Learning a New Language
Let me preface this by saying I love ravens. They’re my favorite birds and I consider the raven to be my personal totem animal. I live in the Northwest, where Raven has always been respected by native peoples as a cultural hero, awarding him topmost position on many totem poles. I considered trying to lure one onto our back deck, until I found out the best way to befriend ravens is to offer them roadkill, so I decided to be content with learning their language. I studied the various raven calls online — the grawking sound, the knocking noise with which they alternate — and figured I had a chance to become at least mildly proficient. When I’d go on dog walks and hear the ravens call, I’d answer, feeling secure I’d honed my raven-speak enough that they they were able to get my message of, “hey, dudes, I’m your pal! I speak your language!” But lately, one has begun to stalk me, flying from treetop to treetop along my route — or it lighting very near me in fields or in scrub pine next to the road, At first I was flattered, thinking it was acknowledging my attempts to speak raven-ese — but its actions appear slightly less than friendly and I’m wondering if I’ve blundered in my clumsy attempts at communication. Oh, Raven…….I meant well. Was it something I said?
Postscript: Two years ago at a literary workshop, I heard writer and wilderness explorer Craig Childs read his essay. To read his truly beautiful piece, click on this link: