Alpine Lady

Honoring the natural world through prose, poetry, music, sounds, photographs and musings.

Raven’s Journey ~ Chapter 15: Grandfather Whale

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After Raven left Otter, he flew to the bay and spotted a pod of humpback whales close to shore gorging on herring. Telltale circles of bubbles welled up from the deep, confusing the small fish, causing them to mass towards the center of the circle only to be scooped up in the gaping, baleen-lined jaws of the whales. After a gluttonous feed, the humpbacks rested at the surface partially submerged, tails lowered, rising to breathe and then settling back until they needed to breathe again. Raven knew the area well and the habits of the summering whales as they flowed in and out of the bay feeding on the rich fisheries of krill and herring. He began looking for one in particular, one with a thick layer of barnacles lining his jawline who, when he was finished feeding in the bay, often logged at rest near a small island. On its rocky coast, stood a large, partially dead cedar which offered a convenient roost with good visibility.

Feasting eaglets at Dungeness Bay

Feasting eaglets at Dungeness Bay

Raven flew high, spiraling on the warming thermals in the company of a male bald eagle who was scouting for dead or dying fish. Raven watched the adult eagle spot a likely meal, maneuver its wings to fly lower, take a dive stance, thrust out its taloned feet and snatch a large silver fish floating on the surface. The fish appeared already dead so there was no struggle as the raptor’s strong talons tightly gripped its slippery body . The eagle then flew its heavy load to a stick platform nest in a nearby spruce tree. His mate, standing on the snag tip above the nest, screeched as the meal was delivered to the fledglings. The fish-delivering adult released his catch and left it for the young birds to rip into the fish’s softer belly flesh and feast on the carcass. Before long, they would be off the nest and responsible for their own foraging and every skill they learned now, would be applied later. There was a lot of pushing and scrapping as the nest mates scrambled for the seafood.

Raven continued spiraling, at times catching a cross current and swiftly sailing along, barely making a wing stroke. He loved flying, feeling the press of air against his feathers, maneuvering his long wings and wedge-shaped tail for perfect glides and landings. Rarely did he think two or four-leggeds had an advantage, finding his own earthly walks awkward and time-consuming.

Finally he spotted his subject lethargically swimming towards the small island. Raven was in no hurry; the whale would rest for some time in the protection of the island before fully coming awake and hunting for more food. Leisurely, the large-bodied bird took advantage of the air currents, riding them in a graceful glide toward his destination.

From the altitude he was flying, he could see inland a fair distance to the remains of an ancient coastal village. What was left had largely been reclaimed by a landscape of forest and moss and only a few mounds and rotting totem poles survived to mark its existence. Raven vaguely remembered it from an earlier time and somehow felt responsible for its demise. Perhaps this is why he preferred to stay clear of it and hadn’t visited there in decades.

Raven’s attention was drawn back to the island. As he approached,  his first inclination was to search the shoreline for food. Since it was high tide, the selection of items was limited to a rotting fish tail that lie hidden under a pile of drift at the edge of the water. Each time he tried retrieving it, he was doused with spray but his hunger drove him to risk the danger.

After gulping down what he could, he limply flew onto the higher bank and shook furiously. Droplets of sea water scattered everywhere. Testing his wings, he then leapt off the shore and flew to the scout tree. He circled it a few times before landing on a stout, dead branch which thrust out close to the shoreline just in time to watch the grandfather whale arrive and take up his usual position in the deeper waters, his large body floating parallel to to the shore, barely submerged.

To journey with whale, Raven first gave thanks to the Ancestors of the Whale People for sending him the elder whale and then asked if he could journey with Grandfather. As Raven waited for a response, he watched the whale’s body rise and fall as the wave action caressed his resting body with its lapping waters. Raven observed the scars on its body from shark bites, rake marks from a possible attack by an Orca and other scrapes incurred during aggressive mating battles. He looked at the large barnacles growing on the knobs of his mouth which sometimes were used in scraping clashes with other challenging humpback bulls and may have been the source of similar scars on Grandfather. He watched the shape of the expelled plume of spent breath released into the cool air and listened as the whale inhaled fresh.

Raven slowly relaxed and let his mind still. Visions began appearing but he relaxed even more, refining the questions he’d ask but not entering into Grandfather’s dreamtime and violating the elder’s rest. Raven waited for some time before he felt a strong connection and as with Otter, visions of the past cascaded into his awareness. There were visions of first life forming in the primal sea waters, of marine creatures moving into the shallows, of leaving the sea, crawling onto land, of existing side by side with evolving mammalian forms, growing limbs, some moving out into the landscape but of whale returning to the shallows, into the deeper waters now as Humpback breathing air, limbs altered to aid in swimming, jaws lined with baleen for prey collection and the use of songs for communication.

Raven sat quietly, barely breathing, opening and closing his beak to maintain his alertness, totally oblivious to the stronger wind tousling his feathers. Finally an insight arose: Human emergence and its re-evolution would depend on forgiveness by the Aware Ones, those among the realms most connected to the deep spiritual grace of the Mother and the Mystery. 

Grandfather then began blowing air, deeply exhaling large plumes and inhaling great quantities of air in preparation for diving and feeding. Raven watched the whale submerge, his wide tail flukes rising high as he slipped into the watery domain. By now, day was waning and Raven had hopes of finding Otter before the sun set and he took to roost. He shook, stretched and flew off to share what he had learned.

(To be continued in Chapter 16: First Contact)

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