I just realized that today, May 11, marks the one-year anniversary of the death of Katherine Dunn. Just as that realization hit me, I looked up to see a rather robust crow land on the roof of the neighboring building. It hopped to the gutter, reached in and pulled
out to be what appeared to be a peanut.
“Good going, Katherine!” I cried. You see, Katherine was fascinated by birds, particularly by the highly intelligent and crafty corvids: crows and ravens. Naturally, I would recognize Katherine’s spirit in a visiting crow.
But that crow wasn’t done. With the nut clenched in its beak, it hopped a few feet over and dived in to the gutter, surfacing with a second peanut. Holding both nuts in its beak, it flew away.
Since Katherine’s death I have thought of her often, with or without crows in my proximity. We were fellow writers but we bonded over boxing. For years we had a standing
date to go to the boxing gym and meet up with other women and our coach, Chuck Lincoln. I would pull up in front of Katherine’s apartment house and a few minutes later she would emerge, gym bag over her shoulder, smiling and greeting her neighbors as she came to the car.
“Hiya, Hellcat!” she would call to me.
I had the luxury of a ring name, Hellcat Hauser, given to me by a boxing promoter who had read my 1987 article about boxing in The Wall Street Journal. At the gym Katherine was just, well, Katherine, and that could be daunting enough if you ever faced her in the ring. We sparred once, and once was enough. Man, could she hit!
But most often when I think of her, I remember how selfless she was in promoting and encouraging other writers. Having Katherine in your corner, in and outside of the ring, brought the most wonderful and warm feeling of security in a tough world.
In a conversation with my daughter today (who was also part of our boxing group), I remarked how certain deceased relatives of mine were always seeking recognition, while cutting down people they saw as competition. “But to receive recognition you have to give it,” Meriwether wisely remarked. “Your appreciation and recognition of others is what makes you stand out to other people and gain recognition for yourself.”
And with that, my mind returned again to Katherine. As the acclaimed author of Geek Love, she was justifiably recognized around the world for her great talent as a writer, but among those who knew her she was loved for her generosity of spirit. She always had an encouraging word, a supportive pat on the back, a confident “You can do it!”
Now I’m more convinced than ever that the crow I just saw was Katherine. She found one peanut for herself, but took another one to give to a friend.
Rest in peace.