In the comforting company of crows


In the morning, when the sky just starts to change from violet ink to orange they emerge from a hiding place in the riverbed. Eight hours later—these days 10 or even 11—they return. Dozens of them. Hundreds.

One report placed the number at thousands. Suffice it to say that if spectacle were a number, that’s how many of them could be counted.


Each day they begin and end their day at the relatively secluded stretch near Plaza Bonita, the hum of cars zipping along Interstate 805 a siren’s song.

They remind me of Richard.

Eight years ago this month longtime The Star-News columnist Richard Peña died.
I wrote then that one of my favorite topics he wrote about was Henry, the forlorn crow.

The corvid’s tale was a simple one: a lone black bird perched near Peña’s barn cawing.

Calling out to its mate, long gone.

He enjoyed its company, Richard told me, though I don’t recall if he explained to me why he named the bird Henry.

This month also marks the countdown to the start of middle and high school graduations.

These, too, were some of the favorite topics for Richard to talk and write about.
After his stint in the Navy—a member of the Greatest Generation and a Pearl Harbor survivor—Richard turned his attention to teaching. And principal-ing.

He valued education and savored the pomp and circumstance of commencement ceremonies.

He was well into his 90s when he died. And though I miss him and his gentle company, selfishly I am glad he is not here to have experienced the last few years of the pandemic (notably he was born in the fall of 1918, the year of that great pandemic known as the misnomered Spanish Flu).

Or of vicious white nationalist terrorist attacks on Black communities. Or, given that he was a veteran of World War II, the failed coup of 2021. And the continued assault on education.
These have been some challenging times.

Each day I see the crows fly to and from their home in Bonita, near the place where Richard lived. I think of Henry the forlorn. And Richard. He is good company.

In the comforting company of crows