What I Told Them

That in some ways the world that greeted us when we first came here no longer is. And in other ways it hasn’t changed. That both make me feel equally sad.

That they will remain. That they need to look after the farmers and after the fields. That I attended the junior high promotion and felt these little lives moving into small and uncertain futures. That a boy who liked Mazie didn’t even finish the eighth grade.

How can spring feel so autumnal? I will miss this sky. This air. The landscape of people who have been part of our lives. But many of them have already gone on and I’ve mistakened my memory of them for their actual being.

But these ravens for now actually are. And I want to hang on to that.

They sat quietly. And they listened.

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Choices

Bernd Heinrich is right.  If you have a choice, choose the ravens over attending a meeting.

These birds have derailed my life for a week now.  Life is that stuff that happens when you’re supposed to be doing something else.

Now comes the hard part.  To the best of my abilities I have to starve them so that they’ll call out for their parents.  And as further incentive I load the ramada with dead carcasses.  A flattened rabbit from the road.  A pair of rotting rattle snakes killed by Health Care.  Some elk meat from my friend Kerry.

No luck. We leave to Flagstaff for the weekend, leaving the birds to their own devices with no people around.  When we return they’re famished.  And no signs of the parents.

Each morning they caw loudly, looking skyward.  By late morning I relent and give them food.  They recognize my voice now.  Nice for me.  Not good for the ravens.

But I love them.  And I’m glad they’re in our lives.  They’re perhaps the only things keeping me sane at the moment.

Feeding time

Nesting Instincts

They can’t live in a box forever.

But how do you build a raven’s nest?  I don’t speak raven, so I can’t ask them.  I start with their homely toilet paper box.  I wrap it in chicken wire.  One of our chickens checks it out and gives her approval.

raven box

I walk to the wash and retrieve the remaining nesting material that had been discarded there.  The whole mass of twigs and matter smells musky and wild.  It feels true to what the raven is and should be.

One of the nesting pairs out that way follows me all the way back to housing, alighting on the ground every few feet.  I assume it’s the male.  And I assume he recognizes raven nest stuff.  And I assume he’s wondering what the heck I’m going to do with it.  He stays with me, long after we’ve passed the brood he’s protecting.

At home, I gather additional twigs and matter from the yard.  I now have to think like a raven. What stuff is pliable?  What is warm?  What is too long or too short?  Those are some of my criteria, but I have two hands, ten digits, clippers, and chicken wire.  The raven has his beak.  What does he consider?

Even with all of my tools, assembling the nest takes the better part of the day.  And I’m left in awe of my feathered friends.  All of their twigs are of near uniform length and diameter and woven together into a complex tight mass.  I have no idea how they do it.  Where we live, there is a severe housing shortage and half built homes litter the landscape.  People want houses built for them.  The damn ravens just do it themselves and their construction requires monumental effort.

Their nesting material is packed with dog hair, human hair, couch stuffing.  I recognize some of it.  A lot of it, actually.  When we clean our house we empty the vacuum cleaner in the compost pile.  And the ravens have raided it to insulate their nest.  The hair is my hair.  The fur belongs to our dog, Mango.

I’ve positioned the nest on the far edge of the ramada, as far from the house as possible.  As I weave in the last few twigs, parental instincts kick in.  This place may appear safer to the ravens, but in fact it’s not safe.  Not at all.  It’s perched adjacent to the service road.  My poor estimation of people surfaces.  Some farmer will come and kill them.  Or a Health Safety Office will deem them a hazard and remove them.  Or a housing manager will give orders to destroy the nest.

I reluctantly reassemble the nest back toward the center of the ramada, away from the road and out of line site from all the windows of the house.   The babies need protection.

Mid afternoon, I place them in their new home.  They calm down at the familiar appearance and texture.  They know this matted material.  The caked shit holding everything together is theirs.

Home.  They perch on the lip.  They appear happy.

Ravens on ramada

Mystery

Pearish discovered them in the wash on Monday.  Four fledglings. Jet black, musty, cawing loudly.  Abandoned in an old toilet paper box with an armful of nesting materials.  We considered the possibilities.

Had they blown out of a nest?  Had a farmer collected them to remove from their fields?  Someone else who wanted the feathers?   A do-gooder trying to save them?  We found a line of ATV tracks in the wash, but no footprints from the tracks to the box.

The sun was setting and we had to move quickly or else the babies would become coyote chow.  We raced to a roost in the wash.  It appeared to have been broken.  We set up a ladder and climbed the tree, but lo, the nest was intact and already filled with four fledglings no less.

Anna recalled another roost somewhere in the wash, but if they had blown out, how had they ended up in the toilet paper box?  And it couldn’t have been a farmer. He would have dispensed with all niceties and simply killed them. And someone collecting feathers wouldn’t have left them in the wash.

Sun setting.  The babies were destined to be eaten.  And so home they come.

Ravens discovered