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Posts Tagged ‘Alaska’

White ravens are rare – perhaps because the color variance makes them more prone to disease and predators. But their white feathers also seem to add credence to the myth that credits Raven with fetching fire from the sun and bringing it back to earth after the gods had taken fire away. In helping earth’s inhabitants, Raven sacrificed his beautiful plumage and lovely voice.

While in Alaska and western Canada, I saw many ravens. The intelligence in the birds’ eyes and their clever behavior suggested far more awareness than humans like to give animals credit for. I even saw one raven prying open a sunroof in order to get to a bag of groceries. And though I didn’t see if he or she was successful, it seem quite likely that the bird managed to get inside the car and pillage the groceries (including a very obvious loaf of bread) before making an escape out the sunroof.

Alas, I have yet to see a white raven, yet I love the myth associated with the creature.

Myths, of all sorts, are one of my passions. I think they add to our understanding of the people of the past, ourselves, and our species. And, dear reader, the word myth does not mean an untruth – rather a system of belief which may or may not be one you believe.

For your reading and viewing pleasure, here’s a little article on white ravens.

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“If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.” – Charles Lindbergh

I agree with Lindbergh. Yes, airplanes make long distance traveling easier, but for me, birds make my life richer. And today, the loud and comical antics of the crows made me smile. Then, I read this article about crows which is somewhat disturbing: 6 Terrifying Ways Crows are Way Smarter than You Think.

IMG_2395 The first way they list (actually #6 since they’re listing in reverse order): “The recognize your face.” This is true. When I lug the bread crumbs or seed or suet out to the birds, the watch-crow starts cawing, bobbing his/her head, and ruffling its feathers. Sure enough, within minutes, the rest of the crow family (or “murder” as a group of crows is called), arrive to feast upon whatever I’ve scattered about.

Which brings me to #5, “They conspire with one another.” True! If the watch-crow isn’t enough proof, the crows have shown excellent skill in chasing away squirrels.

#4 is “Memory.” As if facial recognition wasn’t spooky enough, it seems word gets around in the blackbird (I’m changing it from just crows here). Why? Word has gotten out in the red-winged blackbird, starling, crow, and bird communities that I feed birds. Every year, a migrating flock of hundreds (if not thousands) of blackbirds stops at my feeder for a few days each spring and fall before moving on to wherever it is they’re headed.

I witnessed #3 “Tools and problem-solving,” when I was in Anchorage, Alaska. A raven (larger cousin of a crow) was busily prying open a sun roof to get to someone’s groceries. He/she was using not only beak and feet, but also a stick. Clever bird!

#2, “Planning,” includes saving food for lean times and other thoughtful techniques. I’ve not witnessed that behavior (to my knowledge, but crows are tricky), but the whole watch-crow business seems like planning to me.

The #1 way listed in the article was “Adaptive behavior.” Well, knowing to check on sun roofs on cars seems rather adaptive to me, but the best example from my own life occurred years ago when we had a sliding glass door through which I used to exit to feed the birds. If the feeders were empty and I didn’t fill them promptly, a designated crow would come to the door and “knock.” The bird would fly to the porch railing or a nearby tree to caw his/her empty feeder alert. When I opened the door, the rest of the murder would alight in the trees and wait for their food to be served.

My kids say it looks like a scene from “The Birds” sometimes at my house. And it’s not just the crows —  blackbirds, starlings, chickadees, cardinals, jays, morning doves, etc. ALL seem to know my face, and fly close when I bring out the chow.

 

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IMG_2217 I’m back after journeying through a small part of Alaska, British Columbia, and the Canadian Rockies. Spectacular is the only word I can use for the mountains towering above the roads and waterways of this beautiful part of North America. Snow-covered, glacier-topped, or just sheer cliffs of rock – the mountains were inspirational.

And journey is the most appropriate word for this trip. The untamed nature of the landscape, the chill of icebergs and glaciers, the smell of the dense forest, and the wild animals who populated this wilderness area made these past 2 and 1/2 weeks a journey of distance and spirit.

I’ve always been a fan of journey stories where the reader follows the main character as he or she ventures down paths, across oceans, or over mountains on a quest for treasure, knowledge, powers…  – or maybe to rescue a captured friend. So much so, that I wrote my own journey story, Enchanted Skean – Book I of The Chronicles of Lifthrasir.

Finding a publisher for this Young Adult novel became another sort of journey with lots of twists and turns including: finding an agent only to have the agency close, not being able to find another agent, submitting the manuscript myself to publishers, being told twice that it was between my YA novel and another – only to come in 2nd, and finally, to finding a small publisher interested in publishing the book in both print and eBook formats.

In celebration of the forthcoming publication of Enchanted Skean, I’ll be including a bit of trivia from the works of JRR Tolkien (a master of journey stories) in my blogs starting today. So here goes:

1- Where must the One Ring be destroyed? Okay, that’s easy for most of my readers. Here’s another one. 2- What was the name of the mountain range The Fellowship tried to cross unsuccessfully, and ended up traveling through the Mines of Moria instead? Still too easy for some of you. For The Lord of the Rings savvy here’s the last trivia question. 3- What was the name of the mountain The Fellowship was climbing when snow and avalanches made them turn round and head for the Moria Gate?

I encourage each of you to begin a journey. It can be traveling to a new place, reading a book that takes you to other worlds, or just putting one foot before the other on your life journey.

Answers to the Tolkien trivia:

1- Mount Doom (also known as Orodruin or Mountain of Fire).

2- The Misty Mountains.

3- “The narrow path now wound under a sheer wall of cliffs* to the left, above which the grim flanks of Caradhras towered up invisible in the gloom… They heard eerie noises in the darkness round them. It may have been only a trick of the wind in the cracks and gullies of the rocky wall, but the sounds were those of shrill cries, and wild howls of laughter. Stones began to fall from the mountain-side, whistling over their heads, or crashing on the path beside them…before long the snow was falling fast, filling all the air…” [The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter III: The Ring Goes South]

* As a nod to Tolkien, I have a range of mountains called The Sheercliffs in Enchanted Skean.

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