It was a hard spring at PsiKeep. I held off working on the blog while I was putting together poems and photo essays on the fires of last summer. But things continued to press on with miracles and disasters wrapped together in the web of life.
Sad Sheep Story
Both Soay ewes had stillborn lambs.
I lost the first ewe before I could figure out what happened. Neither ewe could not expel the placenta after birth.
I was able to save the second ewe with a lot of painstaking effort to slowly and carefully get her to drop her placenta over a period of several days. But the little ram… I do not know what to do with him. It seems with all the careful effort keeping him in the stall while the first fracture mended, he broke another leg.
Sculptures in Progress
First there was “Warrior Angle Crouching” in the beginning work-in-progress stage.
There was naked Justice getting repaired for the MAC show in Middletown.
There was hooded Justice waiting out the late rains.
And finally there was re-dressed “Justice Corrupted” ready to be trucked to the show.
I did marched for Bernie for President at the Lower Lake Memorial parade. We even got the dragon in the show.
The Ravens at PsiKeep
Yesterday as I was putting this post together I heard a commotion from the ravens outside. Every year they build their nest in the ponderosa tree above my front door. By their raucous screaming I knew what had happened. It did not take me long to find their single offspring on the ground at the bottom of the tree. I gently picked up the little guy. This was his big day, his first flight out of the nest. I set him on the banister so he could get a good start but he jumped down on to the porch instead.
So I carried him down to the orchard and set him in one of the fruit trees. Later I saw him making a low flight into the forest. I hope he made it. Although, this morning, I have not seen him up in the tall trees with the parents.
Last of all there are days of cutting brush under the ghost of last year’s catastrophic fires. More on the result of those fires is yet come in the form of art and poetry. Because what else can you do but produce creative energy in the face of all that destruction.
I thought that the story of the ravens was moving off stage for a while. The raven fledglings were up in the trees learning to fly. Each day I watched them leap from tree to tree gaining dexterity as they tested their wings and self-confidence. Ah to begin on the earth and to journey to the sky. But this journey is not without peril.
I woke yesterday morning to the frantic cries of the adult ravens shrieking their warning call outside my window. I got up to see what was going on. The ravens only make that call when there is an intruder.
The goats were trampling something in the pen. At first I thought it was a squirrel. Then I saw a wing. It was one of the raven fledglings. I charged down the hill in my bare feet and pajamas only to slip and cut the bottom of my foot as I ran to the goat pen. I shooed aside the goats and lifted the raven to safety. At first I thought it was dead but it raised its head in my arms as I carried it up to the house.
Examining the bird I saw that there was some real damage beyond my ability to repair. One leg was badly fractured and one wing looked like it was also broken but not as badly as the leg. I washed the wounds and packed them with antibiotic cream and wound powder to staunch the bleeding. I brought the raven into the house. The raven seemed to come out of shock by the afternoon and I gave him some water and fed him later in the evening. But it was not until the next day that the veterinarian, who specializes in the treatment of birds, was able see me.
The veterinarian was over in the next county and it was a long, hot drive across the mountains in my broken down car.
The veterinarian thought he either pin the leg or remove it and the wing was not as bad as it looked. It could be wrapped and held immobile until it healed. But then what would there be? A one-legged raven who could not fly as well as a normal raven. A raven that was stranded on the earth like a chicken while it saw the other raven so close and so far out of reach. It could not survive in the wild and it was too wild to become a pet. It would always be trying to go home and home was the long and lingering death of starvation up in the trees.
Life wants to be at all costs and circumstances. We see where life has forged its way in to the most inhospitable and precarious situations and how it has adapted into the many diverse forms in order to survive. Giving life that chance seems to be part of my role at this place.
I thought I could manage taking care of a wild bird that would always be reaching for the sky. I though I could adapt my life to the bird as I have adapted my life to everything else here by putting it under my wing. I thought about animal refuge centers who might take in a raven. I thought of all these things on that long,hot ride over the mountains in a car heaving and screaming on three cylinders.
In the end it was the car that decided for us. I just could not afford the cost when my only transportation was hanging together with binding spells and rubber gum.
I was out of my league…
This morning I buried the raven.
June and July simmered into the first week of August 2012. The summer cooked on as I watched how the ravens were dealing with the heat. Ravens have that all black plumage which is definitely a heat sink and they were constantly moving in the sun. I saw that their bills were always open. This must be their cooling mechanism. Throughout the month, the ravens ranged farther away from the nesting sight. Often I heard them in the woods across the road that ran above PsiKeep.
Unfortunately the story of Sammy does not end well.
One early August morning I noticed that Sammy and another fledgling were missing. A few days later the last fledgling was gone from the group. This was highly unusual. In the weeks before the disappearance there were no signs that the parents were driving off the young. The raven family moved as a small unit constantly calling and signaling to each other and feeding together. I also observed some sharing of food with each other, especially with the food that I set out.
At the same time that the offspring disappeared, I received an email from a neighbor regarding another neighbor who lived across the valley. That neighbor had found two dogs in her goat pen slaughtering her goats. She had shot one dog and had caught the other and had it picked up by Animal Control. Were the ravens attracted to the slaughter and the scent fresh meat? Had they been shot by the over zealous neighbor?
I will never know. But I observed a change in the behavior of the parent ravens. At first they looked as if they were languishing in the trees. For days they sat silently up in the blue pines only coming down to feed in the orchard in the late afternoon and early morning.
Several weeks later they returned to the nest. I could see them climbing around the nest and quietly calling to each other. It looked as if they were making futile attempts to repair the nest but nothing came of it.
The mated pair stayed through the winter feeding on the last of the persimmons all the way through December.
This spring the mated pair hatched out the four raven chicks. As I type this I can hear, even from inside the house, the new fledglings squabbling in the nest above my study.
I knew Sammy was slowly slipping away from me as he was being accepted back into the raven family. As days past he became more shy and he would no longer eat out of my hand. Another voice was calling to him with the power and the wilding of raven survival. My voice was being blown aside like the last leaves of winter and it was as it should be.
If Sammy was to survive he must follow the ravens. But there was still the feeling of loss and emptiness inside.
When I looked closely into Sammy’s eye it was like staring into the mystery of the abyss, an unfathomable and unknowable depth, a different consciousness both alien and profound.
How the eye of the raven reflects another nation staring back at us defiant. “Hey we eat your dead. Don’t mess with us!.” Trickster. Stealer of the Sun. Goddess Touched, magical and just plain scavenger. The eye of the raven challenges our reckless sense of entitlement. He is the player waiting on the sidelines for us to step off the stage.
It was a warm day and I decided let Sammy get acquainted with the outside world. As I walked under a tree with Sammy perched on my arm, the parent ravens immediately began circling and screaming. They landed on the tree directly above where I was standing and began furiously breaking off small twigs and branches and throwing them down at us while screeching and yelling. Sammy leaped off my arm and tried to hide under a bucket. I had to make a hasty retreat and carry him back inside.
My intention was to slowly introduce and return Sammy to the raven family but it looked like it was going to take a lot more work than I initially thought.
A month later the weather began to clear. The parent ravens were busy feeding the remaining two chicks in the nest. Ravens like many wild things will eat what they can. I have watched them carry the fledglings of other birds up to their nest to feed their young. Ravens are known to even eat the fledglings of other ravens which may be why they guarded the nest so aggressively.
The first night I sat with the raven in my lap wondering how it could have survived that fifty foot fall. The bird seemed a little too passive and I began to wonder about internal injuries, West Nile or Bird Flue. The next day I spent most of my lunch time at work researching West Nile symptoms and treatment for birds on the computer. There was not much information except that ravens are highly susceptible to West Nile with a 90% mortality rate.
But when I got home most of my fears and apprehensions were relieved. The little raven was pretty active and hungry. Acting like a normal displaced bird, it took one day to bond to me for food. I fed it a mixture of bread soaked in it raw eggs, chicken, and fruit. I gave it an eye dropper of water since its poop is so watery. I knew it needed a lot of fluid. Watching the parents outside at the watering hole preparing the food they took up to their nest I figured I couldn’t be that wrong. I lay the eyedropper full of water on the floor of the raven’s mouth and let it suck down the fluid drop at a time.