Two Ravens (Twa Corbies)

The first days of the new year were an icy mess, although I still had a pleasant walk on the trail developed near the house. It’s been years since I’ve kept a feeder in the yard, but I still need the company of birds in winter, so I make my daily forays on the hill, no matter that birds are nearly as scarce as January dandelions or that the weather might be as inviting as a trip to the emergency room.

The ground was white with rotting ice and a fresh layer of snow. A walking stick probed the ground as my boots crunched awkwardly along the sloping acreage. Crows called from the distance of the valley. I may have heard the nasal outcry of a nuthatch from the frozen quarters of the maple grove or cheered myself briefly at the sight of chickadees flying singly through the high boughs of the spruce and pines, but mostly I perceived the January emptiness– the solitude defined by the departure of autumn birds and foliage.

It wasn’t necessarily a sad affair. I have friends and family, music and writing. In my walking meditation, I looked outward for the words to fill an emptiness within… Two ravens flew across the valley, battling the strong winds high above. One of them seemed to fly in from the myths and stories told by Native American elders. He was a creator spirit and a trickster from the far Northwest. Even though I would have benefitted from a word with him, I was from another world, and it was only right that his great beak made no utterance today.

The second raven was the noisy one. I listened to its piercing squawks, medieval croaking notes that tumbled on the wind… I heard Twa Corbies (an anonymous, early English poem/song), carrion-eaters saying one unto the other, “Where sall we gang and dine today?” I felt lucky to be alive and well, a lone rambler with his metaphoric hawk and hound and lady fair (all of them faithful to the moment), rather than the slain knight of the song, removed from the winds that will blow “Oer his white banes when they are bare… for evermair.”

[Small consolation– I prefer cremation when the time arrives! For now, may the ravens of hope create a wonderful new year for you and yours. I thank you for reading, and remind you that comments are always welcome here.]

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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21 Responses to Two Ravens (Twa Corbies)

  1. alex55manta says:

    Wow! Is that a GIF campfire/bonfire image? And… an embedded video to boot! Nice touch there RTR! Looked like a nice snowy hike to me. Didn’t need the snowshoes and still got out int he snow a bit. That gnarly looking tree branch wasn’t an apple tree is it? I’ve got some here that your picture reminds me of. Great looking campfire/bonfire site, some good pictures and music to boot! Great entry into the blog-o-sphere (hopefully I’m using that term correctly). I’ve got to get some pictures processed as I’m planning on a tribute to someone that showed me how to tie a foam extended body. Hopefully that will be posted in within a week. Take care RTR …. UB ( a couple of important days here eh?)

    • Thanks UB! Glad I hit a sweet spot there. The old gnarly one is indeed an apple, possibly wild but probably planted along with others many years ago. The winter has been fairly mild so far, and a couple of bonfires have really warmed up the evenings. I’ll look forward to that foam-body tribute you are conjuring.

  2. Bob Stanton says:

    Love the video! People think I’m nuts because I like winter more than I like fall. For some reason, I seem to find consolation in that nearly silent world, the winter wind through the pine boughs, beech and maple creaking and groaning, the subtle hiss of falling snow (am i imagining it?), and my perception that I have the whole world to myself. Still waiting for that “real” winter to arrive.

    • I should have mentioned that the action clip was actually taken by Leighanne, a pretty warm touch. I agree, the silence of the winter woods, the near silence & the solitude, can be awesome. As for “real wintertime”– pending! Thanks Bob.

    • alex55manta says:

      I hear that Mr. Stanton – about the real winter not having arrived yet. Seems like that to me also. Now, I’m not complaining as I have a 1/4 mile gravel driveway to plow if I get more than 4 inches of snow though. I’m sure there will be a more substantial and seasonal weather (snowfall) to arrive shortly. UB

  3. Don T says:

    Happy New Year Walt. Love the campfire. Glad to see your “recreation room” gets use year round.

  4. Hi. Are you a beer drinker? I recently bought a variety half-case of beers from the Deschutes brewery. Their porter is perfect for a cold winter night.

  5. Brent says:

    Responding to a previous commenter, you would definitely enjoy Deschutes (from Bend, OR). The video clip really captures the warmth of that big fire in the cold air–did you have another stash of wood somewhere?

    • I think the vid came from the fire you attended. Used up all the scrapwood on that occasion. There’ll be more… As for the Deschutes, I’ll look for it at Wegmans. Sounds like a good one!

  6. Jet Eliot says:

    Wonderful to be with you in the quiet woods, Walt, hearing the ravens and the crunching snow, and celebrating outdoor life in its winter form. Fun to see the crackling fire GIF warming up this wintry scene. Each season has its sacredness, and you do a terrific job of highlighting winter’s.

  7. plaidcamper says:

    Black ravens, white hills, and the glow of an evening campfire – winter might be a testing season, but I like the rewards.
    Bob is absolutely spot on about the quiet hiss of falling snow, a sound to be savoured.
    Savoured? The beer recommendations from Deschutes are good ones, with the Mirror Pond ale being a favourite up here.
    Thanks, Walt, for another great read, and I hope all your winter walks go well for you!

    • Adam, your words are always another fine reward for doing this sort of thing. And your beer critiques are something I must heed. Another good reason to skate upon & taste that Mirror Pond!

  8. tiostib says:

    I always enjoy hearing about and imagining your poetic ramblings, a beautiful beginning to a new year.

  9. loydtruss says:

    How can one not appreciate nature and the great outdoors after reading this post. I see Chester and that awesome net is ready for a new season, hope you and your family have a Happy New Year——Thanks for sharing

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