Between the Ravens’ Wings

9 June 2012

6:25 a.m.

It’s chilly this morning in the belly of the Great White Land Whale. The bird call which summoned me from sleep was familiar, the same theme and variation I heard more than a week ago: a trill, followed by a higher triplet, then a lower triplet, then the trill again. Repeat with variation. Occasionally a raven complained about some annoyance.

Speaking of ravens. Yesterday I worked for several hours on this blog and on my Flickr site, with no time devoted to exploring the park. Not much to write about, time to hit the recycle bin. Here is a piece I wrote 19 years ago, on one of my first mornings in Big Bend National Park in Texas.

Between the Ravens’ Wings
published by The Big Bend Paisano
1 November 1993

Along the trail to the peak of Lost Mine Mountain, the spines of the pricklypears were still encased in ice. I watched the creeping beams of the climbing sun illuminate a spider’s web spun from snow, watched the lacework web melt into myriad sparkling prisms, and vanish in the shade.

At the top of the ridge of ancient lava which bridges these mountains, three ravens circled, calling. As they came closer, they grew quiet and I could hear the beat of their wings.

No, not their wings. I could hear the rush of air across their wings, could hear the hiss of each stroke of their flight, as their feathers sliced the wind.

I could hear with such clarity that I stood mesmerized, focused, intent, and it came to me that I was not listening to the beat of their wings at all, but to the silence between them. The silence of the desert was the crystal on which their strokes were so finely drawn, and I realized then that it was silence itself I had sought so long to hear.

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