THE RAVEN – Introduction
Could it be that wisdom appears on earth as a raven, attracted by a little whiff of carrion?
My first experience with a raven was at the Grand Canyon. I was sitting at a splintery wooden picnic table, dry from the years exposed to sun. I was hungry, I had barely slept the night before, and the air was unexpectedly cold. Due to the chilly temps, the campground was almost empty. Vacationers fled the surreal landscape in search of a warmer spring break. Heavy low-lying clouds — full of snow, we would later learn — were rolling into the park, and there I sat nervously picking and prying slivers of wood from the worn surface of the table.
A deep croaking call splintered the cold silence and then ceased, it’s echos soaking into the tall pines around me. A shadow slipped across my field of vision, my ears wiggled at the flapping of feathers, and in my finger tips I felt through the table top the rasp of claws on wood. My vertebra quivered, sending out a wave of warning through my body. With my head frozen still, I rotated my eyes to look at the being that was now beside me. Standing just inches away, tilting its head and eyeing me back, was the common raven (Corvus corax). The bird’s movements were confident and inquisitive. The feathers were un-smoothed, tattered and more than dark — they seemed made of the void, the very absence of light, yet carrying the slightest sheen of the blue sky through which the beast flies. It’s twig-like legs merged into strong talons. The beak of the raven, sharp and strong, seemed designed to pluck out my eyes.
The common raven at maturity can be up to 30 inches in length, with a wingspan of 59 inches. The raven I met in the Grand Canyon was a heavy weight contender for the bird community and it was accustomed to humans feeding it. I had no food, and the bird seemed slightly perturbed by this fact. Disgruntled, the bird galloped to the edge of the table, unfolded his wings and ascended into the chilly air. I simultaneously felt relieved and sadly abandoned. This encounter would later unfold into inspiration.
Two years later I’m fixated on drawing animals I’ve encountered in the west. The animals have become my talismans, symbols of my homes, my travels, my story, my path. The animals remind me to use their strengths and always adapt to survive. What you are reading over now and in the next few posts is my documentation of the process — my story of the raven.