The older woman slipped a light-weight reed basket off her shoulders and from it pulled out a unique basket which Raven recognized as a water-carrying basket. Very tightly woven, its interior had been brushed with a glistening resin and a sturdy antler handle was attached by leather strips to its rim. She also removed three roughly-hewn wooden bowls and placed them on the fish-cleaning log.
The younger woman reached across and took hold of the basket’s antler handle, picked up her spear by its shaft and quietly walked to the river. She set the spear down and gently tipping the basket into the flowing stream, quickly filled it with water. Placing the basket firmly on the gravels so no water would slosh out, the woman picked up the spear and walked to an old birch tree, one showing its age. There were several black masses of fungus bursting through its bark and with the aid of the spear, she intended to harvest at least one. She carefully slid the spear point underneath the one closest to her and with a quick flick of her wrist, pried the better part of it off. The woman quickly located where it fell and looked up at a another fungus growing out of the white bark but almost out of her reach. She thoughtfully looked around and then almost on tiptoes, reached high to pry off a good chunk of that one, too. While she worked, the pottery beads brushing up against one other sounded like the water’s chatter and Raven could hear them from where he sat. The young woman quickly picked the rough-looking black pieces from off the gravels and hastened back to the water basket and back to the fire.
When the elder woman saw the blackened mushroom pieces, her face lit up with a big smile. She examined them carefully, pointing to the black coverings which she indicated with hand movements that she wanted removed and turned them over to show the brownish, orange-yellow interiors. She bit the corner of one off and carefully chewed it, mixing it with her saliva and swallowing some but with the remainder, spitting it into her hand and dabbing it on a slightly reddened scratch on her wrist. When finished, she gave them to the man who carried them over to the fish-cleaning log. There he rummaged in his pack and took out a longer knife wrapped in a hard-covered leather sheath. He reached in again and took out a metal rasp which had fairly good-sized teeth. With the long knife he began knocking off the blackened outside. When most of the blackened exterior had been removed, he chopped the larger pieces into smaller pieces. He picked one up and with the rasp started scraping one of the pieces over the rasp blade, every once in a while knocking a powdery substance caught in the teeth off onto the log. It took awhile before a sizable amount piled up. Raven had no idea for sure what was happening although he thought it must have something to do with medicine and cooking. Vague memories played at the edge of his awareness but he could not bring them into focus. Then the man surprised Raven by sticking one of the remaining pieces in his fire-tinder pouch. The rest he placed in his backpack.
As the magical bird watched them preparing their meal, he realized they had done this many times: Each performed their duties as if dancing their roles…fluid, swift and smooth.
Meanwhile Raven settled himself onto a comfortable ground perch next to a clump of willows where he could view all the activities without being in the way. He noted that the humans rarely spoke with one another but sensed what each needed with just a few pleasant-sounding clicks, clacks and sputters rather than words. At times, he found himself getting irritated that he wasn’t involved or that they didn’t take more time for him, but then one or all of them would look his way and he’d recognize they were paying attention to him but their affairs could not be delayed. He also knew they were communicating at a level unknown to him and this had him baffled and Raven, being Raven, felt left out.
The man had also been carefully monitoring the cooking of the fish and when he deemed them done, removed the fish sticks from the barely glimmering coals. In the meantime, the younger woman had dipped the bowls into the basket, partially filling them with water. Grandmother stepped up and proceeded to slip the pieces of fish off the sticks and divide them equally into each bowl. She took the two largest sticks, now stripped of fish, and dipped them into the water basket to wet them and using them as make-shift tongs, reached into the coals and removed small, roundish, fire-heated stones for each bowl: The sticks sizzled and smoked, a tang of green wood permeating the air. She placed the stones gingerly into the bowls of water which also sizzled as the steam rose towards her and enveloped her hand. She barely took notice of the steam’s heat.
Immediately after dropping the hot stones into the bowls, she opened a pouch hung on her hip and poured out a handful of crushed grains, herbs and what looked to be salt. She scraped an equal amount of the powdery, fungus into each bowl as well. Then taking up a small twig, she stirred the contents gently and covered each with similarly-sized flat rocks she picked up off the river gravels close by. Steam continued to rise in slender tendrils from cracks around the ill-fitting stones so she reached into her pack once again and took out a soft, animal hide which she set over the warming bowls and tucked it snugged-up against them. Satisfied, she left to join everyone who had already found places either to squat or sit around the fire site while their dinner cooked. The man was on guard it appeared to Raven and had picked up the younger woman’s spear and was holding it at ready against his thigh.
The humans rested. After a long pause, the younger woman got up, stirred the contents of each bowl and stuck a few small pieces of wood into the remaining coals: but from the size of the fire, Raven knew they wouldn’t stay here and camp. No doubt they’d leave and walk for a few more hours along the easier shoreline route aided by the dwindling daylight and faint moon-glow on their on-going search to find others and form community before the fall rains and winter chill forced a slow-down of everyones’ activities.
The atmosphere was subdued while the fire burned through the new sticks and the humans continued to sit, the women looking into the flames, the man looking around. With a sigh that Raven perceived as one of contentment, the young woman stood and retrieved the bowls of food. Meanwhile, Grandmother and the young man reached into their side pouches and removed metal spoons. When given a bowl, each person acknowledged the food with a smile and nod of the head towards the younger woman.
Eating the food dramatically changed the energy of the humans. Raven had not realized they were as tired as they were for they concealed it well. Now he noted their movements were more deft and communication more animated although subdued in tone so as not to bring attention to their activities.
The grandmother stood and expertly tossed Raven a morsel of her meat which landed right in front of his beak. Full of gratitude, he pecked gingerly at the piece of warm flesh. When it had cooled sufficiently, he gulped it down and savored its delicious flavor with memories of past salmon banquets teasing his appetite.
After consuming the food, the bowls were washed with the remaining water and along with the water basket shaken dry and stored away in the grandmother’s pack. Raven’s curiosity wanted to know what other types of tools and equipment were stored in the strangers’ various pouches, pockets and packs but knew it was none of his business. He looked around again for Otter but still there was no evidence of her being in the vicinity. This bothered Raven and he had trouble focusing fully on the human activities.
“Raven!” A man’s voice brought his attention back to the present. He looked at the man who had spoken. The man smiled. “You have questions; perhaps we can provide some answers.”
Raven got up from his ground perch and came closer to the fire. Because he could not speak the language of humans, he began forming images and impressions in the universal tongue of the Mystery. Raven first, acknowledged the Human Journey and how pleased he was to be part of this co-creative emergence. And then asked, quite earnestly, what they thought of his searching for a human carrying his raven sister’s essence?
Each of the human’s gave their own thoughtful response to Raven’s emotional inquiry. All three were in agreement that Raven’s sister’s essence was already a part of the re-evolutionary process, a vibratory energy dedicated to the harmony of the whole. He even might come across her signature vibration in some living form or perhaps would sense it on an object she had touched. For now that is all they could share.
Raven was grateful for even this information but saddened they could not be more specific; however, he was most grateful for the opportunity to communicate with humans once again. It had been eons since his last engagement and he didn’t realize how starved he’d been for contact.
Raven watched as the humans prepared for departure. After another few minutes of rearranging gear, the man kicked apart the ash pile and scattered the stones. More smoke than Raven thought possible from the small fire rolled up and when it had dissipated, the humans were gone. The warm stones remained as the only trace humans had been there.
(To be continued in Chapter 19: More of the Mystery)