A smidgen of pigeon/Cravin’ the raven

It was cold, by heat-islander standards, and my mind was spinning: thoughts about home, about where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing, frustrations and celebrations. We were three days into our Yellowstone trip and I had snuck out early for a run: through the hallway, down the steps of the Wonderland, around the corner past the K-Bar and straight across the bridge over the Yellowstone. Buildings and cars wore an early frost; steam rose from mouths and off bodies, especially mine, on its slow trot past the Tumbleweed, hotels, restaurants and rafting companies.

I crossed the bridge again on my return, eponymous water swirling below at dizzying depths. I was creeping back to our temporary digs, shedding layers and shaking off my thoughts, when I heard it: a familiar sort of cooing, then, pfffufff, a rustling of feathers. I looked up. There in the posts of the railing were a trio of beefy birds: white, gray, brown, with heads of iridescent purple and green. Knowing eyes. Hi guys, I laughed in greeting. You all from New York?

Pigeons. In Gardiner, Montana. Well how ’bout that.

*

RAVEN

-Native American Trickster God. Also known as: CHULYEN, HEMASKAS, GUGUYNI, NANKIL’SLAS, KWEKWAXA’WE, KWEKWAXAWE, TXAMSEM, WE-GYET, YHEL.

Infamous creative trickster God of North America.

-Godchecker.com

IMG_2573

In Yellowstone I was stirred by the beauty, the presence and cockiness of the raven. I had temporarily forgotten how glorious is this behemoth of a bird. We saw so many of Yellowstone’s great megafauna during our days in the ecosystem, but the creature who lingered, who lit something up in me, wasn’t bison, elk or pronghorn. It was raven.

We’d been home from the West about a week when I realized that raven was following us. Wandering the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I took a street we’d never wandered before; suddenly my daughter and I found ourselves outside the building where Edgar Allan Poe had finished writing The Raven. Days later we were on a Halloween prowl, checking out house-decorations: there they were again, ravens aplenty, adorning stairs and railings on rows of Victorian houses. The next day we found raven hiding in plain sight, in subway tiles: mosaics on the 1 train platform, a pair of corvids at play.

 

“Metaphor is the incarnational garb whereby Power enters the world.”

–Caroline Casey

Pigeons generally don’t migrate. Neither do ravens. Yet here they were, city birds at the gates of wild Yellowstone, and wild avian tricksters, here in the collective and artistic consciousness of my city. The non-migrators had followed me. Or I had followed them.

There we were, and here we are: scavengers, rich with story, roosting in each other’s blurry niches.

 

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2 thoughts on “A smidgen of pigeon/Cravin’ the raven

  1. Neysa

    If you like birds (I’m fairly sure there’s something majorly wrong with those who don’t, Alfred Hitchcock notwithstanding – it’s a MOVIE, people!), you have to love the raven. Living at Canyon in YNP for 11 winters (and the rest of the years, too), I had heard how intelligent these corvids are. Learning after the reintroduction of wolves to actually fly/guide a wolf pack to a sick or injured animal, so the teeth could do what beaks could not. Flipping open the “velcro”-type openings on the backs of snowmobiles and pulling out Snickers and gloves and binoculars. Someone said they could open zippered items. Right. Sure. And then there was that day I walked or perhaps skied to the rim, to Grandview and on to Lookout. All the “‘bilers” were enjoying the view out at the point, while I watched the ravens exploring their rigs. Someone had “bungied” a backpack onto the back of the snowmobile and a solitary raven had mounted the pack and was proceeding to peck at the little zipper “handle” – what IS the word for those things? It gave…and gave a bit more…and another inch or so. I left, smiling, wanting to leave the thief in peace, hoping the visitor would be astounded…or perhaps angry…that someone had dug around in her/his pack while they were watching the river.

    Liked by 1 person

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