Writers sometimes end up researching pretty strange things and finding inspiration in the most unusual places as a result. Divot was one of those inspirations and just like many of the things that influence my writing, his presence was fleeting.
I’m assuming it was a him. It could have just as likely been a her, but I’m not exactly an expert of how to tell male and female crows apart from a distance, so I went with my first inclination. Long before I made any sort of connection with Divot, I came up with the idea of exploring a post-apocalyptic tale from the perspective of a crow. The likeliest survivors would be the scavengers, I hypothesized – the clever ones, the most resilient and the most adaptable – right? Better yet, the likeliest survivors would be the misfits who had already manage to thrive despite their inadequacies, so I made my crow smaller and strange-looking but smarter than his brethren.
Then I started my written research, and I found out many incredible facts about crows. Aside from facts about socialization and breeding practices, I discovered just how intelligent they actually are. They use tools, they store food cross seasons and they have episodic memories. They problem-solve and they can vocalize outside of the range of human hearing (like elephants) so who knows what they might be saying to each other. It provided a lot of opportunity for my story.
But everything I found out about crows made me all the more interested in them. Knowing what I now know, I started feeding some of the local ones and they started identifying me as a “good” human. They have facial recognition when it comes to humans and will label the ones they like or dislike – even attacking the ones they learn to dislike.
And that’s how I met Divot. He was a misfit like my narrator, Ash, only with Divot his peculiarity was a gaping gap in his wing. It meant that he was different and easy for me to identify, and he would make a point of showing up when I was outside waiting for the bus or walking the dog – hoping for food. I thought of him whenever I wrote about Ash. Divot was something in my life that made Ash seem more real.
Well, I’m now on the final chapter of the first draft of “Sifting the Ashes.” Ash’s story has almost come to an end for me. Unfortunately, it has also come to an end for poor Divot. My daughter found his body while on an outing and there was no mistaking the old injury that had scarred his wing, leaving that opening in his feathers. He’s going to be buried in our backyard – gone but not forgotten.
I’ve never dedicated a book to an animal before, but I think he deserves his place among the other people I feel deserve acknowledgement for their contribution to my writing. I hope the book gets published someday so he can claim that recognition.
The world is a sad and mysterious place – and I’m going to miss my little friend.