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Raven Mystic Part 5

Obidiah the Cummings Lane raven mystic was perched on the edge of his new roost high in a giant gnarly old redwood named Tree. Obidiah had just eaten two delicious morsels of perfectly cooked chicken given to him by a human named Isadora.

There were twelve more chicken morsels left in the bag, and Obidiah was about to eat them when he saw a sight that took his breath away. Gliding through the forest fifty feet below him was the beautiful Jack Peters Creek raven gal Magdalena, she of the four snowy white tail feathers.

“Wow, talk about wishes coming true,” said Obidiah, who had just moments before wished he could share the chicken morsels with Magdalena.

Obidiah had only met Magdalena once before and very briefly, but that meeting was a life-changing event for both of them because neither had ever met another full-blown mystic, which they both were, and neither had ever been so profoundly attracted to a raven of the opposite sex.

“If you’d like to talk about wishes coming true,” said Tree, with whom Obidiah frequently conversed, “I’d be happy to.”

“Hold that thought,” said Obidiah, flying off in pursuit of Magdalena.

“Wishes coming true,” mused Tree. “Do thousand-year-old trees make wishes? I don’t recall ever wishing for anything. But if I did wish for something, what might it be? Perhaps I’d wish for rain to end a long drought, though I never have wished for that because I know droughts always eventually end whether I wish they would or not. So… I don’t know.”

While Tree pondered the concept of wishes, Obidiah caught up to Magdalena and cawed, “Well if it isn’t Magdalena. Fancy meeting you here.”

Magdalena alighted on the first convenient branch and Obidiah landed on a branch not far from her.

“Hi,” she said shyly. “You made a wish involving me and I’ve been wanting to see you again, so here I am.”

“You heard my wish?” he replied, overjoyed. “All the way from Jack Peters Creek?”

Magdalena nodded. “Is your roost nearby?”

“Yeah, its…”

“Don’t tell me,” she said, interrupting. “I only asked because though you’re not technically in Jack Peters Creek raven territory, you are still very much in danger of being attacked by Jack Peters Creek ravens. As I mentioned to you when we first met, they are all brutal dunces and not to be reasoned with.”

“You don’t want to see my roost?” he asked, disappointed.

“I do and I don’t,” she said, sighing in frustration. “I do want to see your roost because I’m super curious, of course, and I don’t want to see your roost because if I love your roost, which I probably will, then…”

“Then what?” he asked, holding his breath.

“Then it will be even harder for me to stop thinking about you,” she said matter-of-factly. “Ever since we met and conversed clairvoyantly and… by the way, do you read minds? Of other ravens and birds and mammals?”

“I do,” he said, nodding. “But your mind is closed to me.”

“That is so weird,” she said, squinting at him. “Because I can read minds, too, but not yours. How about future glimpsing?”

“Yes,” he said, frowning. “Only not my own future or yours.”

“Ditto,” she said, enraptured by him. “I’ve never met another raven like me. Have you ever met another raven like you?”

“Still haven’t,” he said, jauntily bobbing his head. “You’re a gal raven and I’m male.”

“I meant the other stuff,” she said, blushing.

“Speaking of other stuff,” he said, making a clucking sound. “You hungry? One of my human clients just paid me in scrumptious chicken morsels, and my wish, the one you heard from an impressive three miles away, was to have you join me in feasting on said scrumptious chicken morsels.”

“You have human clients?” she asked, amazed.

“Well… one,” he said, shrugging. “Hungry?”

“Actually I am,” she said, torn between staying and going. “But the thing is… by the way, what’s your name?”

“Obidiah,” he said, smitten beyond smitten.

“Nice name,” she said quietly. “The thing is, Obidiah, I’m three-years old and soon to be four, and I long ago resigned myself to never marrying because all the raven males I’ve ever met are brutal dunces.”

“I’m not,” he said simply.

“No, I can sense that,” she said, her voice full of tenderness. “But you’re an outsider and the brutal dunces will kill you if you ever come to our territory again.”

“I never will come to their territory again,” he said, shaking his head. “We would live here and socialize with my raven and non-raven friends in Cummings Lane raven territory and at Big River Beach.”

“Your friends would accept me?” she asked incredulously.

“Absolutely,” he assured her. “I’m held in high esteem by the Cummings Lane ravens because of the many useful repercussions of my mystical proclivities, and you would be held in high esteem, too, because you would be my wife.”

“Seriously?” she said, flabbergasted. “Most Jack Peters Creek ravens think I’m a total nut case, though that doesn’t stop the males from trying to impregnate me against my will.”

“I would never do that,” he said gently. “I would always wait until you invited me.”

“Gosh,” she said, her heart melting, “this puts things in a whole new light, a lovely new light, though I still think our roost… your roost is vulnerable to attacks from Jack Peters Creek ravens.”

“Speaking of vulnerable,” he said, turning in the direction of Tree, “I don’t think we should leave those scrumptious morsels unattended much longer.”

“No we shouldn’t,” she said, surrendering to his charms. “Lead me to your roost.”

*

Had either Obidiah or Magdalena been able to see the future they might have been spared a few terrifying weeks of trying to make the hollow in Tree a lasting home for themselves and their future progeny.

But they could not see their futures, and despite their valiant efforts they could not withstand the constant harassment and predations by gangs of Jack Peters Creek ravens who were furious that a Cummings Lane raven had successfully wooed and wed a beautiful Jack Peters Creek raven gal.

Nor could Obidiah and Magdalena have known that even marginal land for roosting in Cummings Lane raven territory would be in such short supply, and that after giving up their roost in Tree they would spend a long wet winter in a temporary nest in a small redwood on Obidiah’s parents’ land, which was fine with Obidiah’s father Tarkanda but did not sit well with Obidiah’s mother Doris who felt intimidated by Magdalena’s formidable mystical proclivities and her beautiful white tail feathers.

*

Then one Thursday morning, as winter was giving way to spring, Obidiah went to meet the human Isadora at the big driftwood log on Big River Beach. With food scarce, Obidiah and Magdalena had come to depend on the weekly bag of succulent morsels Isadora brought Obidiah in thanks for his counseling.

Obidiah alighted on the big driftwood log a few feet from Isadora and sent “You look lovelier than ever. Those pearl earrings are to die for. How are things going with you and Thomas?”

“Things are going wonderfully well for us,” sent Isadora, gazing fondly at Obidiah. “How are things going for you? You sound sad, Obidiah. Are you?”

Now in all the many Thursday mornings that Obidiah met Isadora on the big driftwood log, Isadora had never once inquired about Obidiah’s life, nor had Obidiah ever shared anything about his life with her. But when she asked how things were going for him, and especially when she said he sounded sad, he told her everything that had happened to him since he helped her end her terrible marriage to Jeff and find true love with Thomas.

When he finished telling his tale, Obidiah looked at Isadora and saw she was crying.

“I’m sorry,” he sent. “I shouldn’t have burdened you with my…”

“No, Obidiah,” she sent passionately. “I should have asked how you were doing long ago when I first sensed your sorrow.”

“But our relationship has always been about me helping you,” sent Obidiah, tearfully. “And in thanks for my help you’ve given me food glorious food. So…”

“I can do more than give you food,” said Isadora, gesturing magnanimously to the sparkling sea. “I own ten acres a mile south of here and I’m certain no ravens are currently living on my land. Come live there with your wife. You would be most welcome.”

*

And that is how Obidiah and Magdalena, the raven mystics, came to live on Isadora’s land.

They built a big comfy nest in a gnarly old giant redwood named Cassiopeia and raised many children on Isadora’s fruitful acres. Their female progeny were all witty and wise and gifted with snowy white tail feathers, and their male progeny were all strong and adventurous and fond of double entendre. And many of their offspring were full-blown mystics, too.

*

Obidiah and Magdalena are quite old now and spend most of their time hanging around Isadora and Thomas’s house enjoying the marvelous smells emanating from the kitchen and listening to Isadora and Thomas make music together.

And, as you might expect, Obidiah and Magdalena are totally addicted to the scrumptious morsels Isadora gives them every day.

fin

Just Love

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Raven Mystic Part 4

On a drizzly morning in late October, Obidiah the raven mystic and his seagull pal Marcus and ten of Marcus’s gull buddies flew north from Big River to a little rocky beach at the mouth of Jack Peters Creek. The tide was way out when they reached the beach where the creek was little more than a trickle for lack of rain.

They landed in a group at the south end of the beach and one of Marcus’s cronies opined, “Why was it again we left the easy living and soft sands of Big River Beach to come all the way to this sad excuse for a beach?”

“You lack imagination, Stefan,” retorted Marcus, turning over a baseball-sized stone and exposing a scrumptious little crab. “Not only do crustaceans abound here, but yonder is a shallow pool wherein are trapped several dozen delectable smelt who neither went far enough out with the tide nor far enough up the creek while the going was good. Hence they are sitting ducks, so to speak, for gulls such as we.”

Inspired by Marcus’s preface, the gulls flew en masse to the little pool to dine on the many fish trapped therein. Obidiah followed the gulls, and being less aquatic than they, did not take part in the fishing. 

Standing apart from the feasting gulls, Obidiah heard the unmistakable creaking of fast-flapping raven wings and looked upstream as a trio of glossy black Jack Peters Creek raven gals emerged from the forest and landed a short distance from Obidiah.

“You’re no Jack Peters Creek raven,” said the largest of the three. “You migrating? Well you better migrate yourself down the coast pronto before our big boys get here and kick your butt.”

Obidiah read the mind of this largest of the three as well as the mind of the next largest, and was disappointed to find both raven gals were profoundly afraid of him, emotionally unreceptive, and not the brightest of passerines. But when he tried to read the mind of the third, a comely gal with four snowy white tail feathers, he found her mind closed to him.

“I’m Obidah,” he said, mesmerized by the raven gal with the white tail feathers. “Who are you?”

“Watch out, Magdalena,” cackled the largest gal raven. “He’s got the hots for you.”

“Better tell him to shove off before he gets hurt,” said the mid-sized gal. “The big boys will show him no mercy.”

But Magdalena spoke not a word as she gazed steadfastly at Obidiah.

“Say,” said the second largest of the gal ravens, squinting suspiciously at Obidiah. “You wouldn’t happen to be a Cummings Lane raven, would you? Because if you are, our big boys will do more than kick your butt, they’ll tear your eyes out.”

Obidiah was about to say he was hoping for a more peaceful outcome to his visit, when Magdalena spoke to him clairvoyantly, her voice sweet music to his psyche.

“Why have you come here?” she asked, her tone suggesting concern for his safety. “My sisters speak the truth about what the big boys will try to do to you. They are all brutal dunces and cannot be reasoned with.”

“I came here,” said Obidiah, replying clairvoyantly, “because I’m in search of a mate. I’m claiming some land between Cummings Lane raven territory and Jack Peters Creek raven territory and hoping to meet a gal raven who will love the roost I’ve found and love me, too, once she gets to know me and finds out what a thoughtful, capable, loyal partner I’ll be.”

“But why did you come here?” sent Magdalena, glancing furtively up the creek. “Why not seek a mate among your own kind?”

“Because the gal ravens where I come from are ruled by fear,” sent Obidiah, taking a few steps toward her. “And I’m hoping to meet someone ruled by love.”

Before Magdalena could reply, four large male Jack Peters Creek ravens flew swiftly out of the forest and attacked Obidiah.

Obidiah took wing, flying for his life, and just as those four brutal dunces were about to overtake Obidiah, Marcus and his ten pals rose into the air, a cloud of gulls, and battered those four ravens with their powerful wings until the brutal dunces fled back into the forest and Obidiah was able to escape unharmed.

*

Back on Big River Beach, Marcus and his buddies regaled the large gathering of gulls with wildly exaggerated reports of their triumph over the Jack Peters Creek ravens, while Obidiah sat on a nearby driftwood log recovering from his close call and reviewing his clairvoyant conversation with the enchanting Magdalena, she of the four white tail feathers.

Seeing Obidiah in the throes of emotional turmoil, Marcus excused himself from the hubbub on the sand bar and joined Obidiah on the driftwood log.

“Thinking about that beautiful Jack Peters Creek raven gal, aren’t you?” said Marcus, winking at his non-gull buddy.

“You thought she was beautiful, too?” said Obidiah, smiling dreamily at Marcus. “I didn’t know gulls found individuals of other species anything other than individuals of other species.”

“On rare occasions,” said Marcus, thinking back over his life, “individuals of other species have struck me as beautiful or ugly or strange or funny or cute. Certain puppy dogs, for instance, are undeniably cute. And that raven gal with the snow-white tail feathers reminiscent of snow-white gull feathers was an amalgam of beautiful and cute and mysterious, too. Ergo, I can see why you’re in a tizzy.”

“And she can communicate clairvoyantly,” said Obidiah, excitedly. “She’s the only raven I’ve ever met who can. Other than yours truly.”

“I could only guess her thoughts,” said Marcus, bouncing his eyes, “but the way she was looking at you… ay caramba.”

“But how will I ever get to see her again?” asked Obidiah, mournfully. “Those Jack Peters Creek big boys will kill me if I ever venture into their territory.”

“You want my advice?” asked Marcus, still high from battering those Jack Peters Creek ravens and saving his friend. “Go secure the far flung roost you love. Take the road less travelled. Cut the seemingly irresolvable knot of doubt. Gather a trove of sticks for a nest you’ll build one day with your sweetheart and trust in the power of love.”

“You’re a romantic,” said Obidiah, chuckling. “Who knew?”

“I’m a sea gull living at the mouth of a bountiful river in paradise,” said Marcus, admiring the eternal collision of river and ocean. “Of course I’m a romantic.”

*

So Obidiah began spending a few hours every day in his new roost in the giant gnarly old redwood named Tree, exploring his new domain, and gathering excellent sticks for making a big comfy nest.

*

Then it was Thursday again. Had it only been a week since Obidiah communed clairvoyantly with Isadora the red-haired human at Big River Beach and saw into her future and helped her escape her terrible marriage? Yes. Only a week.

So Obidiah began his Thursday by flying down to Big River Beach and meeting Isadora and her dog Groucho at the usual big driftwood log. And while Groucho wandered about, sniffing and pissing, Obidiah alighted on the log a few feet from Isadora and sent, “You’re looking radiant today. Love the purple coat. What news?”

“Oh Obidiah, I am so glad Jeff is gone,” she sent, smiling at him. “So glad. And you were right. He took almost everything in the house and the garage. So now I’m slowly replacing the things I need. Kitchen table, bed, bedding, things to cook with, plates, silverware, mugs. He never cooked, but he took everything in the kitchen. He even took the food from the refrigerator and emptied the wine cellar. But he couldn’t get my guitar and violin and a few other precious things I moved to my friend’s house before he came.”

“Excellent,” sent Obidiah, proud of Isadora. “Now tell me, who is Thomas?”

Isadora blushed. “A dear old friend. We played music together before I married Jeff and before Thomas married Andrea. Why do you ask?”

“Thomas will cut down a tree for you,” said Obidiah, seeing Isadora’s future as if he was watching a well-made movie. “The big pine that’s threatening to fall on your house. After the tree is down and you learn Thomas is no longer married, you will invite him for supper.”

“Really?” sent Isadora, gaping at Obidiah. “And then what happens?”

“That’s as far into your future as I can see today,” said Obidiah, though he could actually see a little further. “Now remember, that pine tree might fall any day now, so call Thomas soon. Today would be a fine day to call him.”

“I will,” she sent, beaming at Obidiah. “I brought you more chicken morsels cooked just the way you like them.”

“Wonderful,” sent Obidiah, his eyes growing wide as Isadora took a bulging plastic bag out of her pocket. “Would you mind leaving them in the bag so I can more easily transport them to my new digs?”

“Certainly,” sent Isadora, placing the bag on the log between them. “I’m so grateful to you.”

“As I am grateful to you,” sent Obidiah, nodding graciously.

“Next week?” sent Isadora, getting up from the log. “Same time, same log?”

“Yes,” sent Obidiah, grasping the bulging bag with his talons and flying away into the wild blue yonder.

*

His heart pounding from the exertion of flying all those miles with the heavy bag of delicious chicken morsels, Obidiah landed in the hollow high up in the trunk of Tree, opened the bag, and ate one of Isadora’s morsels.

“Oh yum,” said Obidiah, relishing the perfectly cooked chicken and thinking I wish I could share this feast with Magdalena.

At which moment, a few miles away in a roost on the banks of Jack Peters Creek, Magdalena heard Obidiah’s wish and set out to find him.

Missing You

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Raven Mystic Part 1

There once was a raven named Obidiah. He was five-years-old and belonged to a small community of ravens who roosted in the redwoods around Cummings Lane, a mile inland from the Pacific Ocean near the town of Melody.

Obidiah’s mother was Doris and his father was most likely Tarkanda. We say most likely because Doris was occasionally promiscuous and Tarkanda was often away from the marital nest, so…

In any case, Obidiah was of an age when he was expected to find his mate for life, secure a good roost and surrounding acreage, and settle into full-fledged adulthood. He was not averse to this, but had yet to convince a female raven to commit to nesting with him for the next ten to twenty years, the average lifespan of a Cummings Lane raven being around twenty years.

*

One cold October morning, Doris and Tarkanda were breakfasting on apples in their big nest of sticks tucked into a fortuitous indentation in the trunk of a giant redwood about seventy-feet above the forest floor.

“I’m concerned about Obidiah,” said Doris, giving Tarkanda a worried look. “He’s five, still hanging out with juveniles, and roosting way too close to us for a raven his age. He’s an excellent scavenger, does superb imitations and sound effects, and he’s great with fledglings. But for some reason the gals aren’t interested in him for the long haul. Would you talk to him? Encourage him? See if you can find out what the problem is?”

Tarkanda mused for a moment and said, “I know what the problem is.”

“You do?” said Doris, taken aback. “And you didn’t tell me? What is it?”

“He’s a mystic,” said Tarkanda, sighing heavily. “I didn’t tell you because I thought it would upset you, but since you asked.”

“You mean mystical?” said Doris, squinting at her husband. “All ravens are a little bit mystical, don’t you think?”

“Of course,” said Tarkanda, gazing out over his domain and reminding himself to gather the last of the huckleberries before the foxes and bears got to them. “But Obidiah is more than a little bit mystical. He’s a full-blown clairvoyant future-glimpsing spirit-channeling mystic.”

“How do you know?” asked Doris, blushing as she recalls her hanky-panky with Zalamagundi the medicine raven around the time she conceived the batch of eggs that produced Obidiah.

“I know he’s a mystic,” said Tarkanda, smiling at his wife, “because I’ve availed myself of his services on numerous occasions. For instance, these delectable apples came to us courtesy of Obidiah because he read the minds of the humans who protect these particular apple trees and then alerted me that those humans would be away for the day the apples attained optimal ripeness. Thus we were able to harvest several dozen of these delectable orbs unmolested.”

“He can read the minds of humans?” said Doris, aghast.

Tarkanda nodded. “Human minds, dog minds, cat minds, hawk minds, and raven minds, too. If it has a mind, Obidiah can read it.”

“Heavens,” said Doris, recalling the many times Obidiah gave her the very things and information she wanted before she asked for them. “Our son is a polymath.”

“Yet he seems to be largely unaware of his powers,” said Tarkanda, thinking ahead to meeting up with his pal Jolanga for a few hours of scavenging. “Gal ravens pick up on that sort of thing even if they aren’t exactly sure what they’re picking up on. You know what I mean? An ineffable otherness in his vibe.”

“I do know what you mean,” said Doris, nodding. “He seems not entirely of this world.”

“Because he’s not,” said Tarkanda, pecking his apple. “So I figure if he lives nearby as a bachelor for the rest of his life, so be it. He’s a fount of useful information, entirely self-sustaining, and he’s a good beak to have on our side in a fight.”

*

Obidiah, mystical talents notwithstanding, was a large good-natured raven who very much wanted to find a wonderful lifemate and secure some territory and build a commodious nest in which he and his wife would produce several generations of fledglings to protect and feed and educate.

And contrary to what Tarkanda surmised, Obidiah was well aware of his ability to communicate clairvoyantly and see into the future. As for spirit channeling, Obidiah didn’t channel anything. Nature spirits talked to him and he talked to them, just as he would converse with other ravens. In other words, Obidiah was multi-dimensionally multi-lingual.

As for reading the minds of humans, Obidiah could do much more than that. He had the uncanny ability to discern what was troubling a person and see solutions for their troubles. The problem was, and this was hugely frustrating to Obidiah, most humans neither spoke the language of ravens, nor were they able to communicate clairvoyantly. Thus Obidiah was unable to help many people for whom he had solutions to what vexed them.

*

On that same fall morning when Doris learned Obidiah was, in the words of Tarkanda, a full-blown mystic, Obidiah glided away from the little single-raven nest he’d constructed on a lower branch in his parents’ redwood tree, and made his way through a stiff breeze to the beach parking lot where every morning humans and dogs came to walk on the beach at the mouth of Big River.

Obidiah visited this beach several times a week in search of food and shiny gewgaws, and he always went there on Thursday mornings because on Thursday mornings a particular human always went there, too, a woman with whom Obidiah could converse clairvoyantly. Her name was Isadora. She had a large brown dog named Groucho, an ironic name given that Groucho was quite good-natured. Sometimes Obidiah would converse with Groucho, too, but he was most interested in Isadora who was forty-seven, wore her reddish brown hair in a pony tail, had jade green eyes, and Obidiah thought she was beautiful and moved with unusual grace for a human.

Isadora and Groucho would walk from the beach parking lot to the north end of the beach, a distance of a mile, and on their way back Isadora would sit on the same big driftwood log and gaze out to sea. Groucho would wander around nearby, sniffing and pissing, and Obidiah would alight on the log a few feet from Isadora.

*

On this particular Thursday morning, just as the sun was breaking through the coastal fog, Obidiah arrived at the beach parking lot and perched atop a scraggly pine tree overlooking the parade of humans and dogs coming and going from the beach, their emotional conundrums as obvious to Obidiah as the need for food and water.

He sent messages to the humans as they went by, messages such as, “Stop doubting yourself, Arnold. Give Beth a call. You know she likes you,” and “You’ve been drinking way too much coffee lately, Sara. That’s the source of at least half your anxiety,” and “Procrastination is your biggest enemy, Larry. Clean your desk. At the bottom of the clutter you will find a story you started writing months ago. When you realize how good this story is, your writer’s block will vanish.”

Alas, no one paid any attention to Obidiah, so he flew off to meet Isadora and Groucho.

*

When Obidiah came in sight of the big driftwood log, Isadora was already sitting in her customary place and Groucho was nearby sniffing the news at a popular pissing spot.

Obidiah alighted on the log a few feet from Isadora and sent, “Love those silver earrings. My kind of gewgaws. So… did you get up the nerve to confront Jeff?”

Isadora beamed at Obidiah and said, “I did. I finally did. And everything you said would happen happened. I’m still kind of in shock.”

Then Obidiah accessed Isadora’s memory archives and watched her say to her husband of seventeen years, “If you ever treat me cruelly again or lie to me or demean me or expect me to keep cleaning up your messes, this marriage is over.”

“Bravo,” sent Obidiah.

“And as you predicted,” said Isadora, gazing into Obidiah’s eyes, “he tried to appease me with the same old promises. But he was obviously lying, so I told him to get out and he collapsed on the sofa and blubbered, ‘But where will I go?’ And also as you predicted, I knew he expected me to relent and comfort him, and I could feel how much I wanted to because it’s my lifelong pattern to accommodate my abusers when they cry and act helpless. But I stayed strong and said, ‘I don’t care where you go. Just get out. Now.’ And then he turned nasty and said he wasn’t going anywhere. I reminded him the house was mine, that I owned the place before we got married, and he snarled at me and got a beer out of the refrigerator and sprawled on the sofa and turned on the television. So I did what you told me to do. I called the sheriff. And when Jeff heard me talking to the dispatcher, he turned off the television and said, ‘Okay, I’m going.’ Then he packed some things, took our new car, and left. That was five days ago. And every day I don’t see him, the better I feel.”

“Fantastic,” sent Obidiah, lifting his wings in a gesture of praise. “Now listen carefully. When you get home from the beach today, remove everything you value from your house and give those things into the care of a trusted friend. Jeff will return to your house tomorrow morning with a big truck and two accomplices. He will not forewarn you. It is imperative, Isadora, that you not be there when he comes, nor should you do anything to prevent him from taking what he wants. He will take many things, but don’t worry. Anything he takes is of no real value to you. Return to your home tomorrow afternoon. He will never come back again.”

Isadora opened her eyes and said, “Thank you.”

Then she reached into her jacket pocket and brought forth a small plastic bag containing seven juicy nuggets of chicken, which she arrayed on the log between them.

“Oh you shouldn’t have,” sent Obidiah, the smell of the succulent meat causing him to do a little jig of gratitude.

“It’s the least I could do,” said Isadora, rising to go. “I’ll see you next week. Same time, same log.”

“Yes you will,” sent Obidiah, gulping down one of the morsels. “Oh I love what you’ve done here. Freshly slaughtered fowl lightly sautéed in coconut oil with a hint of salt and a whisper of red wine. Divine.”

“I’ll bring more next week,” said Isadora, waving to him as she walked away.

*

Well-fed, and overjoyed he was able to help Isadora get rid of Jeff, Obidiah decided to take the last two succulent morsels of chicken to his current crush Madge, who might not have been the brainiest of ravens, but what a silhouette!

 If You Will

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birds and monster and dog

Every day a man drives his old car into Mendocino, parks across the street from the old Oddfellows Hall, and throws food scraps out for the ravens.

meeting of the minds

We came upon a beached sea monster.

beached sea monster

 

They started their family in a seasonal pond near the high school and then decided to move to the islands just off the headlands. To get to their new home, they had to walk through town.

the geese family part 2

The gulls gather at the mouth of Big River.

big river gulls

 

 

Molly waits patiently for the humans to get the ball rolling again.

dog and ball

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Critters

Ganesh's Bowl

Ganesh’s Bowl photo by Todd

Two years ago our big gray cat Django got hit by a car and died, and we were sad for a time and thought about getting a couple of kittens, but we didn’t. Then some months after Django died, I was having a cup of tea in the dining room and looked out the window and saw a gang of chickadees foraging in the ferns and flowers just fifteen feet away from me, and I realized that when Django was alive, those birds would never have foraged there.

Fast forward to a few mornings ago: I was sitting on the deck watching a mob of chickadees and finches and tits rampaging in the nearby shrubbery, when along came an alligator lizard, a beautiful being Django would have toyed with and killed. But instead of dying a terrible death, the lizard paused to look at me and show me his shiny new skin before he moved off into the ferns to hunt for insects.

The next day I saw a gorgeous garter snake slither through the vegetable patch, and I knew Django would have killed him, too.

Then yesterday I stepped out of my office to play guitar in the morning sun and our resident chipmunk scampered along the deck to have a drink of water from the white bowl in front of the statue of Ganesh, a bowl we keep filled with water for the many birds and critters who share this land with us. Having slaked his thirst, the chipmunk found a lovely old weed going to seed, and while I strummed and sang, the chipmunk dined—a most enjoyable tête-à-tête that never would have happened were Django still with us.

If we had a cat or a dog, the mother skunk and her adorable baby would not come to drink from Ganesh’s bowl as they do at dusk every day, and a dog would keep the deer away, too, the deer we love to watch from our office windows—fawns appearing with their mothers throughout the summer.

And though I’d like to have a cat and a dog, for now I will forego that pleasure because I so enjoy having all these wild critters close at hand.

I recently caught a glimpse of a fox trotting through the woods on his way to our orchard, and I was thrilled to see the splendid fellow. We named our place Fox Hollow after the mother fox and her kits who entertained us so grandly for the first two years we lived here.

We might have called our place Ravenswood for the many ravens who live hereabouts. I recently had a long conversation with a raven. He cawed three times; I cawed three times. He cawed twice; I cawed twice. He cawed four times; I cawed four times. Then there was a pause, so I cawed twice, and he cawed twice. Then I cawed four times, and he cawed four times. Then I cawed but once, and he cawed but once. I fell silent and he cawed three times, so I cawed three times. This might have gone on indefinitely, but I was getting hoarse, so I quit. I’m not sure what we were talking about, but we certainly agreed on how many times to caw, which I consider a great achievement in inter-species communication.

We are also situated directly below the flight path of a robust population of wild pigeons and a pair of regal Red-tailed hawks. And we have vultures and possums and a big silver gray squirrel and gophers and…

In Django’s absence our neighbor’s big tabby has commandeered the orchard at the far southwest corner of our property, the gophers of special interest to her. I dissuade her from coming any nearer to our house because I don’t want her assuming Django’s role visa-à-vis the chipmunk and lizards and snakes and birds and the big silver gray squirrel. However, a dent in the orchard gopher population would not be a bad thing.

Speaking of critters, here at the start of July, the local population of mosquitoes is exploding, so much so that working outside of late has been a continuous swat fest, but that should change as summer progresses and the ground becomes perilously dry. Meanwhile, the swallows and bats are thrilled with the abundance of the little biting buggers.

female trio

And then there are human critters, a fascinating species, especially the colorful and emotive females. The music festival is underway, so Abi and Marion, both British female human musicians, have joined Marcia, the resident American female human musician, in our little neck of the woods, and the three of them are great fun to observe and interact with.

Human females, for my taste, are much more interesting than human males, at least the human males abounding in America; but then I’ve always been keen on humans who share their feelings and laugh easily and like to talk about food and dreams and what they just realized about themselves and life and so forth. Then, too, I spent the first several years of my life enthralled with my two older sisters until they grew weary of me and became less enthralling. But by then my admiration for more than the physical potentialities of female humans was well established and continues to this day.

Maybe human males in other cultures are not as stiff and stoic and emotionally guarded and narrow-minded as most American male humans are. I don’t know. What I do know is that emotional openness and generosity and curiosity about other people has everything to do with nurture and not much to do with nature. I say this because I am fortunate to know a handful of American male humans who enjoy sharing their feelings and laugh easily and like to talk about food and dreams and what they just realized about themselves and life and so forth.

Unfortunately, most of these unusual male humans don’t live around here; but at least we know each other, so we do not feel as bereft as we might otherwise.

Ah, I see our chipmunk is ensconced in the big flowerpot on the deck and has some sort of snack in hand. Maybe he’d like to hear a song while he eats.

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Summertime

summertime

Summertime photo by Todd

Marcia and I walked into town via the beach on Saturday, the most summery day of the 2018 Mendocino summer so far, warm and sunny with only a slight breeze blowing in from the ocean. We live a mile inland, and it was already quite warm by Mendocino standards, mid-seventies, when we set off for the coast at 10:30 in the morning. Halfway to the ocean, the air was much cooler—upper fifties.

Judging by the millions of blossoms we saw along our way, this will be an epic year for blackberries and huckleberries, and we are already seeing irrefutable proof of a super duper apple harvest. This is also the time of year when we avail ourselves of the Fort Bragg Fruit Group and buy lugs of peaches and nectarines trucked in from the warmer climes and sold at 1980s prices.

After a brief sojourn on Big River Beach, otherwise known as Dogs Galore, we climbed the stairs to the headlands trail that carried us through lush stands of wild pink roses to the Presbyterian church and Preston Hall wherein the music festival chorus was rehearsing their part for the festival finale: John Rutter’s Magnificat.

The big music festival tent was standing majestically on the headlands opposite the Mendocino Hotel, the fanciful tent always adding an ineffable classiness to the little town. Marcia and the local cello and viola players have been rehearsing at our house two days a week and will soon join the superb out-of-town players rounding out the festival orchestra.

And, of course, the town was jammed with tourists from all over the world, mobs of people ambling along the few streets of the town, looking for stuff to eat and things to buy. The character of the town changes significantly in the summer, when most locals run their errands in the morning before the place is awash in visitors, and many locals avoid the town entirely on weekends. These are the months when local businesses make their largest profits, and we are grateful for the infusions of cash into the local economy, however bizarre the outsider energy.

What do I mean by outsider energy? Well, first of all, outsiders tend to drive crazy fast in town compared to locals. Considering the town is traversable in every direction in about a minute if you’re going five miles an hour, driving thirty on a two-block street to nowhere strikes me as bizarre. However, if one is accustomed to the madcap traffic of Santa Monica or San Francisco, I suppose speeding becomes one’s habit, so…

Outsiders these days also tend to be hyper phone-centric. By that I mean, they do not, in general, look around so much as they look into their phones to learn where to go and what to do. This may help them find their way in a big city, but in Mendocino phone gazing misses the point of being here, which is to look around at the sky and ocean and old buildings and roses on the headlands and other human beings. There really isn’t much else to do, once you’ve had something to eat and bought a thing or two.

Home again, exhausted from our longish trek, I espied the big healthy young doe and her two fast-growing fawns munching greens on the fringes of the forest. The two other much smaller fawns we’ve been keeping tabs on have not made an appearance lately, though we have seen their elderly mother foraging without them, which makes me think her fawns did not survive.

In other summertime news, I am four hundred pages into my latest novel, and I’m experiencing the necessary delusion that I’m writing another masterwork. I say necessary delusion because, delusion or not, it is necessary to think I’ve written something marvelous or I would not continue slogging away for hours every day for months and years if I thought the opus was poo poo.

The long days of summer are especially good for me when it comes to working on a novel because my writing energy only lasts five or six hours a day, and in the winter, five hours of writing eats up a large fraction of the daylight hours, whereas in June, five hours of writing still leaves hours and hours of daylight for walking around and chopping wood and watering the apple trees and going to town.

Summertime is also good for playing the guitar outside. I like to walk around barefoot and give concerts to the surrounding forest and the curious ravens who sometimes make sounds like castanets to accompany my playing. You think I’m kidding? I have one song I used to perform as a slow ballad, but when the ravens started making their castanet sounds during the song, I was inspired to pick up the pace, which resulted in a peppy “Malagueña”-meets-“Smooth Operator” tune I’m sure will become a viral hit, speaking of delusional. I’ll let you know when the song is available for downloading, streaming, and implanting in your prefrontal cortex.

Speaking of chopping wood, summer is the season for seasoning firewood, and by seasoning I mean drying the wood through and through for fall and winter fires in our woodstove, fires that make the long winters tolerable and even delightful, though not quite as delightful as long summer days when the blackberries are ripening and the apples are swelling and I can walk around barefoot outside singing to the redwoods and inspiring castanet sounds from ravens.

Summertime for me is also about baseball. I listen to my Giants on a little silver Sony transistor radio, Jon Miller my favorite announcer of all time, his sidekicks Dave Flemming and Duane Kuiper excellent play-by-play guys, too. I chop wood and pull weeds when listening to day games, and I do dishes and yoga when listening to night games.

We have just reached the halfway point of the baseball season, and for the first time since we won the World Series in 2014, I think we could win it all this year. We’re that good. However, and it’s a huge however given the predilections of our manager, we must radically recast our end-of-game pitching scenario by getting rid of Strickland, who is currently out with an injury, and we must demote Melancon and Dyson to unimportant situational pitching. Watson should pitch the eighth as often as possible and Will Smith should close.

Do I think management will heed my imperatives? Not likely. But the summer is long and hope springs eternal until we are mathematically eliminated.

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Twins

fawns 2017

Twins photo by Todd

We were visited this morning by the twin fawns who share these woods with us, and today our coming to the window to look at them did not scare them away, but precipitated a pleasant staring game that went on long enough for me to get my camera and take a picture. The deer hereabouts are quite hungry now in early August and are eating things they don’t bother to eat when their preferred foods are more abundant. When we see deer going up on their hind legs to eat camellia leaves, we know pickings are slim for the local ungulates.

We just saw the excellent and upsetting movie Incendies by Denis Villeneuve based on the play of the same name by Wajdi Mouawad. If you are squeamish about violence as I am, this is not a movie for you. Had I known what the movie was about beyond what I saw in the trailer, I would not have watched the film. Yet I think Incendies is an important work of art and a brilliant illumination of the religious and cultural madness gripping the Middle East and much of the world today. The movie involves twins, a man and a woman, attempting to unravel the secrets of their deceased mother’s past.

Some years ago, I read several articles about twins. One of the articles suggested that many more twins are conceived than ever come to full term; and most left-handed people are the surviving twin of identical twins, one of whom did not survive the first weeks in utero. For some reason, that tidbit, which may or may not be true, has stayed with me.

One of my favorite stories regarding twins is about an equatorial African society visited by Portuguese explorers in the 1400s. The explorers left behind a missionary who introduced the Africans to myths about Jesus. Many generations then came and went before Europeans made contact with that particular African society again. When Europeans did visit again, they discovered these people were extremely fond of the story of Jesus being born in a manger. In their places of worship the people had constructed elaborate manger scenes. But instead of just one white baby Jesus in the manger, there were twin black babies, for in the original creation myths of these people, the two most important gods were twins—one male, one female.

This afternoon we took a walk along the headlands and came upon two ravens standing close together and facing each other with the tips of their beaks touching. When we stopped to look at them, they turned away from each other to look at us for a moment, and then they resumed their beak touching. They stood completely still as they connected with each other in this way. Waves crashed in the near distance, and I imagined this touching of beaks was not so much a courtship ritual as a reunion.

I love it when animals and birds and lizards look at me. Yesterday, just as I was about to water some succulents growing in a rock garden on the west side of our house, an alligator lizard came out from a crevasse between two large rocks and looked up at me. I squatted down and looked at the lizard. We were about seven-feet apart. She was ten inches long, including her tail, and I wondered what she was seeing as she looked in my direction. Were my form and features clear and distinct to her, or was I a big blurry blob?

I said to her, “Well, I’m going to water the rock garden now. I will endeavor not to flood your crevasse.”

The lizard cocked her head, perhaps to get a different view of me, and then disappeared into the crevasse.

I once had a cat with whom I had conversations. I would say something, pause, and my cat would meow a time or two. I would say something more, pause again, and she would meow somewhat differently than the previous time. Our most animated conversations took place in the minutes right before her suppertime. Her replies to my musings grew more and more emphatic as the official serving time was upon us.

Feed a cat every day at exactly five o’clock for a few weeks, and thereafter you can set your clock by that cat letting you know it’s five o’clock.

I sent a picture of the two fawns to my friend Max in New Hampshire. He wrote back, “I wonder what they see when they see you. Do they have thoughts like, “His hair is perfect”?

Possibly. My hair has been looking particularly good lately, good in the sense of asymmetrically unruly—a frozen filigreed fountain of grays and whites and a few vestigial browns going every which way. But seriously, I do wonder why the fawns were so unafraid of me today. Perhaps their uncharacteristic boldness has something to do with our neighbor who feeds the deer, combined with the apparent shortage of deer food available hereabouts. Perhaps the twins thought we might be more of those two-legged animals that give them food sometimes.

For my sixth birthday, I was given a puppy from a litter of mutts. That pup became my best non-human friend for the next twelve years. I named her Cozy. She was a wonderful not-very-obedient dog, extremely affectionate, and we would frequently gaze at each other for minutes on end. I believed she could hear my thoughts, and she confirmed my belief with her habit of seeking me out when I was feeling sad and commiserating with me by sitting right beside me and looking at my face until I looked at her.

Hundreds of times over the course of our twelve years together, Cozy pulled me out of my gloom with her devotion and kindness, and by being so darn happy to be alive.

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Life & Death

Rose for Life & Death

Autumn Rose photo by Marcia Sloane

(This article appeared in the Anderson Valley Advertiser September 2013)

“All men’s misfortune, and the appalling disasters of history, the blunders of statesmen and the errors of great generals, come from the inability to dance.” Jean Molière

Marcia and I had breakfast on Wednesday morning at Ravens’, the wholly vegan restaurant at the Stanford Inn, our meal courtesy of a gift certificate Marcia received for officiating at a wedding. I especially enjoyed the coffee and orange juice and the view of Big River Beach. We were celebrating Obama’s decision not to bomb Syria just yet, and I wore my new salmon-colored shirt Marcia bought for a mere four dollars at a thrift shop in Santa Rosa. Having recently exchanged our life savings for a house on land suitable for growing vegetables and fruit, we rarely dine out on our own dimes these days, so the experience of eating at the Stanford Inn, an establishment catering to wealthy people who like to travel with their pets, felt decadent and strangely fun.

After breakfast we drove into the village of Mendocino to get our mail and take advantage of the 10%-off-everything sale at Harvest Market, and in the beer section we ran into a friend who informed us that Antonia Lamb had just died. We finished our shopping in stunned silence and drove home feeling discombobulated and saddened by this unexpected loss.

I saw Antonia several times in the last month as I walked to and from the village on Little Lake Road and we waved to each other as she zoomed by in her station wagon. The last time I had a conversation with Antonia was in the post office a couple months ago, the post office being where the majority of my meetings with her took place over the last six years, which is how long I knew her. I asked how she was doing and she said, “I’m very sad. My best buddy John (Chamberlain) just died and everything feels…” She shrugged and fought her tears.

“I’m sorry,” I said, embracing her.

After our hug, she told me all about her new CD and asked what I was up to musically these days. I said I was working on my fourth piano-centric album, and then I shrugged and said, “Though I sometimes wonder why I bother.”

“You bother because you’re an artist,” she said in her forthright way. “That’s what artists do. We make art. That’s our job. Don’t worry about why, just do what you were born to do.”

“To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now.” Samuel Beckett

As antidote to the sorrows of the world, we recently watched Blazing Saddles, found in the DVD section of our tiny village library. I first saw that zany film in 1974 at the Fine Arts theatre in Palo Alto when my brother was the manager of that comfy popcorn palace. Blazing Saddles was on a double bill with another Mel Brooks film The Producers, and I laughed my butt off and fell in love with Madeline Kahn.

For being such a silly movie, Blazing Saddles was and still is an irreverent, daring, and surprisingly frank portrayal of American racism, sexism, thoughtless violence, and endemic government corruption. Gene Wilder as the Waco Kid, the only non-racist white person in the mythical town of Rockridge, is brilliant as an urbane drunk who befriends Bart, the black sheriff, played by the charming Cleavon Little, their friendship a model of non-racism in a viciously racist society. Movie lore has it that Wilder only agreed to play the part of the Waco Kid after Brooks promised Wilder that their next film would be Young Frankenstein, their crowning achievement as collaborators, in my opinion, another movie about friendship that transcends spoof and slapstick and rises into the realm of sublime revelation.

“An actor is totally vulnerable. His total personality is exposed to critical judgment—his intellect, his bearing, his diction, his whole appearance. In short, his ego.” Alec Guinness

Speaking of ego, I recently made an appearance at Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino to tout the new edition of my long out-of-print novel Inside Moves, and I’m happy to report we had a good turnout with several attendees announcing they were readers of the Anderson Valley Advertiser. Mazel tov! Despite my usual pre-performance anxiety, I enjoyed the evening, my first public appearance in some years, and I especially enjoyed the questions the audience asked after I shared a few of my adventures in publishing and read the first chapter of Inside Moves.

Two of my favorite questions were, “Do you ever incorporate your dreams into your fiction?” and “Why don’t you do a one-man show at MTC? (Mendocino Theater Company).”

My answer to the first question was that I do sometimes incorporate my dreams into my fiction, and to the second question I replied, “I did give a reading some years ago at MTC, and counting my wife, four people came to the show, so I have not been asked or inclined to perform there again.”

“I delight in all manifestations of the terpsichorean muse.” John Cleese

In the midst of writing this piece, I got a phone call from Kathy Mooney and she shared a beautiful poem she had just written in honor of Antonia Lamb. With Kathy’s permission, I present the beginning of her poem for Antonia.

Up on her toes

she goes

strumming to the

stars—she brought

them back down

for us, in wisdom,

myth, mirth and whimsy

Singing

she bared her heart—for us

who knew the Mendocino

she was missing—

and now, oh yes,

we miss you

“The theater is the most beautiful place on earth.” Anne Bancroft

My niece Olivia just graduated from the University of Oregon where she starred in several plays, and now she is on the verge of moving to Los Angeles to see if she can make it big in the movie and television business. Heaven help her. She is young, beautiful, photogenic, talented, funny, smart and ambitious, and she will be competing with tens of thousands of other young, beautiful, photogenic, talented, funny, smart, ambitious young women trying to make it big in show business.

I have no advice for her other than to watch her ass, literally and figuratively, nor can I open any doors for her. However, I will make a habit of imagining her auditioning for a part in an independent film and catching the eye of a latter day Mel Brooks who recognizes in her the comic genius of a latter day Madeline Kahn. I will imagine Olivia getting a juicy part and giving a remarkable performance that makes her the darling of great directors of stage and screen. I believe this will help Olivia, my imagining her becoming a big success because of her talent and originality, and not because she somehow manages to hook up with well-connected sleaze bags. And even if she doesn’t make it big in show business and does something else entirely with her one precious life, I still think it will help her if I visualize her winning the day with her unique talent. And if that sounds like hackneyed spiritual crap to you, so be it.

“We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” Henry James

So the last thing Antonia said to me was, “Don’t worry about why, just do what you were born to do.”

Which infers that we know what we were born to do, and I think by born to do she meant something beyond staying warm and dry and getting enough to eat. But how do we know what we were born to do? Or maybe a better question would be: how do we go about discovering what we were born to do? And the answer is: we go on a quest, otherwise known as living our life. We keep our eyes and ears and hearts open in anticipation of seeing and hearing and feeling things that will guide us on our way to discovering our life’s purpose, which might ultimately be many purposes, though underlying and connecting those multiple purposes is our desire to be of service to others, to share our passions, to give, to connect, to love and be loved—or something along those lines.

Copies of Inside Moves signed by the author are available at Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino.