The call of the crow

I’m not a couch potato. I’ve always been outside a lot. Not the urban “outdoors” with parks and playgrounds. Real mud and dens, construction sites and forests. I’m still not avoiding nature. I even have chickens! I like to lay in the grass and watch various birds crisscross over my head. Blue tits and a robin. A jay and two magpies. The other day, a moorhen even waddled across my terrace with those oddly large feet. And of course crows. Crows and ravens are actually the same thing, many people don’t know that. Colloquially, the smaller ones are called crows and the larger ravens, taxonomy doesn’t call for that.

Crows are formidable animals. Last fall, I was riding my bike along an avenue at dusk. Suddenly and through the wall of sound wall from my headphones I noticed an acoustic turmoil. I stopped, removed the headphones and looked up. It was crows. Not ten or fifty. There seemed to be thousands. I can’t even tell if that’s an exaggeration. A gigantic cloud of crows moved among the canopies in the evening sky. End times, but beautiful.

Crows elegantly land with extended wings in the middle of open space, where they linger proudly and without fear before moving on. Their call is as distinctive as it is familiar to me. I have heard crow calls very aware again and again, on summer evenings, in the fog, in moments of euphoria or contemplation.

Every time I hear a crow call, I think of Ocarina of Time.

This is irritating considering the many experiences with real crows, and I’m a bit ashamed of it. After all, the game is supposed to emulate nature, not the other way around. The accusation of being a couch potato is so universal and ingrained in us that I’m tempted to say: not me! (see beginning of this text). At the same time, I think it’s wrong to strip away a wonderful passion like gaming just because a few grumpy parents (not mine!) of the early ’90s thought they were acting in an educationally valuable way when they shooed their kids outside to burn bugs so they could finally watch TV. But at the same time, I really do like being outside. And therefore want to contradict myself when I think of Zelda when I hear the crow call. But I can’t contradict myself, because it’s an irrevocably true association.

This call reliably brings back wonderful memories of my time in Hyrule. An adventure that didn’t rush me from place to place, but provided a space to let the moment sink in. Alone at night by Lake Hylia. A crow calling. I guess it was a real nature experience, or more accurately, it had the same effect of a nature experience in the best sense. Just as I think of this game when I hear a crow call, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Ocarina of TIme is the call of a crow. I like to think that from this context I cann tell what impression the game actually had on me.

When the light glitters in a special way in spring, my brain releases some kind of hormones and I remember that one day in April 22 years ago. And whenever a crow calls, my mind briefly drifts to Hyrule. I think it’s the same crow that accompanied me on my adventure back then. I never had a conversation with it, but it seems to be a companion for life.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was released in 1998 for the Nintendo 64. I have never experienced anything like it ever again.

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