Readers may want to read The Borrowing to better understand this post.]]
Susan and I recently toured some of the national parks out west. One park we toured was the Grand Canyon (Go. Much like Kevin Kline’s character says in the movie, Grand Canyon, words are worthless to describe it).
We took a helicopter tour. It was incredible. Especially flying from forest over a rim to canyon. That sudden drop had me holding my breath.
The second morning of our stay, while on our way to breakfast, a raven flew low over my head. It perched on the roof of a small shack some twenty feet away, looked directly at me and cawed in greeting.
“Hello, Jack,” I said (animals gladly tell you their names when asked politely. I didn’t ask as “Jack” simply fit). “How are you today?”
Susan continued to the south rim lodge’s restaurant.
Caw caw. Caw caw.
This raven was larger than most and I immediately sensed it was Raven, one of the three Trickster Spirits indigenous to that area, so I offered it an exchange. “What can I do for you today, Jack?”
Caw caw. Caw caw.
I wasn’t understanding. “I’m not sure what you mean, Jack.”
Two of the other people visiting the canyon walked past on their way to breakfast. They saw Susan (she told me this later) and they said, “Joseph’s talking with a raven.”
“Yes, he’ll do that.”
Caw caw. Caw caw.
Raven was insistent and I was being particularly deaf that day. I looked down and noticed one of my shoes was untied. I kneeled down to tie it and when I stood, Raven was gone. That message was clear, “Opportunities lost, missed.”
But the straggling shoe lace also had meaning. “Watch how you go.”
I was saddened that Raven had left and continued on to breakfast. I broke off pieces of bread and some bacon, put them in a napkin and went outside when I’d finished. There I offered the bread and bacon to the spirits and specifically to Raven.
Later that day we visited the Desert View Watchtower (some spectacular images here). We climbed to the top and once again had some incredible views.
I noticed ravens flying over the canyon.
And the next thing I knew I was in the air with them. Or just one of them, listening to my brother and sister ravens talking (no longer cawing. Did you know ravens are gossips?) beside me. My human body reached out a hand to support myself on the watchtower’s top floor inner wall. I probably made some sound, some mild exclamation because I felt Susan’s hand on my shoulder, steadying me.
But unlike in the helicopter, there was no sense of vertigo or unease. There was a sense of freedom, of delight, a lifting as my wings caught currents of air that carried me higher. The air smelled differently. Things I never noticed at ground (or even Watchtower) level were obvious to me. The scents of the pine and sage, the scents of the water, of the elk, the tastes of things as my eyes (Raven’s eyes) swept over them. The feeling of airborne hunger, of preparing to swoop, to dive, to float.
But I had not asked. Raven said (and this time I understood clearly), “My gift. I often come in the shape of Man, some times in the shape of others. This time, a shape you can understand. Watch how you go. Don’t pass up an opportunity to understand, to explore. Be brave. Trust what you know. Borrow me when you have to. Share my story with others.”
Raven wasn’t quite done with me yet.
My Grandmother and Grandfather spirits are Spider and Wolf. Combine the two and you have Teaching Stories or Teaching via Stories or Teaches through Stories or… (I prefer “Teaching Stories” myself).
Some of you might know I’m following a path as a full-time author. Every once in a while I have my doubts.
As if to emphasize that my path is correct, Susan found these two pins during our travels:
Here’s what you didn’t know
Two or so days before we left on this trip, I said to Susan, “I’m going to say something. I need you to say yes or no immediately after I say it.” She agreed. “I have this strong sense a publisher or agent is going to contact us positively while we’re away.”
Susan said, “I knew ‘Yes’ before you even said it.”
By the last day of our trip I’d had neither emails nor phone calls from anyone in the publishing industry. I hesitated to say anything to Susan and part of The Practice is acknowledging what’s happening (especially if you don’t like it).
I told her that nothing had come in. We’d both been so sure. Was it possible we’ve been mistaken about our studies all these years and were only fooling ourselves?
(and remember, Raven is the chief Trickster spirit)
Our return flight was delayed. Delayed to the point of missing our connection. We were going to get home about 16 hours later than planned.
And for about twenty hours I wouldn’t be getting emails.
Finally home, I half-heartedly checked emails.
And there it was, the first email: “We’re definitely interested in ‘Augmented Man.’…’you definitely grabbed our attention with ‘Augmented Man.’ I hope we’ll be able to put something together that will give your novel its best shot at widespread readership.”
Raven doesn’t like to be doubted – definitely not laughed at – and always wants us to learn to laugh at ourselves, our insecurities, our unsureties. In short, “Be brave. Trust what you know.”