By Kate Kinley


CN: Suicide, depression, eating disorders

anxiety, death


Photographer Kate Kinley shares her photo, ‘Crows’, along with a creative writing piece about what crows mean to her.


There are always scarecrows at home. Imagine a small town surrounded by mountains, hills, and farms. It’s the kind of place where people drive their lawnmowers to the shop, and where parades feature the town commissioner on a tractor. It’s where a child rides her tricycle on the side of the road, watching the sun set over desiccated fields of harvested wheat and corn. Home is where the sun sets over the stretched body of a scarecrow mounted on a hill, and where silhouettes flutter anxiously beneath the pink evening sky. There are always crows at home.

I pitied the scarecrows as a kid. If they did their job and kept the birds away, they resolved themselves to isolation. If the crows realized the trick, then the scarecrow would be knocked to the ground, or transformed into a perch, or even picked and plucked apart one piece of straw at a time. It seemed, and still seems, a grim existence. I should say also, that although nine different churches line the six central streets of my hometown, the image of Christ suspended on the cross has never struck me as anything more than yet another scarecrow. Read into that what you will.

I see a lot of crows. I think and read about them a lot, too. Symbolic crows become stand-ins for people and emotions. They become bodies of depression – scavenger birds all glossy and filthy and ruthless. Their beaks look like collar bones. They have claws. Crows stare with deadening black eyes, a black more than ink, deep and rounded and gleaming like glass.

Crows are an easy metaphor, as they tend to turn themselves into similes – they’re difficult to pin down, always flitting about like something else. A crow is whatever you want it to be – anxiety, thoughts of suicide, eating disorders, death, heartbreak, disappointment. You know as well as I that symbolism is always personal.

In the end, I wonder if scarecrows love or fear the crows, or if they’ve simply learned to live with them.

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