RAVEN: Evermore Wild and Wonderful

Image resultIn the clean, well-appointed raptor center, home to birds of prey temporarily off-exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the newest resident took its first steps (hops and flaps, really) into its private apartment.

Sleek as satin, darker than deep space from beak to eye to claw, the raven never hesitated: two hops out of the large carrier which had been its transport, and up onto the head of its courier, the wife of the museum’s chief naturalist. (One could not help thinking of Poe’s ‘bust of Pallas.’) From there it accepted an offered wrist, raised high to support a full view of the room-sized, airy enclosure; its nonchalance like that of a potentate who knows all doors will open, and the path ahead will be strewn with jeweled rugs.

How I wanted it perched on my wrist – to have the privilege of acceptance by this wild, fierce and fearless being!

What is it that makes some of us yearn for and even seek after communion with the wild things of the world? And what makes some of us fear the wild to the point of desiring its extinction? Is it the ‘wild’ that remains in us, unconsciously needing release — or repression?

I think of these things as I spend long hours watching the animals in the Museum’s Perkins Wildlife Center – un-mindful of us and unselfconsciously just being who and what they are.


Fun Facts About Ravens.

  • They are among the smartest animals – as smart in their own way, as dolphins and chimpanzees.
  • They play.  Ravens make ‘toys’ – sticks, pine cones, found objects like golf balls – to play with one another , or just to amuse themselves.
  • They recognize specific people and other birds they like as well as those they don’t like and can remember them even after not seeing them for up to three years.
  • They often hide their food and, if another raven is watching, will pretend to hide it in one place then secretly hide it in another.
  • They are empathetic, often consoling one another over the loss of a mate.
  • They have been known to push rocks on people who were getting too close to their nests.
  • In Norse mythology, Odin had two ravens; Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Memory), who he sent out each day to return and report to him of the doings of the world.

There’s Lots More Steps

Cycles, Spirals and Stairs: Mixing Metaphors Toward a New World View

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I used to think the events of the world played out like the movement of a pendulum: extreme swings from one fanatical or reactionary or prejudicial pole to another with brief moments of rest, when sanity and progress prevail. I used to think these in-between moments were the opportunities for humanity to take the next steps in advancing to the summit of human achievement, to move higher toward the apex of enlightenment.

But the pendulum never seems to rest. Something always keeps it swinging, and lately its inevitable sweeps, each a reactionary swing away from a centered state, brings to mind the slicing arcs of Edgar Allen Poe’s terrifying machine. It’s quite a cynical philosophy, I’ve decided, so lately I’m trying out a different world view; one with more positive potential.

It’s not pendulum swings, it’s cycles. Cycles and spirals. The events in our lives and in the course of history (wars, disappointments, petty slights – name your favorite ills) come around again and again in a repeating orbit of ‘same old, same old’-ness, digging the orbital groove of habitual, repeated response deeper with each turning.  What if, in the centrifugal power generated by the cycle, the path could shift a bit and initiate a spiral outward, toward a different destination – a different destiny?  Rather than a ring that binds, think of

the chambered nautilus, stock-photo-51978066-nautilus-shell-patternFibonacci’s golden sequence, th (2)the un-furling frond of the fern.th (3)

In a karmic sense, “What goes around comes around” may be true and may even serve some sort of just purpose. But these karmic ‘turnings’ may also offer the chance to grow, choose differently, break the cycle. When the cycle repeats, the next orbit launches, when the button gets pushed, can we hear a different bell? Open a different door? Stop for a moment and imagine a different response?  Can we urge the circle/cycle/orbit into a spiral that reaches up and out,  toward a more humane response, a more evolved reaction, a more enlightened way of being?

I attached a Gahan Wilson cartoon from The New Yorker at the top of this post.  It was pinned up in my office at work for many years and now lies under the glass on my desk top near my computer as a constant reminder that there are many more steps ahead and I need to keep climbing.  In my own lengthening string of cycles, I am in the hard process of accepting that my personal orbit around the wheel will eventually decay. In truth, this probably has already begun. The question I ask myself now is, can I see and understand my own repeating cycles? And when the unproductive ones come around again, can I respond differently at the turning?

 

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