The Red-Tail and the Raven

It’s been a couple of weeks. Don’t ask. Everything’s fine, just too much stuff all at once. To atone somewhat for last week’s absence, today’s post will be a flash in the Master and Apprentice series. I really should give them their own book one of these days.

The Red-Tail and the Raven

Picking blackberries was a tricky business.

Master, as expected, was in a more supervisory role rather than an active participant. He lay on his back on a little hillock near the center of the meadow, idly chewing a bit of straw.

“Come here,” he said. “Put down your bucket and look up.”

I did. It was a nearly cloudless sky, blue, stretching from horizon to horizon.

“It’s lovely. Was that it?”

Master had his expression of exaggerated patience.  “Look closer.”

After a moment or two I noticed what I’d missed the first time. It was a hawk, lazily circling high overhead.

“That’s a red-tail,” Master said. “What’s it doing?”

I shrugged. “Hunting?”

“Possibly, but I suspect it’s just looking over its territory.”

One might wonder why Master interrupted berry picking to give me a lecture on the habits of red-tailed hawks. There had been a time I might have wondered, also, but Master never did anything without at least two reasons and one wild notion. I waited.

“Why would a creature that can fly so far stay in one area?”

Of course, I didn’t know the answer. Which, I suspected, was the point.  “Because it has everything it needs here? Why should it leave?”

I was distracted for a moment by a raven landing in a treetop nearby.

“Indeed,” Master said. “Yet the common raven up there also has a home territory where it has everything it needs. And yet, now and again, it will simply pick a direction and go. Why is that?”

“Because…it believes there’s something beyond ‘everything it needs’?”

“Perhaps. Let’s find out.”

If I didn’t know better, I’d swear Master and the raven had worked this out in advance. The raven took flight, not rising in a leisurely circle like the hawk, but rather setting out straight into the woods, and Master and I followed.

“Do you really think we can keep up with it?”

“Depends on how certain it is of its destination,” Master said.

Indeed, it was clear after a bit that the raven wasn’t sure where it was going. While it did not stray very much from its original direction, it did pause often, making croaking sounds to itself before it set off again. We soon came to another clearing, and there, sitting on a dull gray boulder, was something small and shiny, probably a stray bit of rock crystal. The raven flitted down, snatched it up, and went back the way it had come.

“All this way for something shiny?” I asked.

“All this way for something it didn’t have before, something its home did not provide. We admire the hawk for its grace and beauty, and we’re right to do so. But if you want to see something you’ve never seen before? if you want to go somewhere you’ve never been? Look to the raven.”

I made a note to myself to watch the ravens, but Master seemed to read my thought.

“From the meadow, please. Those berries won’t pick themselves.”

©2022 Richard Parks