Alpine Lady

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


Leave a comment

Grandmother Cedar

Out walking the Dungeness River levee not long ago, our sights set to spend time at Raven’s Bend so named for our rowdy corvid cousins who hang out there most seasons taking advantage of the river’s salmon runs, roosting, and nesting trees, Michael and I both sensed a shift of energy. Looking forward, the usual landmark of dead and bare, sharply-shaped top branches was missing which meant only one thing: Grandmother Cedar had fallen.

Grandmother Cedar Tree lies resting in the riparian zone along the Dungeness River ~ January, 2016.

Grandmother Cedar lies resting in the riparian zone along the Dungeness River ~ January, 2016.

Grandmother Cedar
01/14/16

Down at Raven’s Bend on the Dungeness River
Grandmother Cedar lies resting,
her top branches, long dead and devoid of green,
now splintered from the fall,
where once the eagles and ravens
sought to roost and rest fledgling wings,
where salmon and avian flesh was ripped apart and
where maturing birds held territorial jousts.

Offerings sometimes hung from the
dark green lower branches––
prayer beads, feathers,
talismans of human design,
weathered neckerchiefs resembling prayer flags;
her bark impregnated with blessings and questions
spoken aloud or silently of love,
wedded commitment, condolence, youthful jibberishness,
unfulfilled wishes seeking answers––
words ushered from the lips of us drawn
to her over the centuries
to touch the rough bark, rest our backs,
soak up the surroundings and share her wisdom.

Her trunk leaned more with each passing season
until the shallow root structure
and rotting heartwood gave way,
aided by wet soils and strong winds,
to the mysterious force of gravity
which pulled her down to rest
in the wetlands adjacent to the river
among the prickery salmon and blackberry canes,
wild roses, and stinging nettle clumps;
it seemed as if the towering ancient knew
to grow where one should not tarry long
in the entanglements we navigated to get close
but rather to withdraw and
put her sharing insights into practice.

Grandmother Cedar’s trunk already anchors
leathery lichens and bright green mosses,
and now as a nurse log
she’ll host more mosses, lichens,
ferns, herbs and tree seedlings as they
take root and blanket her rotting body
open to mice, insects, reptiles,
amphibians, birds, mycelia, bacterial life
and all who seek shelter within and to grow upon.

Perhaps one day in the decades to come,
the wild river will wear away the gravels
now separating her from the river’s bed,
come caressing the ancient’s body, and
carry her down stream to help form log jams
where fish and playful humans might swim
in the protection of her bulk.

Rest well Grandmother Cedar Tree.

Somewhere between 300-400 years old. She lived close to the river so had adequate moisture to draw upon.

Somewhere between 300-400 years old. She lived close to the river so had adequate moisture to draw upon.

 

I remember when I first approached Her. As new arrivals in the area, Michael and I had begun to scout out the Dungeness River and its rabbit warren system of trails made by fishermen, dog walkers, berry pickers, swimmers, birders, wild crafters and those out enjoying the wetland riparian zones. We noted the large cottonwoods, bigleaf maples, cedars, willows and alders along the river, the patches of nettles, salmon berries, wild roses and seemingly endless blackberry canes. When our friend, Ellen, asked me if I’d met Grandmother Cedar yet, I acknowledged we had not and thus found another reason to do some serious scouting.

I took off by myself one afternoon and meandered down one trail and on to the next, letting each trail give me hints as to where and how to get to the next, something I enjoy doing when I know the area is one I’ll not get lost in and thus feel safe. After a lengthy search, I’d just about made ready to get back to the main trail atop the levee when I felt I was in Her presence. Sure enough, once spotted, I wondered why I hadn’t seen her before. Then a time when I’d just gotten out of a ten-day Vipassana retreat and had gone into a small community to do some touristy stuff with other participants came to mind. I was so overwhelmed by all the stuff, odors and noise, I had to turn my back on the activities and just stare into a corner of a store to catch my breath. I did essentially the same with Grandmother. I turned my back on her and shut my eyes, shed a few tears of joy and recognition waiting until I could catch my breath and make an approach.

Filling up my view, She stood massive and majestic. Her top branches were dead and bare as if having been struck by lightning many years before. Her trunk bore jagged scars from top to bottom. Surrounded by tall equisetum, grasses and prickly vines, I found it difficult to approach her directly and wound my way through the thicket near her trunk, finding just one spot to plant my feet and put my hands on her. When I did, Grandmother Cedar’s message rang clear: “Thank you for searching and please return often.”

Michael and I have, indeed, returned often during the six years of living in the area. In every season, her distinctive top was a beacon in locating and entering Raven’s Bend wondering what the raven’s were doing because it was here in the immediate surroundings that ravens and eagles nested, reared families, taught the fledglings to fly, molted, and practiced their maturing and territorial voices. We even recorded their calls from time to time along with the sounds and songs of the river.

Lying now on her side, it will be interesting to note the passing seasons and watch life begin anew around and atop her body. Will the green living part of her find enough sustenance in the root structure still attached to the soil to stay alive for a few more seasons? What will be the timing of plants and lichens and other life be on a cedar tree known for its herbicidal and insecticidal properties? How will her collapse affect the avian roosting and territorial management of the riparian zone?

Michael standing atop Grandmother Cedar Tree.

Michael standing atop Grandmother Cedar. He tied a red piece of cloth in an overhanging bigleaf maple tree branch as an offering.

Regardless, Grandmother Cedar is now transitioning into a new phase. Michael and I offered prayers, shed a few tears and left cloth and feathers in gratitude for her gifts. May She continue to be abundantly blessed by those that come to visit and by those who dwell within and live upon.

Looking skyward in the hold she left. How will her absence affect those used to using her as a landing and launching roost?

Looking skyward in the hole she left. How will her absence affect those used to using her as a landing and launching roost?

Dear readers, until we journey together again, peace be with you.

Here is Michael’s recording of raven calling to one another along the river:
https://soundcloud.com/michael-demarco/dungenessravens02


Leave a comment

Raven’s Journey ~ Chapter 21: The Magic of Spirit Flight

Raven by Canadian artist Sue Coleman

Raven by Canadian artist Sue Coleman

What happened? croaked Raven in a mixture of Birdspeak and Mystery.

Otter chuckled. You experienced the magic of spirit flight and now have more mastery over traveling within the between realms of the Forever Worlds–their past, present and future.

For Raven, this was a significant moment and he felt relieved yet a bit anxious. Experiencing the future as a human with his human sister served to  strengthen the admiration he had for Otter’s talents. Before this, he had doubts that he’d ever gain access to the dimensions of spirit flight except as taught by one of the elusive shape-shifters. Indeed, Otter had become an even stronger ally than he possibly could have imagined.

Otter continued: It is time I also answered your questions and share with you information about the Survivors, the Human Essence and the Aware Ones and their roles in the re-emergence of Humanity.

The humans you call Survivors are scattered in groups, some fairly large, some still very much intact as before the destruction, droughts and illnesses. During the time of great sorrow, they banded together and re-established skills long lost and needed for living in community. Although much of the technology suffered, there was enough to provide for their needs and they prospered. Your message to them has been delivered at an appropriate time for many are at that crossroads of having enough but wondering what it would be like to have even more…that point of dissatisfaction, a critical stage in their re-evolution when the steady and cumbersome pace seems slow when compared to earlier times. Their impatience is beginning to surface.

The Human Essence, which you were instrumental in attuning, acts like a network, a web of collaborative consciousness between humans and the realms to insure thoughtful action and creation. As the world’s population increases and humans look to expand their territories, instead of seeking land for domination and resource extraction, your message has prompted a genuine sharing of ideas based on the new communication skills I’ve mentioned before. All this will become more apparent to you, Raven, as you venture forth as an Aware One. 

The Aware Ones live a life in gratitude. We bear sacred witness to the Mother and to the Mystery of what we see happening in Her realms. We witness the change of the seasons, the growth of the plants, the fires of destruction and their evolutionary re-vegetation. We give sacred witness to the fish runs, the flights of birds on migration, the health of her tribes. We acknowledge the Ancestors of the Land and its many Peoples, the ones who have come before and their many evolutions throughout time. The contents of the box from your vision retains their collective first intentions and memories. 

We acknowledge when we walk into the forest that there are other Aware Ones paying attention to us…they know us by our footfall, our rate of breath, our body’s energetics, how we are treating each other. The fungal net at our feet feels how we walk the path, the birds hear our songs, the plants know our hearts. 

And we share with our minds and shape with our hands the resources of the Mother and She sees Beauty through our eyes, through our actions, through our caress. 

She already knows of the signs of struggle, has tasted the blood of war. She’s felt the toxic sickness of pollution, the burns of fire and radiation. When Humans struggle, the Mother struggles…

It is not up to the Aware Ones to judge or condemn, only to witness and release. Opinions are optional and only that, opinions. The Mother and the Mystery respond by bringing everything back towards Balance and this may involve hardships but it is in the name of compassion and awareness for All Beings.The energies in the Medicine Box in the old village aid in regaining and maintaining that balance.

“Ritual or prayer is no longer enough to satisfy the magic needed in the world. Co-creative action between all realms is necessary to create sustaining peace, health and abundance. The Mother and the Mystery need to witness this as happening.”  

Yes, you are an Aware One…the Mother listens to you, the Mystery listens to you. They always have. We all watched you regain Spirit and Magic. We held trust that it would. That’s why you’ve been entrusted with keeping the sacred memories.

Raven was quite relieved to hear he was back among favor. It had been a very lonely time during the Separation. He asked Otter: How will I be able to identify the Aware Ones?

First, they will be from all realms…you cannot discount any thing, any plant, any landform, any brook, any animal, any human. They all share the opportunity to serve a greater purpose as Witnesses to Beauty and Cooperation. Of course, it is up to Humans to use their free will in a co-creative way or to feel the Balancing of the natural forces once again…only time will tell. 

It will be apparent when you are near or with an Aware One for communication will come very easily; you will feel comfortable; there will be no reason to be other than who you truly are. In the presence of an Aware Forest, you will feel compelled to stop and spend extra time being at peace, wanting to share your gratitude for its gifts of breath, bird song, mushrooms, and breezes. It is the same when you are around an Aware Landform. You will suddenly feel at home and know your skills and talents are compatible with being or living there. Your health will be good because the water and the air are healthy for you and you will naturally strive to live a life in gratitude. The plants and animals necessary for your re-evolution will be drawn to you and give their energy to maintain your health. The gift of their lives will be honored and not taken for granted. 

And the Mother will be listening to your heart and the hearts of all the Aware Ones for the internal drum beat is another rhythm of Truth and Beauty. And there will always be a shifting as We seek Balance within the Darkness and the Light. And Raven, you may be called upon with the important task of assisting in the adjustment of the Balance by delivering the Initiatory Memory Patterns within the Box. How you access that box and its contents will be the shown to you when the need arises.

But for now Raven, you must be hungry.

Raven was hungry; however, he continued to stand quietly in front of Otter savoring her wisdom and appreciating her guidance. He was happy yet intrigued to learn more about shape-shifting and spirit flight. After Otter’s assistance in his initial journey with his human sister, he knew it was only a matter of time and practice before he could journey unassisted into her timeframe. He looked at Otter and started to form a question but she answered it for him: Yes, Raven, I will answer questions for you then, as well.

Raven clapped his beak together several times making a unique signature sound for displaying his pleasure. And now he was not only curious to find more Aware Ones but to fill his belly. Otter chuckled and quickly descended into the river’s riffles.

Raven took wing and made his way up the river thinking to seek a quiet place to feast and rest. But as he thought that thought, another raven flew up beside him and glanced his direction. It was a young female who had gone several years without finding a mate. Raven had briefly joined her earlier in the spring when many of the young, unpaired birds were engaging in skill practice and play. Raven had not given serious thought to finding a mate, until now. Maybe, he thought, it was time to share my magic with family…

Below him the river songs blended together with the trampling and territorial huffs of the bears, the screeching and sqawkings of the eagles, gulls and ravens in the ultimate celebratory feast of birth, death and rebirth as the Salmon People gave Potlatch to the Forest.

The End of Book One: Raven’s Journey


Leave a comment

Raven’s Journey ~ Chapter 20: Shifting Form

Young Bald Eagle

Young Bald Eagle

Otter stood squarely in front of him, shifted her form and looked deeply into his Being. They became One, their breathing and heart rhythms in harmony. Raven visioned himself flying over the beach stones, the air charged with electrical forces. Lines of energy radiated from everything…every stone, every grain of sand, the water, the grasses, his own body, everything. Each defined entity provided a measure of emanating energy which Raven could ride and manipulate.

He was mesmerized by the feeling of floating and intrigued that he was in control of his flight by simply focusing his intent. Raven flowed into the trees, their roots, their mycelial connections more rapidly then ever before. He was everywhere at once…his eyes witnessed as the bear, the fish, the eagle. He smelled the ocean waters, the cedar bark laying on the beach and heard the bubbling of the waters as they percolated into the river bottom. Raven was thrilled! And then he came to an abrupt halt.

Before him were the energies of the future…sounds he didn’t recognize, sights he had not yet witnessed, smells emanating but not part of his memory and flavors new to his tongue. It was if a barrier stood before him; yet laid out in front of him were his future potentials, his visions and his dreams. He stood behind the barrier and looked out towards the future that he knew now he could accept or change with his intentions. How will I gain access? he questioned.

And with that question, the barrier fell and he was a man, wearing a black leather hat, a black bandana at his throat. All around him the scene was one of pulsing energy lines although Raven could now interpret what they were, what they represented. Raven, the corvid as Man, controlled his breathing, quieting his questions, drawing upon his intuition to control the intent of the journey he now chose to accept and witness.

Raven lived in a community, a community of many people with shelters, animals and gardens.  People milled around him…he seemed important. A woman approached. Raven recognized her as his sister. She extended her right hand and gave him a bird the size of a gull but brown and tan in color, a type of game bird which, if Raven remembered correctly, was good eating.

Raven, experiencing the event as a human, reached out with both hands and removed its legs from her grasp. The bird he held was warm, its heart beating rapidly. He held the bird up and looked at it carefully. Its eyes never left his face, twisting its head to keep contact. Raven felt a sense of fear well up in his own belly. He blinked his eyes.

Raven held the bird while she reached down and lifted a young eagle onto the wide leather cuff and attached glove of her left wrist. A stiff leather hood blocking the eagle’s vision covered its head but a slit had been cut into it through which the young bird’s hooked beak protruded. The top of the hood was adorned with a single clay bead and an ochre stripe painted around it, topped with a knot and standing fringe.

The young falconer held one end of a leather tether attached to the eagle’s foot. She motioned for Raven to release the bird he was holding and waited until he tossed it high and the escaping fowl had flown into the distance. Then she removed the leather hood and the eagle launched from the cuffed-glove, spotted the fleeing bird and rapidly flew towards the target, its tether tailing behind. In what seemed to take only a few flaps of its enormous wings,  the eagle stuck the bird and followed it to the ground. A few feathers released by the impact of the kill fluttered off into the wind. Raven and his sister moved quickly to the kill site and gave the eagle a piece of raw meat which it gulped down voraciously. Raven’s sister removed the bird now limp in death from its talons and gave it to her companion. Then she placed the raptor onto her wrist perch, expertly replacing the hood as she stood up. It took a few moments for the young eagle to become situated, fluffing its feathers, stretching its wings and opening its bill as if savoring the morsel it had eaten.  Stroking the eagle’s neck with her free hand and making soft sounds with her lips like the soughing wind seemed to relax it.

The dead bird was warm to Raven’s touch. He could see where it had been seized in the eagle’s sharp talons, where the feathers had been ripped away and could detect the smell of fresh flesh from the impact wound in the bird’s breast. It was now his duty to dispose of it. Raven drew upon the man’s memory of how it would be done.

The hunting party walked back to the group of people who watched the eagle take down the bird. They were dressed similarly to Raven and his sister: form fitting skin clothing, laced boots, a few hats and although no one else had beads in their hair, a number had small, black facial tattoos. Several children stood wide-eyed as his sister shook her head making the beads strike together with the same sound of chattering water he’d heard them make on the river bank the night before. The eagle spread its wings and then lowered them. She held the bird out to the children who approached and gently stoked its body.

More people approached the group and Raven recognized Grandmother among them. She wore the same strip of otter fur in her hair and around her head, a turquoise bandana.  He’d not noticed her blue eyes before, matching quite well the color of her bandana. Otter, the woman, reached out her hand to the eagle and gently stroked its broad back. The eagle relaxed even more. Both Raven’s sister and Otter smiled at each other with genuine affection. Grandmother then moved in front of Raven and accepted the dead bird. She looked deeply into Raven’s eyes. He blinked.

Raven, the bird, sensed another shift happening as the barrier once again went up and he returned to the his world of primary energetic vibration, sensing the river flow, the breezes, the sounds of gulls squabbling over the salmon carcasses.

He blinked and looked about…he was standing in front of Otter who was looking carefully at him but with a more relaxed gaze.

(To be continued in the concluding chapter, Chapter 21: Mastering the Magic of Flight)


Leave a comment

Raven’s Journey ~ Chapter 19: More of the Mystery

Spawning Pink Salmon, Dungeness RIver

Spawning Pink Salmon, Dungeness RIver

A familiar loping sound just beyond the log drew Raven’s attention. Otter emerged, sniffing the air. Raven, glad to have his friend back, began to question why she had disappeared but Otter stood up and began speaking with a strong medicine tongue, which silenced Raven’s query. She told Raven he needed to slowly and thoughtfully review the events of the evening. When he was ready to go over the messages and ask the right questions about what he saw happening, she would find him. Otter then quickly moved into the shadows beyond the fire ring.

Raven was taken aback by her response but she was clear: He had missed something important. Again, rather than being irritated, he realized there was still more of the mystery to solve. Raven could not see Otter from where she was standing beyond the fire area; a tendril of steam trailing upwards from the ash obscured her darkened form.

The evening’s chilling mist, rolling in from the ocean, hovered briefly and then began swallowing the landscape. Distracted as he was,  Raven innately sensed the moisture and looked to a tall cottonwood close by where he flew to roost for the night. Even with the river’s flowing as the dominant evening sound, Raven could distinguish the active splashing in the shallow riffles as the salmon built redds, fertilized the eggs and defended the sites.  It was easy to make out the bears sloshing along in the river, snatching fish with their strong jaws and teeth or grabbing them in their long, sharp claws; ripping head, skin and eggs from the bodies while the fish still thrashed about. He could also hear the bears making vocal commotion when fishing spots were under dispute. In the distance, the sounds of the surf breaking across the beach stones drew his attention as well. He visualized its foam streaking white for a moment before flattening out and losing texture, sinking into the sand and gravel.

Raven slept fitfully. It could have been from the excitement of seeing the humans but he also questioned an insight that what he’d witnessed was a scene from the future. It was all so confusing but he knew he had more thinking to do before Otter’s magic found him ready. Now the only thing he could do was to go over every detail of his time spent with the three human beings and wonder where Otter had gone when Grandmother came forward. It was not like Otter at all to miss such an important opportunity…Was she hiding something from Raven and what of his visions at the old abandoned village site? But, as fitful as the sleep turned out to be, by morning Raven had at least a portion of the questions he felt most important and hoped Otter was ready with answers.

Early, before the coastal fog had dissipated, gifting its mist to the trees, Raven flew to the cove and foraged a meal of limpets and snails. Tucked under the tangled mats of seaweed, he  also found red sea urchins.  Their bodies lay partially mangled, most of their spines broken off but the corvid found their fatty, orange roe particularly satisfying.

After Otter’s challenge last night to review what he had witnessed, Raven went over all the events he could remember since meeting Otter in the pool where she devoured Frog. That memory and others up until Otter’s remark at the fire, he recalled easily; but in remembering the past before the frog-eating event, Raven felt like he’d been in a long and deep, almost amnesic sleep. Perhaps, reflected Raven, Otter was right: The secret was to recognize just that, the past is over. Don’t dwell on it, learn from it and move on. But what about just last night…what had he missed? Did his vision in the forest have anything to do with this?

Raven still felt positive that last night’s activity taking place around the fire represented a vision from the future. If he was right, then he, his sister and Otter had eaten a meal of freshly cooked salmon together. As strange as it seemed at first, before he left the beach, he was quite sure they had!

Last night’s pondering also made Raven aware of at least three of the human and spirit realms which aided in the creative, re-evolution of the planet: the Survivors, those who had lived through the inundations and hardships; the Essence, a vibrational signature which he had helped attune; and lastly, the Aware Ones, those realms trusted by the Mother and the Mystery as mentioned by Grandfather Whale. He did not know for sure where the three humans fit into the larger picture, however. He had gone as far as he could without more advice from Otter.

Raven was most curious about the fire site and flew there first to look for any signs left by the Humans. The gulls squawked irritatingly at his approach but since he had no food nor was he attempting to steal theirs, he was not a threat and they left him alone.

The scene of last night’s fire offered something priceless…quite priceless: He found two clay beads, much like the ones decorating the woman’s hair, tucked into a crevice on the fallen tree where the woman had cut up the fish. Each one was roughly the size of a salmon egg, made of light-colored, fired clay and decorated with a single band of ochre running around their perimeters. Raven pecked at them and managed to pluck one from its resting place and popped into his mouth. Immediately, he felt a stirring of awareness…He was right, this had his sister’s vibratory signature! He could never mistake that!

Raven began hopping stiffly up and down in excitement. All of a sudden, a large brown bear that was on its way across the same stretch of beach next to the log, rushed at him, swung a paw that hit Raven on the chest and flipped him off the log and into the air. He tumbled over a couple of times but although stunned, stood up uninjured and watched the bruin wander off over to the fishing holes, seemingly oblivious to what he’d done.

Raven shook his head, opened and closed his mouth a few times and gingerly walked a few stiff-legged paces to the log and flew back up onto it. He found one bead still in the crevice but the one he had in his mouth when the bear charged him lay shattered in pieces.

A rustle on the river side caused him to swirl around and look down just as Otter loped up the bank. She must have seen the bear rushing Raven because her face showed great concern. She waited until Raven settled and acknowledged he was all right before softly asking him if he had questions for her.

Raven’s eyes lit up as he spoke in the Language of the Mystery recalling the insights he had about his sister, yet he was most curious about the Aware Ones and what Grandfather Whale meant  when he had said: Human emergence and its re-evolution would depend on forgiveness by the Aware Ones.

Raven wanted to relax and listen to Otter fill in some more missing pieces of the mystery but Otter knew first to ask Raven: Who would the Mother and the Mystery listen to and trust, Raven?

Raven knew he had once held this role but had succumbed to the folly of ego’s importance and had lost favor. Raven also knew that by Otter asking for his advice, he was being tested.

(To be continued in Chapter 20: Shifting Form)


Leave a comment

Raven’s Journey ~ Chapter 18: Raven’s Sister

Raven in Grandmother Cedar, Dungeness River

Raven in Grandmother Cedar, Dungeness River

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)


2 Comments

Raven’s Journey ~ Chapter 17: First Contact

Campfire at Teepee Camp on  Kootenai Lake, BC

Campfire at Tipi Camp on Kootenai Lake, BC

Otter had ventured further downstream towards the river’s mouth when Raven finally spotted her. He landed upstream and watched as she chased salmon into the shallows and eventually bit, for her, a larger-than-usual fish. She struggled but managed to hold it tight in her jaws until its flopping slowed. Dragging the fish by the tail, she drug it ashore with considerable effort; however, a movement in the brush behind her caused her to stop and drop it.

Raven turned his attention to the area expecting to see a large brown bear emerge out of the thick brush to steal her catch, but instead, witnessed a man walking towards Otter and the salmon. This human was the first Raven had seen in eons. Startled, Raven hopped backwards straight into a log which irritated him and caused him to utter a raspy squawk. The noise stopped the man’s movements long enough for him to cast a long glance at Raven. Equally as shocking, a woman walked out of the bushes and stood beside the stranger. She, too, spotted Raven and focused her attention on him. He felt her deep-set, narrowly spaced, dark eyes gazing into his very soul. Oddly, he did not feel uncomfortable or frightened but sensed all was in order and to let the events transpire as they might.

Both humans dressed similarly, mostly in animal skins that reminded Raven of more classic periods of natural dress. They looked comfortable in light suede shirts and leather vests with many pockets sewn on the exterior surfaces. They also wore leggings and laced, oil-soaked boots that looked  waterproof. The man wore a black, broad-brimmed leather hat over his short, dark hair and a black bandana hung about his neck. Draped about his shoulder was a lightweight pack. It, too, had several pockets sewn on its leather surface.

The woman’s hair hung loose with steaks of gray amid the sun-bleached, auburn hues. Ceramic beads hung from leather strips woven into her hair and as she moved about they produced an almost watery, tinkling sound. A bright, turquoise bandana hung about her neck and a thick leather, scuffed-up cuff enclosed her left wrist. In her right hand, she carried a short spear with an ornately carved wooden shaft .

She continued to eye Raven and he was tempted to reveal his identity and see if they could communicate. He stood motionless as did Otter and the humans. Another moment went by before the woman relaxed her gaze and walked towards Otter who made no effort to defend her salmon catch or to move away. The human female leaned her spear against a boulder, then touched her fingers to her chin and gestured towards Otter as if offering thanks. The woman then reached down, picked up the salmon by the tail and moved towards the trunk of a fallen tree close by the river where she laid out the fish. Reaching into a leather sheath tied around her waist, she withdrew a knife with a carved wooden handle and polished steel blade. The man likewise extracted a wooden-handled knife from a side sheath and walked stealthily into the brush and began cutting stout willow wands, pulling off leaves and trimming off side limbs. He also collected dried pieces of drift wood and dead branches. Raven assumed they’d be used for making a cooking fire.

The man brought the freshly cut willow wands to the woman who was deftly cleaning the fish: removing the entrails, head and tail, cutting out the backbone and throwing them back into the river. The skin was left intact on the salmon’s flesh. She then began cutting the flesh into strips which she strung on the wands. All the while the beads about her head made a flowing, tinkling sound as she moved about.

Next, the man used his hands to dig a shallow pit in the gravel, moving the inner stones into a fire ring.  He reached into a side pocket of his trousers and withdrew plant materials, what appeared to be wood shavings and small slivers of wood which he placed on the finer gravels in the center of the ring. The the man gingerly piled small pieces of kindling and even larger pieces onto the tinder before reaching into one of the pockets on his vest and withdrawing a rod and striker. The stranger knelt down, hesitated a moment, then added some more dry tinder to the wood and stroked the man-made flint. Sparks spit out; the tinder began smoking. He bent down and blew into the smoldering plant materials which flared into flames and began consuming the smaller shavings before moving into the larger pieces.

In many ancient folk tales, usually through a series of arduous and magical adventures, Raven brought fire to the Human People. Now he watched the man lay down a good bed of dry materials and simply rasp a rod with a metal striker to produce a flame and fire. How easy! Raven made a chuckling sound in appreciation of the modern tools.

Raven, always aware of his surroundings, noticed the other fishing season activity about the river was unusually subdued: the gulls mostly resting and no bears were within sight although Raven wondered if cooking the fish might bring in the bears to investigate the tantalizing cooking odors. His own sense of smell was almost non-existent, but he knew humans liked food cooked over a fire or grill. For Raven, watching these humans prepare and cook the fish evoked memories of dining at potlatches and other gatherings where salmon was shared as part of the feast. In going through his memory bank of centuries, he recalled backyard barbecues, clam bakes, wedding celebrations and many a salmon fry where great quantities of food from the forest, seashore and ocean waters had been consumed. Either as a guest or as a scavenger, Raven appreciated good food.

The woman walked to the river and carefully washed her hands, wringing off the last drops before shaking her hands dry. Raven was curious what Otter was thinking about all this but Otter had disappeared.

Before the burning wood had turned to coals, a second woman stepped out of the brush and looked directly at Raven, requesting to speak in the tongue of the Mystery. Although surprised but also expecting the other woman traveler spoken of by the peoples Otter had visited, Raven acknowledged the contact with a deep, gurgling croak –– the shag of black feathers about his throat expanding.

The woman was an elder, a woman from beyond the borders…a woman of the Mystery. Her hair hung long, tied back with a slender thong of otter fur, a decoration worn by a woman of medicine. Her face was wrinkled and weathered. A twinkle in her eye bid familiarity.

The woman spoke directly to Raven, fixing him with her blue eyes which he felt he dare not turn away from. Don’t be nervous, Raven. We won’t be here long for we must continue to search for more of our own kind.  We wanted to stop and acknowledge your message to Spirit and to thank you for taking on the challenge of your own words. Now please excuse us while we prepare our meal.

The coals burned low to a perfect temperature for quickly cooking the fish. Raven watched the man position the fish-laden wands into the gravels of the fire pit area.

Raven felt good to be among those acknowledging and practicing the Mystery. There was sense of peace, a clarity of purpose and wanting to share more fully in the intent of what they were all doing…this came to Raven in pulses of insight, interspaced with memories which he was hoping to offer as comparisons in the process of acknowledging one another.

Now that he was actually in the presence of Humans, he wanted to pursue the deep curiosity he had about his sister and wondered if he could address the Grandmother and ask questions. She, aware of his thoughts, smiled and signaled they would like to eat first and then talk after. Raven stepped back and looked around again for Otter but saw nor felt any indication of her Being. Her absence troubled him.

(To be continued in Chapter 18: Raven’s Sister)


Leave a comment

Raven’s Journey ~ Chapter 16: The Elders of the Thirteen Moons

Moss-shrouded forest floor

Moss-shrouded forest floor

Even though the days were growing shorter, there was still plenty of daylight in the far north country where Raven lived for him to find Otter and ask a few questions. Of course, to save time he’d have to take the quickest route which flew him directly over the village he’d been avoiding. However, since spending time with Otter and particularly since journeying with Grandfather Whale, he was now intrigued and wanted a closer look at the village site that most revered him before the great tsunami destroyed it.

Raven’s reluctance to visit this section of coastline and witness the catastrophic annihilation brought about by Moon’s wrath was understandable. Memories returned as he flew landward. He remembered that he had been powerless to stop her retaliation for the destructive forces unleashed by humans that affected Gaia’s natural environment. He wondered why his life had been spared, for having talked with Otter, he knew he’d been partially responsible for Moon’s reaction.

Raven circled the totem pole and from the air, could barely make out the outline of the longhouse. The mosses and plants had easily overrun the house timbers but there was one lump in the center of the outline that drew him closer, much like the tantalizing spider’s web high up in the tree where the droplets of water had coalesced. He circled lower and lower, all the while wondering if he should be wasting his time doing this or leave and find otter.

Before he could decide, Raven was drawn earthward by a force as powerful as the ocean’s pull on the water drop he’d carried earlier. The moss-shrouded hummock in the center of the house acted like a magnet and the black bird of magic was unable to resist its draw. He clawed at the air in a frantic attempt to slow the decent but to no avail.

The impact of his landing knocked him senseless and totally oblivious to the changes occurring in the environment around him. The mosses disappeared as centuries retreated and the ancient village came alive. Smoke rose up from the nearby fire pit and filled the house with the pleasant scent of cedar although visibility was limited to just a few feet.

Raven, gasping for the air lost on impact, opened his eyes and noticed a stout, bent cedar box with painted red and black decorations carved into its sides in front of him. Bits of abalone shells had also been added to the carvings, causing them to glisten in the firelight. Looking past the box, he was shocked to see a series of blue-trimmed orbs glistening with abalone shell hanging suspended in the smoke about the central fire. Quickly Raven deduced that each orb represented a phase of the moon from the dark of the moon, waxing to a full moon and then back to the smallest waning crescent. He counted thirteen. One orb for each of the months of the year.

Raven also heard rain heavily pelting the planks on the roof and heard the hissing of drops falling through the smoke hole and onto the fire creating sizzling steam which added further smokey mists to the interior of the Northwest Coast plank house. Raven felt bewitched as he looked about the circle of moons.

Drawing out his magic, he looked up again as each phase manifested into an animal or plant. The smokey haze lessened and he could see each orb held aloft by a carved pole much like a totem pole with the abalone orb as the top piece. Below each orb was the carved and painted face of the plant or animal. Each represented a powerful spirit amongst the coastal peoples.

Raven drew back as each spirit pole moved and came forward, dropping a bundle into the box. He could see no arms or hands but through the shadows he could see the bundle fall and heard it strike the bottom. He wondered what the bundles contained and could vaguely make out some parts of animals and plants. Each totem returned to its former place after depositing its bundle into the box.

The mists and smoke grew thicker and Raven’s eyes started to smart and tear up. He shook his head and ruffled his feathers. The smoke was almost too much for him to bear but just as he had that thought, he found himself looking out at the orbs from their height and then realized he had taken on the attributes of the animal or plant he had previously looked up at. He began looking at himself from the perspective of the animal or plant throughout the year and feeling Moon’s influence within his cells as both male and female. He was immensely impressed with the diversity, the growth, the harvest cycles…spending time as each stage throughout the year of a salmon, eagle, devils club shrub, bear, deer, frog, orca, mushroom, otter, hummingbird, thunderbird, cedar tree and lastly, raven…thirteen totems, through a full thirteen moons as both male and female. Raven’s imagination swirled as he realized he could also have chosen other totem plants and animals. True to his Being, even in this altered state of consciousness, Raven was planning to come back and experience more.

Then Raven found himself as Moon and watched himself go through all the phases of thirteen moons constituting a year and then back through the millennia until the beginning of time. He saw Gaia’s formation and how the bounty spread upon her lands. Raven then realized the bundles he had seen the totems depositing in the box were the energies of all of creation, evolving through time to represent what existed before and what existed now spread upon her lands. He also realized that this matrix of creation would be constantly changing but these moons represented the elders –– the genotypes of forever, like pearls strung together making a forever year. They were the seed impulses of Gaia waiting to rise and walk in the beauty way.

The light surrounding Raven became dimmer as if the fogs had rolled in from the sea and further darkened the room. Raven began to feel an uneasiness that he’d not have time to find Otter and would have to remain in the dim, smokey longhouse overnight. His brain was reeling with so much information, it felt like it would explode and he greatly longed for some fresh air.

With that thought, Raven came fully aware and looked around. He found himself in daylight on the moss-covered hummock in a roosting position as if just resting. He stood up, stretched and shook. There was absolutely no sign of an impact on the moss nor did he feel a magnetic draw. “Kwak, kwak!” he noisily croaked in frustration.

There was still lots of daylight left; in fact, it seemed to Raven as if time had stood still while he was experiencing his visions in the cedar plank longhouse. He was too agitated to stay around the site much longer but before leaving to confer with Otter, he pecked at the moss-covered lump. Under a thick layer of moss, he found what he was searching for: his beak struck a piece of abalone shell. He removed the surrounding moss and discovered a fairly well-intact but fire-blackened corner of a cedar box, similar to the one in his vision. Raven briskly feathered the air and rose to find Otter.

(To be continued in Chapter 17: First Contact)