Back in April of 2011 after embracing the idea of moving from California to Minnesota, there were people, places and things that I knew would be deeply missed. Our children and grandchildren, of course. And in the over-all scheme of life – my lovingly tended garden with it’s over 50 heirloom roses; the tantalizing and heady scent of the Pacific Ocean; the comforting familiarity of coastal locales and friends covering two lifetimes. To name a few.
There was also my dream job at a resort in Big Sur which had been judged one of the best small inns in the world by Conde Nash Travel and Guide. The guest rooms included tree houses, jutting up at odd angles among the redwood trees, rooms which were sculpted round and woodsy so it felt like entering the heart and soul of a forest giant, and others bermed into the edge of the cliff with grass and flowers on the roof and a glorious deck hanging precipitously over the ocean.
Our retail business was in a Quonset hut, once the tack room for the ranch, now set alone, down a woodland path in a lower grove. I said at the time that I would deeply miss the creativity of the little shop, but even more I would grieve for the loss of a friend who had regularly visited me there for the past four years.
He first came visiting as I ate my lunch in our storage/shipping building, strutting and waddling as he ventured closer, dipping his head from side to side yet looking full on, one eye at a time. I had previously heard him high up in the redwood tree making that distinctive, almost electronically resonant – “Krronk, Krronk.” He also cawed like a crow, but deeper. And “clicked.”
I shared my apple and he began to visit every day at lunchtime, sometimes waddling just inside the front door to the shop, peeking to see if I was there. We soon moved on to unshelled peanuts, which were an immediate hit, and it became our routine. If he arrived early I would say, “You’re an early bird. It isn’t lunchtime yet.” And he would perch in the baby oak tree across from the front door and wait. We began a ritual and it was always the same. I would feed him the peanuts on the top of the fence post across the parking lot, signaling that it was time by making what I thought might approximate the raven clicking noise and he would fly to the higher gatepost and wait for me to deposit the peanuts. Our interaction was amazing and I chose to believe that it went beyond food.
I was recently reminded of my special communication with this wild creature when I read a piece in the latest edition (January-February 2016) of Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine where Chet Myers writes about corvids (crows and ravens), explaining their unusual intelligence and ability to relate and recognize individual human beings.
“Sometimes ravens give voice to their memories. Because of the physical structure of their multiple larynxes, ravens and crows are capable of wide-ranging vocalizations,” he writes. “A raven residing in a national park campground learned to imitate the gurgling sound of a flushing toilet, much to the consternation of visiting campers. Naturalist David Barash was studying marmots in Olympic National Park in an area where some blasting excavation had taken place three weeks earlier. One day he heard a voice calling out ‘Three, two, one,’ followed by the sound of a small explosion. He nervously called out, ‘Who’s there?’ Then he spotted the noise-maker – a raven in a nearby tree.”
I think often about my raven friend. I would like to think he remembers me.