This is quite a moment.
I have never seen a raven in the flesh. I grew up in dairy country and then spent many years in sheep country, and if there is one animal that farmers hate, apart from Mr. Fox of course, it is the raven.
I grew up on tales of calves with pecked out eyes, of little lambs opened up moments after their first breath, of bad luck brought on with one glance of that evil eye: Raven came in on a carrion wind, and even gangly, defiant tomboys were no match against his black arts.
I loved the stories about him. I loved the storms he raised at the mention of his name. I guessed that maybe, like many of the other cautionary tales told to argumentative young girls, he had something of value to teach me. Stuff they didn’t want me to know. Stuff about death and change. Stuff about blood and transformation.
I never got to find out, of course, because his enemies poisoned him or shot him, and then we shrunk all our wild places until they were barely the span of his wings. I, however, still learned plenty of stuff about death and transformation.
And now Raven is here, flying in a straight line from the sound of the church bells of St Michaels to the tallest tree the vegetable garden. I put down my coffee and gather some windfall apples to drop them at the base of the tree. It’s not much of an apology for all the time he spent on the gibbets of my childhood, and not much of a thank you for the way he has informed the development of a major character in my book. But it’s a start.
Raven will always be welcome here. There will always be apples.
This post is dedicated to my oldest friend Ms. Raven, another defiant tomboy, who was there the first time he sang.
This song has spent quite a while on my writing playlist as I slog through my final edit, and seems suitably Ravenesque:
If you want to hear Raven in his full glory you can’t do any better than David Attenborough and wonderful Radio Four: