Updated: Nov 11
I was gone for an hour. Less than an hour really. As I pulled onto the highway, an unkindness of ravens scattered from the side of the road. Fall ravens. Feasting on the chokecherries that line the fence and grow deep into the woods. Pulpy little ruby berries that are a fall staple for so many of the forest’s inhabitants. Locals look forward to their ripening as well, although it takes a lot of work and copious amounts of sugar to make them even somewhat palatable as a jelly on morning’s breakfast toast.
The calls of the corvids as they prepare for winter is, for me, a harbinger of the changing season.
Corvus, from the latin meaning raven. Late 15th century (in the sense ‘take as spoil’): from Old French raviner, originally ‘to ravage,’ based on latin rapina ‘pillage.’ As in, “The ravins`ravaged the chokecherry trees, pillaging all of the ripe, red berries that their beaks could gather.” Corvids, or ravens, are the largest of the passerines and inhabit most of the earth. A genus that includes crows, ravens, rooks and magpies.
A particularly beguiling raven taunted the poet Edgar Allen Poe.
“Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.””
The stars of the Constellation Corvus are used in ocean navigation, while Corvus is also a figure in Greek Mythology; Apollo’s own sacred bird. Once his feathers were all snowy white but when Corvus reported to Apollo that Apollo’s lover had betrayed him, in a fit of rage, Apollo turned his faithful bird black as punishment.
The Zuni people believe that the raven is associated with magical playfulness and can guide us into a deeper understanding of our shadow self. The shadow self is the dark side of our everyday self that has experienced pain or rejection. Zuni people believe that when we get to know our shadow self it can become a source of wisdom, compassion and insight. Facing our fears, with raven by our side, eventually leads us to greater personal power and freedom from dread and worry.
Less than an hour passes; I am returning home.
The road begins to curve as the trees get closer to the highway. I see it ahead. A single black raven laying on the the bright yellow paint. Its wing seems to move in the wind. Not sure if it is still alive, I pull the truck to the shoulder and get out. It was not alive. It was no longer alive. I picked up its soft lifeless body and held it cupped in my hands. From its strong black beak fell two drops of crimson. Its undisturbed feathers of perfect black shone in the sunlight with purple iridescence. Its head limp and unfastened, I carried it to the tall grass and laid it down to rest alone. Ravens are believed to mate for life. Together they forage, build nests of sticks and preen one another. Not wanting to leave it behind, I picked it back up. Feeling it in my hands again, I looked at its expressionless closed eyes and its torpid limbs and once agile black wings that it, just an hour ago, soared upon the thermals with.
I apologized for having to leave it alone, and for not being able to fix it, and for the cold night ahead and finally placed it back into the grass.
Thank you so much for reading. I hope that the summer treated you well and that your fall has been as stunning as it was here.