Dark mutterings

It never fails. When I think about travel in winter, it’s always because our weather is so wet, our days so dark. Why not be elsewhere, I reason. Bright lights! Maybe a warm beach or a busy market in North Africa. (We’d thought of going to Marrakech…)

So we’re preparing to leave for five weeks and I am very excited about the prospect of exploring parts of the Czech Republic I haven’t been to and spending more time in the areas I have spent time in (Brno, esp., and Prague). But yesterday’s newspaper reported that Central Europe is experiencing frigid temperatures with south-western CR the coldest of all. Minus 38 degrees Celsius. Ah. And here the alder buds are pink, the sun is out, a few slow midges hover around the hot-tub.

In the meantime, we’ve just returned from a walk on the Malaspina section of the Suncoast Trail system, a place we like to go once a week or so for the light, even in winter, and the long views to the Coast Range mountains and the sea. There’s a raven roost up there and for some months of the year we can count on 30 or 40 ravens travelling back and forth to the roost (from the landfill, I’m guessing), all of them yelping, klooking, and thocking. It’s the most amazing thing to listen to them for any length of time. So many variations on each sound! If you close your eyes, you’d swear you were listening to a sinister gathering of hoodlums planning murder.

Today, though, there weren’t many birds near the roost at all. I think it’s because it’s mating season for ravens and this is not a communal activity. We saw a few birds, one turning summersaults, and heard several more; these were some distance from the roost. But it was surprising quiet, even when an eagle flew near the tall firs that surround the roost. I think of the male ravens bringing sticks for the nests (maybe that’s what the lone birds were doing), the females making their rough baskets in the crotches of trees, on cliff ledges, and then lining them with elk hair, squirrel tails, dried grasses and moss.

When I hear ravens, I think of the late Charles Lillard’s beautiful poem, “Closing Down Kah Shakes Creek”:

This is the old west where a secret cove with an old house

is called history, a raven cackling on a limb, mythology…

Ours is now an old house, an old untidy nest, settled into its place on the bluff looking west, and those ravens are as mythic as anything I’ve ever known — the shape of them against the sky, and their dark mutterings on a quiet Sunday afternoon.


~ by theresakishkan on February 5, 2012.

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