care for. This is also a story of how different from us crows really are. I am no expert on crows or people but how we vary in how we go about life is obvious and stunning.
For several years I had noticed flights, gatherings, of crows over my house every evening as the day grew dim. I grew in curious fascination of this. I wished to learn where they were headed and why. I began to mark a waypoint every time I had my GPS with me and I saw a group of crows fly overhead. A pattern developed which was of course the same as what I visually observed. Southwest to northeast. But now I had some degree of mapping to plot out a general heading and possible destinations. I decided it was time for the chase.
Dusk began to draw near. I kept one eye on the crows above and one eye on my gps and it’s mapping. Up the hill out of Mill Creek I went. Out on Seattle Hill road I noticed the crows dropping out of their flight. Dipping and swooping, cartwheels and twists to the ground, so I pulled over. There was a pond in a construction area where they were putting in a new development. This unlikely place is where the crows were gathering. Now I notice crows are coming in from the southwest, the west, and the east. Most are simply standing around. Many are playing. All are cawing. Some are dive-bombing the few seagulls that are mixed in. I’m seeing a personality developing here. Crows are a swaggerly lot. Playful, verbose, macho, and the obvious, mischievous.
So I’m thinking “What gives? Surely this is not THE place where they go.” And it was not. What it was, was a primary staging area, much like others far to the North or East, where they gather to make an entrance in force to their nightly roost.
After about twenty minutes of flights arriving and increased chatter, some of them began to rise. And then more, and more. I went with the first group so as not to loose them. Down Seattle hill road, just as I suspected. And there, out into the farming flats of the Snohomish valley they went. Now you’ve all seen it. Farm fields converted to high yield cottonwood forests. These quick growing woods eventually become your toilet paper. They are trees but lack any strength and often do not make it through the first good blow of weather. Well, there is such a forest here in the valley. And this was to be the roost.
I drive out on a dirt farm road between fields and find the nearest spot to the forest. It is a gate, that says not to trespass and that it belongs to a hunting club or something.
The day grows dark. I am perhaps nearly a mile from any paved road. It has a very isolated feel to it. Black shadowy crows swarm over the tops of these trees. Some sit on their tops. Others dive-bomb the others. All are causing a great noisy ruckus. Great troops of northern tribe crows arrive, as well as some from the east and west. The numbers have grown into the thousands! It is an amazing thing to witness. It is nearly dark. These crows look like a multitude of shades from hell. Ah, but to add to the atmosphere there are coyotes in the nearby woods and they add their song to the chorus. It is spooky, but not nearly so much as the next night when I come again. I wanted to make sure this gathering occurred on a regular basis, and it certainly seemed to. But this night, replace the coyote’s song with a sound from hell itself. Whether coyote or dying dog, I don’t know. But such a thing made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I’ve never heard anything like it before. Certainly an anguished sound, almost as if something unnatural were in the throes of labor. If I had to guess, it is what Fen Dweller would sound like, but this was no fantasy and it was close.
So this is where I planted my cache. I called it A Murder Of Crows, an arcane term for a flock of crows. It is also the name of a story I wrote long ago. I came back several times afterwards, not always seeing the crows, but almost always hearing that thing in the woods. People found my cache, but very few if any bothered to find it at the right time, between dusk and night. Now the lives of crows have it that they roost in fall and winter but in spring they go into a nesting pattern and break from the grouping routine. Thus any cache finds then did not produce results as well.
So not all caches are for the cache hunters. Sometimes they hold much more meaning for those who plant them. Yes, it is a strange cache and a strange idea… to be out chasing crows. But that’s just me. I just wonder what that thing is out in the woods.