When I was 7 I asked my grandmother what had happened to her leg to cause her to limp. She told me she had been kicked by a cow. That wasn't an unreasonable explanation to a 7 year old and I spent the next 10 years thinking that my grandmother had been injured during a milking accident. When I was 17 I found out that she had polio as a child. That's what caused her bum leg. Why she told me the fib about the cow I'll never know, though I think she might have thought that was funny somehow. Anyway, not once did I see or hear Nanny complain about her leg. I know it slowed her down, but she worked hard at child rearing, housekeeping and cooking all her life. She spent weeks in the summers at a church camp cooking for all the kids. I never heard her say "If only I didn't have this bum leg".
For the past two years a certain crow has been hanging around where I live. It's hard to tell one from the other, but this one has a deformed left leg. I don't know if the deformity was there from hatching or if it was the result of a run in with a cat or other predator. And it may not even be the same crow, but I'm pretty sure it is. Most animals hang around where they can get food and crows are no different. They have certain neighbourhoods they hang around, leaving at night for a communal rookery. Some hunt or forage for food together, some are solitary. But they are creatures of habit, so I like to think my "disabled" crow is the same one.
I hadn't seen it all winter. Today I saw it about half a block from my home, hopping around on the front lawn at a neighbour's house. It made it through another winter and appears healthy. It put a smile on my face to see this bird.
Because of its injury, its survival is compromised. Its reproductive success is also compromised. With only one functional leg it may not be as good a defender of food and territory. It might lose more arguments on the ground with other scavengers. But it doesn't go around thinking "if I only didn't have this bum leg I could get a girl crow (or a boy crow) and have baby crows". It will go through the motions of attempting to woo a mate or perhaps be wooed. But getting and keeping food is undoubtedly a struggle that may not be enough to feed a family. But it still hops around from spot to spot checking things out and of course its flying ability is intact. If I ever see it with nesting material in its beak then I'll know it's attempting to reproduce.
Perhaps if I were Native Canadian I would believe my grandmother's spirit inhabits the crow. I don't, but the crow makes me think of my grandmother and how she stoically carried on with life. And it's a gentle reminder that I am carrying on as well.