Here’s a story.
I’m smoking a cigarette, sweating, panting a bit, buzzed. I’m looking out to the north towards Horseshoe Bay, sorta leaning against my seat, straddling the bike, after climbing hard a-pedal most of the way up the hill from Spanish Banks to UBC.


Out on the edge of the cliff, at the end of a little trail half a dozen metres from the road, in the bushes, private-like. The same place I usually stop for a smoke after doing the Big Circle. I’m… what? 21? Strong, young, full of juice and big ideas. Spotty, callow and dancing perilously close to full-blown alcoholism, too, but the world is my oyster, by god. You can fuck right off. I love you.
I’m wearing my Walkman, of course, because that thing has changed my life. I’m listening to Elvis Costello’s King Of America, and he’s singing

I wish that I could push a button
And talk in the past and not the present tense
And watch this lovin’ feeling disappear
Like it was common sense
I was a fine idea at the time
Now I’m a brilliant mistake

and it’s the album that I love, right now. Women.
The sky is smeared with grey goth-lipstick clouds, as usual, but the blue is showing through, and I feel magnificent, looking at the mountains and the wrinkly sea, smoking my Player’s Light. Fully oxygenated blood, full balls and, if not full volume, and least plans for full and frantic Friday night.
A raven — big, black, alive — lands with a thump and clink on my handlebars.
No shit. A fucking raven. It’s like a foot and a half high, and it’s right there, wabiggety baw!
I’m in that place, though. In that moment. I’m in the place that drugs only rarely managed to take me over the ensuing years, much as I tried.
So I calmly look the raven in the eye as it jinks around on the handlebars until it’s facing me. It looks me in the eye. No, it fucking does, I’m serious. Not straight on, but with its head tilted a bit to my right, so it can really lay the eye on me. I don’t know what to do, exactly, so I do nothing.
It checks me out, takes a minute or two, looks me up and down, jerkily, from crotch to crown, then flies off. I think to myself ‘well, that was pretty cool’, drop my earphones down around the back of my neck, pull out another cigarette, and think about the trickster god of the Kwakiutl and Haida and all the rest, their totem poles stolen and replanted just a few hundred metres away at the museum.
There’s a rustle, another thump, a sudden grip and weight on my right shoulder.
The raven is back. It’s perched on my shoulder. It’s perched. On my. Shoulder. I turn my head slowly, and peer as best I can through the corners of my scratched, smudged lenses into the little black eyes. It sits on my shoulder, gripping tightly, and looks back at me.
I don’t know what to do, exactly, so I do nothing.
And I turn away and look at the mountains again, and love the place I’m in, the body I’m in, the life I’m living. The raven stays with me for a few more minutes, enjoying the view, and then it leaves. Its wing flicks me in the right ear as it launches itself out into the void, over the edge of the cliff.
This really happened, in 1985 or so. I woke up this morning remembering it. It makes me proud, although I’m not exactly sure why.

Reminiscences, Uncrappy
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Join the conversation! 16 Comments

  1. Wild story! I have to admit I might freak a little and shoo and shake the thing away. Ever see Hitchcock’s “The Birds”? But really, I would feel proud if the same thing happened to me and I held myself together. It’s like being chosen, by and for what, who knows? Like a communion with nature, or a higher power.

  2. Maybe it makes you proud because the raven approved.

  3. Ravens love bright and shiny things. I guess this is telling you that you’re a bright and shiny thing, Stav.
    Either that, or it was tempted by your eyeballs.

  4. BTW, that is an incredible experience.

  5. Deer, Islands

    Here’s a story.

  6. Greatly told tale. You’re right to be proud, and right not to know why.

  7. Great story. I think you’re subconsciously proud that you didn’t flip out. I mean, just lose it. I know that’s what I would’ve done. Ravens, Crows and the like freak me out with their beady, unyeilding stares and jeezus! one on my friggin shoulder?! Lawdy, if there be any omnipresent kindness, I woulda passed right out.
    Course, there’s also the idea that you, for a few beautiful moments, were completely immersed in The Flow, and a Raven surveying from your shoulder was as natural as nature.

  8. I was riding up that hill this past September and an almost all black raccoon (could hardly hardly see any brown, didn’t looked striped and yes it was a ‘coon) ran across the road in front of me .. I shit ye not.
    Didn’t jump up on my shoulder, though.
    I wonder if there’s something about that area … clearly that moment was very unusual … i wonder if ti was an omen … anything(s) change in your life in the subsequent year ?

  9. Thanks, all.
    I’m not sure, Jon, to be honest. My chronology is never the best. It could have been as late as, say ’87 or so, which was a year before I left Canada for the first time, and started this expatriate wandering I’ve been doing for so long…
    That area does have some kind of special thing, I think. God I’d love to have one of those houses there, on the shoulder of that hill, teach, write.
    But here I am, poor and not writing nearly enough, in Korea of all places.
    Ah well. Life is good.

  10. how it is that such moments occur. how it is that we so rarely have the wits to share them. thanks for having the wits.

  11. A lovely vivid story.
    I once had a fruitbat fly into my chest and cling there when I was walking home from a party in the wee hours of the morning. It was black and had wings, however not as cool as a raven.
    I did something though.

  12. Raven

    Oh wow.. Go read: Bird, Mountains
    I was pretty awed, and slightly creeped out at an up close and personal experience with some similarities to this.Those who know a little about my crow story might find this interesting; those who…

  13. Wow. I been honored with Raven conversations now and then, but never with such a visitation. It’s like being blessed.

  14. Nice one fella. I am from England, and I like riding my bike along the riverbank near where I live. I see badgers sometimes (they are like giant racoons I suppose, if you dont get them in America). There is something very special about moments like the one you describe. I think know exactly the feeling you are talking about- it struck a chord in me- it is as though you and the animal sort of enter into the others minds, and acknowledge each other as sentient beings… there’s no defence, and none of the fear or awkwardness that would come from doing the same with a person. Its a very special connection. Perhaps some of us also have a ‘crow-nature’ or a ‘horse-nature’ (there are a lot of horses near where I live) which we partake in for a few moments. Have you read the Bukowski poem Horses?

  15. Just read the piece for a third time. Good work. Brilliant.

  16. Thanks, mate. You should start dropping your URL in comments now that you have a site! Build the googlejuice!

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